Saturday, July 30, 2011

What Does God Say about Our Current Debt Crisis?

The debate of the hour is focused on America's debt crisis, and all the rhetoric seems to be generating more heat than light. Could the political brinksmanship actually be missing the core issue, which is the fact that America has been consistently spending more than it receives in income? And this pattern of overspending has been present whether those running the White House and Congress have been Republicans or Democrats.

No family could ever survive long-term if it consistently spent more than it took in. Eventually it would max out its credit cards, reach it's debt limit at the bank, and exhaust its savings. The family would need to make drastic changes in its lifestyle to control spending and pay down its debt. So why have we thought our government could consistently spend more than it takes in without experiencing the same consequences?

Maybe it's time to go back to the Bible and remember the principles God gave about debt. Here are some we might want to point out to those in Washington who are now deciding how best to move our country forward.

Psalm 37:21--"The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives." Whatever Congress decides, defaulting on our national debt is not a biblical option. God says those who borrow and don't repay their obligations are "wicked."

Proverbs 22:7--"The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave." By continuing to borrow we are putting our nation in greater debt...which makes us "slaves" to those who loan us the money to temporarily live beyond our means.

Ecclesiastes 5:4-5--"When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it, for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay." Much like Psalm 37:21, the principle here is that God expects those who make a vow (or enter into a agreement) to pay what they have committed...and to do so in a timely fashion.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12--"For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread." Individuals (and governments) ought never be in the business of subsidizing the lazy and undisciplined. Fostering an entitlement mentality destroys self-respect and leads to greater disruption. All who are physically able ought to be expected to work rather than living off the hard work of others.

And perhaps the most significant principle comes from Deuteronomy 28. While the passage refers specifically and directly to Israel and the Jewish people, it is still instructive for other nations.

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." And what is the principle? It's this: Ultimately, the material blessings that allow nations to prosper (so they can lend to others rather than borrowing from others!) come from God...and is poured out on those who honor Him.

So what's the bottom line for our current crisis? First, Congress and the President need to commit to paying all of America's current creditors. We borrowed the money, and we need to pay it back when it is due. Second, we need to commit to working our way out of debt--nationally and individually. Let's stop putting ourselves into financial slavery...and learn to live within our financial means. Third, let's start dismantling our growing programs of national entitlement and heed the words of President John F. Kennedy from his inauguration in 1961. "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country."

And finally, let's remember that there is a God...and He does expect nations and individuals to live by His standards of right and wrong. At its very core, what we are facing in our country is a moral and spiritual crisis, not a fiscal one. And we need to help those around us understand what God expects from us if we hope to experience His blessing on our country.

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