Monday, 2 January 2017

Debt is a Trap, Be Wise, Avoid the Snare of Debt!

Australia currently has the highest level of personal debt in the world. A survey by Barna, a research organisation "focused on the intersection of faith and culture" reported in 2015 that the debt levels of Christians in America are about the same as that of their secular counterparts

It seems like there is really no difference between the Church and the world in the west, on the issue of debt. Debt is a trap. The Bible contains many warnings to not be a guarantor for another. Proverbs, the book of wisdom gives many such warnings:

My son, if you become surety for your friend,
If you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,
You are snared by the words of your mouth;
You are taken by the words of your mouth.
So do this, my son, and deliver yourself;
For you have come into the hand of your friend:
Go and humble yourself;
Plead with your friend.
Give no sleep to your eyes,
Nor slumber to your eyelids.
Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
And like a bird from the hand of the fowler.

(Proverbs 1:1-6) (emphasis in original NKJV text).

He who is surety for a stranger will suffer,
But one who hates being surety is secure.

(Proverbs 11:15).

The rich rules over the poor,
And the borrower is servant to the lender.

(Proverbs 22:7).
Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge,
One of those who is surety for debts;
27 If you have nothing with which to pay,
Why should he take away your bed from under you?

(Proverbs 22:26-27).

What it means to be a surety?

Proverbs 6:1-6 explains what it means to be a surety for the debts of another. Proverbs 6:2 says that if you have agreed to be a surety for the debts of another, you are "snared by the words of your mouth". You have fallen into a trap of being indebted yourself, as you have promised to pay the debts on behalf of another personally, making it your debt. So, that is why the writer, who is a father writing to his son says: "So do this, my son, and deliver yourself; For you have come into the hand of your friend: Go and humble yourself: Plead with your friend" in Proverbs 6:3. 

The father commands his son to deliver himself because of the snare that he is in. There is a sense of urgency,  and an indication that one is at the mercy of one's friend when one promises to pay debts personally for him, as it says 'plead' with your friend to be released from his hand. This sense of urgency is further emphasised in Proverbs 6:4-5 where the author commands the listener, both the original listener and us today to make sure one does not rest until one delivers oneself from the hands of the person whose debts are being guaranteed. Being a guarantor or surety is described as being a gazelle in the hand of a hunter and a bird in the hand of a fowler, from which it need to be delivered from. The hunter and fowler are predators. Likewise, the surety is prey of the one being guaranteed. 

Never ever ever ever be the surety of another person as the Bible has already warned! You are at the mercy of the person whose debts your guarantee. He will be able to make you pay his debts on his behalf, because of your promise.

However, there is an even deeper problem. A surety being trapped in debt, as he sacrifices himself to pay debt of a debtor, became a  debtor himself. This is because being in debt itself is a trap. Debt is a trap, it is a snare. 

Avoid the snare of debt! Resist his alluring lips. For he promises all that you want, but he does not deliver. He deceives by the wealth he gives, but in the end, that wealth is not yours. For it is the lender's, who you need to repay and make you poor.

Flee from debt. Flee from the love of money, which debt uses to seduce people into his trap. Run to the providence of God. As Jesus said: Seek first the righteousness of God and He will give you all your needs (Matthew 6:33).