The Debt Crisis

Posted on August 1, 2011. Filed under: Economics, Government, In the News, Money | Tags: , , , , , , , , |


The national debt clock outside the IRS office...

Image via Wikipedia

Given the constant barrage of “debt crisis” coverage, I wondered if God had anything to say about national debt.  Solomon warned, “The borrower is slave to the lender,” (Prov 22:7) and “whoever refuses to strike hands in pledge is safe” (Prov 11:15). Clearly, the Bible warns that debt is folly (as any Dave Ramsey follower could tell you). Obviously, God never said $14.3 trillion was okay but not $16.4 trillion. I didn’t see that one in Leviticus.  But God created a nation in every sense of the word, so surely there had to be something.

In chapter 15 of Deuteronomy, the Lord tells Israel how His new nation will keep its fiscal house in order: “you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.” What? Borrow from none? What about in case of emergency? What about all those wars for the Promised Land?  Unfunded social liabilities? Surely being God’s chosen people means you are entitled to healthcare, and when Moses lived to 120, that could get expensive. But, as with everything God commands, it comes with a reason: “You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you” (Deut 15:6). Apparently, debt at any level creates a system of rulers and slaves. It probably wouldn’t have been such a good idea if Israel borrowed from the Egyptians or the Philistines just as it probably isn’t such a good idea for us to borrow from the Chinese or any other nation. Indebting yourself to others means you have to play by the lender’s rules. Considering no other nation completely shares America’s values, we should not be too keen on being beholden to other nations.

But wait, various American lenders such as the Fed, public households, state and local governments own most of our debt. So, that’s probably okay right? It seems the Lord is saying not to borrow from other nations. If the borrower is slave to the lender, wouldn’t that mean the government is slave to the people?

Not quite. When debt becomes so large that it has to be paid out over an extended period of time, the people become slaves to the government.  Government can only raise money by confiscating it from the people. But the kicker is that government has created so much debt that it can’t be paid off by the current set of taxpayers; it will be paid by our kids and grandkids. Something told me the Lord probably wouldn’t approve of that.

Interestingly, God created a system of canceling debts every 7 years (also in Chapter 15 of Deuteronomy). Translated into contemporary vernacular, I take that to mean long-term debt is bad. While we might from time to time lend to one another, it is hard to maintain a healthy relationship with someone to whom you are indebted or with someone who owes you. God wants his people have a relationship based on love, not wondering when the brother-in-law is going to return that $1,000.

Maybe it is time for politicians to liberate this country from the influence of tyrannical governments and its children from overwhelming bureaucratic budgets. After all, good men leave an inheritance, not debt, for their children’s children (Prov 13:2).

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