Martin Charlesworth
The debt crisis part five

A Biblical Perspective

A short series on money and debt

Debt is a big deal in the Bible. It seems that God is against it. He doesn’t like what it does to people.

This is especially clear in the Old Testament. The Law of Moses has a lot to say about debt. It seems that God was very keen for his people, the Jews, not to get themselves into debt. In those days every family had a share in the land and they all worked the land. Some people fell on hard times through misfortune, while others made a mess of their finances and ended up in trouble.

In order to prevent the gap between rich and poor growing too big, laws were put in place to keep debt to a minimum and to sort out major debt problems when they developed.

For a start, Israelites were not allowed to lend money to each other with interest added. This was to reduce the opportunity of the rich to exploit the poor through lending money – there were no loan sharks allowed in ancient Israel!

Also, the Law stated that debt should be cancelled every seven years. This meant that when people got into financial trouble they knew that they would ultimately become free. How wonderful that must have been compared to the problem many people today have with the threat of debts hanging over them for decades to come.

Then there was the Year of Jubilee, which we have discussed in previous posts . Every 50 years there was a major economic redistribution of resources. People who had lost their land got it back, while those who had got into debt or ended up in bonded labour were released from their obligations.

It is interesting to see how concerned God seemed to be about economics and social justice in the time of ancient Israel.

If Jesus was announcing a new Jubilee (as I have argued in previous posts) then we can expect some of the same type of benefits to come through the Church, so it is interesting to notice that the early church focused a lot on sharing goods and actively intervening to help the poor within their communities. They tried to keep debt to a minimum within the church.

When this sort of lifestyle is lived out in local churches today, there is a real possibility of influencing the society around us. We can begin to advocate public policies that will reduce the dangers and burdens of debt for the people of our country. Indeed, this is what many Christians are already doing.

When we tackle the problems of debt in society, we can be sure that we have good biblical reasons to make it a priority.