Originally published at: http://bit.ly/cceEC6
Dalton Camp proclaimed [Ed.: in Canada's defunct Saturday Night Magazine] several years ago that “having lost its value, money may no longer be the root of all evil; credit having taken its place.” This statement demonstrates the paradox of modern day Christianity and debt—should the Christian reaction be one of condemnation or one of compassion. Since many recent respected studies have shown that the average American family is only three weeks away from personal bankruptcy, and since Congress is on the verge of passing legislation that will deny bankruptcy relief to hundreds of thousands of American families, it is time to revisit what the Bible teaches us about debt.
The Bible makes it clear that people are generally expected to pay their debts. Leviticus 25:39. No one in support of or in opposition to the Bankruptcy Reform Bill presently before Congress has advanced any argument against this general proposition. However, this moral and legal obligation to pay just debts must be balanced by such considerations as the need for compassion and the call to cancel debts at periodic intervals. The Biblical basis for such considerations is based on the sabbatical and Jubilee years. The secular basis arises out of the Constitutional of Congress to enact uniform laws allowing businesses and consumers to cancel and to restructure debt obligations. This Biblical support for the legal right to cancel debt is enforced by the even stronger Biblical doctrine that prohibited interest of any amount rather than just usury or excessive interest.
Within the areas of economic justice and stability, the Old Testament is replete with examples of compassionate treatment of the poor, and with preservation of the family unit. These goals were superior to the material concerns of repayment of debt. For instance