Friday, 20 November 2015

The Paradox of The Need to Repay Debt and Debt Forgivness: a Parallel to Salvation

The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth (Psalm 37:21).

The Bible makes it clear that once a person has gotten into debt, he is obliged to pay. That a person is poor, sick, or unemployed is no excuse to not repay. It is precisely this righteous moral obligation to repay one's debts that creditors, such as banks use and twist to justify their usury. Therein lies the subtle perversion of usurers of this moral obligation, to justify their wickedness. Woe to those who call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 20:5)! This is what such people are doing, seeking to twist the truth.

There are parts in the Bible where it makes a command for debt cancellation, such as Deuteronomy 15:1-2:

At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord's release.

This apparent paradox is indeed one of the great mysteries in the Bible. On one hand, the wicked borrow and do not repay. Yet, on the other hand, the Bible makes provision for debt cancellation. So, how should this be understood?

The Bible tells us that the wicked borrow and do not repay because such is a manifestation of a heart that seeks to selfishly use property of others, and faithless, seeking to trust in money, as opposed to trusting in God. There is no such thing as debt being ordained by God, for debt is slavery, enslaving people to mammon, thereby hating God (Matthew 6:24). 

God allows people to get into debt as part of His permissive will, but not His perfect will. Debt is part of a fallen world as it is a manifestation of not trusting in God, seeking only to get what one wants, or needs according to one's will, and not His. A person serving debt, which is what he needs to do when he has to repay it, serves mammon in serving debt. He cannot serve God, for as long as one is serving mammon through debt, one will not nor cannot serve God. 

Indeed, the conundrum of the Biblical obligation of debtors to repay debt and the obligation of creditors to cancel debt is one that remains. How can the two apparently paradoxical obligations be reconciled? To answer this, one must look at the spirit of each command. 

The spirit of Psalm 37:21 is that of righteousness, repaying what is due to another. It is obligation on part of the debtor to do his part in repaying debts, regardless of his circumstances. Psalm 37:21 is by no means treats the creditor as one who should be repaid on the basis that he demands it out of his own fleshly self-interest, but rather that the debtor is morally obliged to repay his debts for that is what is acceptable to God. It is not creditor-centred, or debtor-centred, but God-centred. Only if a debtor repays what he owes can he be said to have selflless love, but never can he be said to have selfless love if he borrows without repaying. Borrowing without repaying one's debt is selfish love.

The spirit of Deuteronomy 15:1-2 is that of forgiveness out of selfless love on part of the creditors. As God is love, all of His commands are out of a spirit of love, in the sense of being selfless love. Such love is so deep and vast that it is beyond all human imagination. The spirit of Deuteronomy 15:1-2 is by no means justifying those who borrow and do not repay. Rather, it is of the spirit of grace, mercy and forgiveness, symbolic of the ultimate act of Love, when God sent His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ to die for the sins of the world.  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). 

Deuteronomy 15:1-2 is by no means a justification for not repaying one's debts. Rather, it is an expression of mercy, grace and forgiveness, freely given by the party against whom debt is owed. It is not a justification for borrowing money to satisfy oneself. 

The command in Deuteronomy 15:1-2 is not a mere rule or law, imposed on people simply for the sake of regulating behaviour. It is the expression of God's love, forgiveness, mercy and grace. Indeed, sin in the Bible is referred to as debt. Sin against God is debt owed by the sinner to God. For example, in Matthew 6:12. when Jesus was teaching people how to pray, He taught them to pray: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors", which was to ask God for the forgiveness of one's sins. The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:21-35 clearly demonstrates that sin is debt. The debt owed to the master represented sin against God. Since God has forgiven oneself, one is commanded in turn to forgive others.

Debt is not merely parallel to sin. Sin is debt and debt is sin. Debt is a manifestation of sin in a fallen world as it itself shows a failure to seek God and His ways. It is a manifestation of faithlessness. Sin is a debt owed to God who sin is against. The root of all sins is unbelief. It is to not seek God, nor trust Him and His ways. To get into debt is to say to God that He cannot be trusted to provide, so one must seek one's own way, as opposed to His way to provide for oneself. It is an insult to God. It comes from a heart opposed to God and trusting in His ways. 

The issue of debt gives the Church an opportunity to shine as salt and light to the world. As much as the world gets into debt out of its own wickedness, God is a God who is seeking to show mercy, grace and forgiveness. Therefore, as the Church who is to reflect God's love and forgiveness, we should seek to help liberate our neighbours from debt-slavery, by preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ - the ultimate liberation from debt, the sin-debt owed to God.