We are living in tough but not unique times. The monetary systems of the world are self destructing. Individuals, corporations, organizations and even countries are going broke. Many people are reeling from the cost of inflation and the promise of unemployment or under employment. It is going to be tough going for quite a while.
Almost everyone I know is in a financial bind of some kind. For some it is an annoyance and for others it is devastating. The news is filled with stories of government bailouts of corporations and financial institutions. Who is going to pay for this if the people we were borrowing from are borrowing from us. At the same time we as the original borrowers, we are expected to pay, with interest, to the same institutions that are getting money from our government which we will have to pay more into. If you are getting dizzy in the spiral, hang on, because it will not get better soon.
So what are we to do? Who should we turn to in these troubled times? Is there any truly reliable advice from history to guide us through the quagmire of financial ruin?
Of course there is. It is the Bible. The Word of Lord. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament address the issues we are facing now.
In Leviticus 25 the issue of making purchases on a credit system and repayment are covered. God recognized that we would probably not handle owing well. He also knows and expects us to pay back what we owe in a timely fashion. God is wise enough to know that sometimes, as hard as we try, we can fall behind and could lose what we were trying to purchase though default. But God set up a system called the Year of Jubilee in which there would be a type of forgiveness of debt. Not in entirety, but in a way that debtors could redeem the necessary things of their life. It was a way that provided the basics for every one, most often at the expense of those who were owed.
So far I have not found an instance of the Children of Israel actually celebrating that Jubilee, but it is there and was instituted by God. Yes, we are to pay back our debts if we incur them. That is the way we as a people get stronger. But when something happens we as a people should have a way of modifying our systems to help those who are currently struggling.
Perhaps, you have had a credit card that was going along well with a very low interest rate. One month you were late with the payment by a couple of days but made the payment. The next month you found out the interest payment skyrocketed to some astronomical figure. It might have been you were actually paying down the bill for a while and now the minimum payment is actually so high that you cannot pay down the bill and the principal actually goes up even though you are not using the card for purchases. The credit card companies, for years, have been counting on this to happen. This is how they actually make money. They can count on you making a mistake, and it only takes one mistake.
Now these companies are worried. People have just stopped making payments entirely and have decided to go into default and not worry about being bad credit risks. I want to tell you a secret. If everybody who owed money on a credit card stopped making payments because of high interest rates these companies would have to find a new way of doing business with us or go out of business. The government cannot bail them out forever.
If everybody in the country was considered a bad credit risk, who would they lend money to in order to make money?
In Luke 16 Jesus tells of the story of the shrewd manager. In this story the business manager of a wealthy man realized he was about to be fired. He understood that if he were fired he would not be able to find such a good job ever again. He had a reputation of dirty dealing and no one would want to hire a disreputable person. He went around to all the people who owed his boss money and forgave them a portion of their debt. What obviously had happened was the new lower debts were gladly paid. Although, even though large portions of the debts were still incurred, the lowered prices were welcome. The man's boss was happy to have the debts paid off. After all having something now is better that maybe not getting something at all. He also made his boss look good and someone that people would be happy to do future business with.
What we really need is for the most well respected leaders of the Christian community to stop burying there head in the sand. It is time for these leaders to gather together the heads of all these companies and governments and teach them some of these simple truths. We need them to have a full blown summit with all of these people who are trying to do an end around play by getting hundreds of billions of dollars from our government and at the same time make billions of dollars though our incurred debt. They certainly donít need both. If they think they do they are not good stewards, nor are they shrewd businessmen.
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