Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Debts and crisis

Following up on the largest single day point loss in Dow Jones history (ironically mostly recouped today) it's important to keep things in perspective. When it comes to religion and politics, all we seem to hear is how one party wants to turn the United States in to a theocracy. Of course, the argument is narrowly focused only on a couple issues. No one wants to apply it to a bigger picture.

But say we apply a theocracy across the board. Would we be in this financial mess? Proverbs is full of wisdom related to money and finances. One proverb in particular predicted this. "Rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender." (Pr 22:7) But let's glorify in God and turn to the Psalms. "The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously." (Ps 37:12) Does that sound familiar? Would we be in this mess if our government or our banking industry was actually righteous? Instead we borrow and borrow and borrow, but we do not repay. But in our theocracy, "good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice." (Ps 112:5) The key here of course is generosity and justice. Two things that lack in our materialistic world but God possesses in abundance.

You could argue that Psalms and Proverbs are just fluff without authority. But a majority of Jesus' parables relate to money. And Deuteronomy is full of specific instructions on how to run "the financial sector". Deuteronomy 15 gives instructions for the "year of cancelling debts." Imagine that, every seven years all of our debts being cancelled. Not a big deal for my 5-year car loan. But my 30 year mortgage or those student loans that never go away no matter how many years pass? Of course banks would be wise to not give loans for longer than six years. Do you think the markets would be as volatile if loans were handled this way?

Deuteronomy 15:6 gives further insight into our current mess. "For the LORD your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you." The parallel passage (p.p. in the margin of your Bible) takes us to Dt 28 where the same statement is followed with "The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom." (Dt 28:13) But God's blessings always come with a warning. "However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you" (Dt 28:15) And the corresponding curse reverses the roles above. "The alien who lives among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower. He will lend to you, but you will not lend to him. He will be the head, but you will be the tail." (Dt 28:43-44)

One of the biggest fears in this economic crisis, besides Wall Street collapsing, is foreign nations buying up most of our debt. Will we one day be ruled over by China? It is a possibility and we honestly have it coming since America is far from paying attention to the commands of the LORD our God. But this is a covenant between God and the Nation of Israel, it doesn't apply to us today under the New Covenant, right? Well, that may be true, but God's nature doesn't change and his wisdom makes foolish the wise. I think it would do us well to heed these instructions. We may not be in positions of authority and have no real say how loans are given or repaid. But we can use scriptural wisdom to keep our own financial house in order. We can be righteous in our spending (borrowing, really, since we spend so much with our credit cards). We can give generously, conduct our affairs with justice and in doing so bring glory to God.

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