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Jim Killebrew has 40 years of clinical psychological work for people with intellectual disabilities, and experience teaching, administration, consulting, writing with multiple publications. Dr. Killebrew has attended four Universities and received advanced degrees. Southern Illinois University; Ph.D., Educational Psychology; University of Illinois at Springfield, Counseling Education; M.A., Human Development Counseling; Northeastern Oklahoma State University, B.A., Psychology and Sociology. Dr. Killebrew attended Lincoln Christian Seminary (Now Lincoln Christian University). Writing contributions have been accepted and published in several journals: Hospital & Community Psychiatry, The Lookout, and Christian Standard (multiple articles). He may be reached at Killebrewjb@aol.com.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Debt…owe no man anything

Debt is something Americans live with on a daily basis. The news is full of stories about national debt: The recession due in part to high debts; Wall Street and the greed that is practiced there that prevents the growth of wealth on Main Street; personal debt that causes high numbers of bankruptcy; and, States that are nearing bankruptcy unless their Legislatures take immediate actions to either raise taxes, lower taxes, cut spending or just do something! Everyone is talking about debt and "generational debt" that will linger for generations for the kids and grand kids to pay off in the future. People are scrambling to find ways to deal with the tremendous debts that are piling up.

Alternatives are being advanced from all sides. Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University advocate paying down debt by using a "snowball" process where credit cards are paid off beginning with the least amount owed on a card to the card with the most owed. The idea is to pay off one, then use that payment amount to add to the next one, paying the payment on it plus the payment that was used on the one paid off. By the time a person gets to the third or fourth card, the payments have become substantial and therefore, pay off the balance much quicker. Other alternatives include "debt reduction" companies that negotiate with the debt accounts to reduce interest and establish a fixed amount of payment for an extended period until it is paid off. This method uses a third party to "manage" the payments until the debt is paid. The Christian might consider any or all of these methods, but there might be another alternative to consider.

Turning to the Bible, the Christian tries to find the answers for handling debt. A look at Solomon's writings in Proverbs one finds,

"Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts." (Proverbs 22:26 KJV)

Perhaps the first thing to consider is to avoid debt in the first place. This verse tends to warn against striking up a deal that will result in the person owing another a debt. For sure it would be best not to take a place of risk for another and stand in as "surety" or collateral for another as s/he places themselves at risk by taking on debt with the promise that you will pay if they don't. There is a great risk that the person who stands as the sureties for others will end up paying the bill. If personal property or wages are established as the guarantee; the person can likely as not lose that property or money.

Additionally, Christian living should consider not making purchases until savings goals have been reached and there are sufficient funds to make the purchase without debt. Living in a deficit-spending situation will one day cause the downfall of the family, organization, state or nation. The one who is in debt becomes a slave to the one to whom debt is owed.

The ancient Hebrew culture had an interesting practice regarding debts. Not only could land or other property be purchased causing a debt, but people could actually encumber themselves into a debt to another and have to work as a servant. God had seen this practice and established a rule that would "set things right" on every fiftieth year, called the Year of Jubilee. The Bible says,

"Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the Day of Atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land." (Leviticus 25:9 KJV)

During the Jubilee the land that had left the family came back to the original family; those who had been sold into slavery were freed. The Bible says,

"And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family." (Leviticus 25:10 KJV)

Of course in modern America the Jubilee is not practiced. It would be unusual for debts to be forgiven every fifty years. However, the Christian does have a responsibility to pay the debts s/he owes. That debt includes the taxes that are expected from the government. Not only is it the law of the land, but the law is something that God expects the Christian to obey. The civil laws of the land are sanctioned by God and actually become His instrument for our good. The person wishing to practice Christian Living will want to be sure and accomplish everything according to God's will in the matter of repaying debt and taxes. The Bible says all must submit to authorities.

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing, Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." (Romans 13:1-7 (New International Version))

God has actually supported those who have been appointed as government authorities. They serve as His "servants" by doing the very thing they are supposed to by giving themselves full time to governing. Christian living supports the principle of paying taxes on time and making sure that everything owed is paid to whomever it is owed. In the final analysis, however, we are to get out of debt and owe nothing except love.

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:8-10 (New International Version))

Therefore, Christian living is to strive to curtail spending, increase saving, live within means, pay off all debts, avoid new debts, but always be in the debt of loving one another.

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