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Financial Crisis - National Debt

As I write this on May 8, 2009, the national debt of the United States is $11,233,236,669,827.24 (that is $11.2 trillion).  Actually, in the time it took me to type that number, the debt has already increased.  In fact, the debt has been increasing by $3.79 billion per day on average since September 28, 2007.  When distributed among the population of the nation, this means that each citizen's share of this debt at present is $36,692.64 and rising.  Keep in mind that these numbers (which were taken from the U.S. National Debt Clock) represent only the debt incurred by the federal government and not the debts of state and local governments, corporate and business debts, or the personal debts of private citizens.  These other debts also amount to a staggering total so that, when taken altogether, our nation is being crushed beneath an insurmountable load of debt.

All this is very interesting, but doesn’t such a discussion belong in a publication such as The Wall Street Journal rather than in a church bulletin?  Perhaps it may seem so, but in truth the topics of debt, lending, and borrowing are often woefully neglected in our Bible study.  Typically, when Christians discuss the topic of money collectively, we focus upon 1Timothy 6:10 – “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.”  We usually consider money as “filthy lucre” or “sordid gain” (1Tim. 3:3, 8; Tit. 1:7, 11; 1Pet. 5:2), and so we do not want to talk much about it in a spiritual discussion.  However, the Bible has much to say about money, and Christians desperately need to learn all there is to know.  This is why I undertake this topic through a series to be presented in this space.

Much of what the Bible has to say about money, debt, lending, and borrowing is found in the Old Testament.  Specifically, the books of Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Proverbs are the most instructive on these issues.  Of course, when we look to the Old Testament for guidance, we must be careful that we do not misapply laws that were not intended for us.  Many of the precepts of the Law of Moses have not been carried over to the Law of Christ and the New Covenant.  However, when we consider the Old Law in terms of its principles, there are always applications for us.  God’s universal laws for all people (His “higher laws”) do not change.  The Lord’s summary of the Law of Moses should govern all men – “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “'You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-39).  If we would all apply these principles to the topic of finances (and all things), we would all do very well.

Therefore, let us examine the Old Law for wise, godly principles pertaining to a nation’s debt.  The nation of Israel was given several laws concerning borrowing and lending in Deuteronomy 15, but let us specifically notice verse 6 – “For the LORD your God will bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.”  Notice that lending, not borrowing, was a sign of God’s blessing on the nation.  Lending was also associated with ruling, whereas borrowing was associated with being ruled.  Similarly, the same principle is expressed in Deuteronomy 28:12 – “The LORD will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.”  On the other hand, Israel was told that if they disobeyed God, then “[the alien among you] shall lend to you, but you will not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you will be the tail” (Deut. 28:44).

The principle that we learn from these passages in Deuteronomy is that it is a blessing for a nation to be in the position of a lender, and it is a curse for a nation to be in the position of a borrower.  Of course this seems natural, for prosperity is a blessing of God that enables a nation to lend and eliminates their need to borrow.  This not only applies to nations, but to individuals as well.

So then, why is our nation in the position of a borrower rather than a lender?  Are we being punished by God?  Is that punishment a natural consequence of violating God’s higher laws?  Did we put ourselves in the position of borrowers and debtors because of runaway materialism, greed, laziness, wastefulness, poor stewardship, and the loss of a work ethic (all violations of God’s laws)?  Is the vast extent of our debt evidence of the vast extent of our sins and our punishment?  The answers to these questions should be concerning if not alarming to you with regards to our nation.

In the next part of this series, we will look at the practice of lending.  Indeed, it is a blessing to be able to lend, but many have turned that blessing into something evil.  May it not be said of us!

Stacey E. Durham



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