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Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8 KJV)
Does this verse mean "pay your debts," or does it mean "don't borrow at all"?
One of the great precepts of the Reformation is that "Scripture interprets Scripture." To interpret one verse of Scripture requires that we look at other verses on the same subject.
Here are a couple of other verses:
The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. (Proverbs 22:7 KJV)
Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. (1 Corinthians 7:23 KJV)
The borrower is a slave; we are not to be slaves; therefore we are not to borrow. The logic is inescapable.
Many astute commentators have reached the same conclusion.
R.J. Rushdoony has concluded:
The believer must seek to avoid debt as far as possible: Debt is for the Christian a violation of the commandment, "Owe no man anything, save to love one another" (Rom. 13:8). The normal life of the covenant man is to be debt-free, to owe no man anything save the obligation of rendering tribute, honor, fear, and custom wherever due, and of rendering that love which is the fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13:7-8).
In the Old Testament, when a man was unable to pay his debts, or feed his family, he would sell himself into slavery. When discussing debt and borrowing, I have actually had Christian men say to me, "OK, I admit it, I'm a slave. I'm an American." This cavalier attitude towards God's Word will not bring God's blessing. Debt should be a last resort, not a trendy economic strategy. Gary North, President of the Institute for Christian Economics,3 has written,
It must be stressed, however, that the kind of emergency described by the relevant passages is a true emergency. It arises when a poor man has nothing left but his cloak. . . . The emergency is a situation of desperation; godly men and women are not to indebt themselves for anything less than this. "Owe no man anything, but to love one another" is the binding rule for all non-emergency circumstances (Rom. 13:8a).
Charles Spurgeon, the great 19th-century Baptist preacher, stood in the company of generations of Christians who scrimped and saved rather than borrowed for the things they wanted. He was quite forceful:
Living beyond their incomes is the ruin of many of my neighbors; they can hardly afford to keep a rabbit and must needs drive a pony and chaise. I am afraid extravagance is the common disease of the times, and many professing Christians have caught it, to their shame and sorrow. Good cotton or stuff gowns are not good enough nowadays; girls must have silks and satins, and then there's a bill at the dressmaker's as long as a winter's night and quite as dismal. Men burn the candle at both ends, and then say they are very unfortunate -- why don't they put the saddle on the right horse, and say the are extravagant? Scripture says, "Owe no man anything," which does not mean pay your debts, but never have any to pay; and my opinion is, that those who willfully break this law ought to be turned out of the Christian church neck and crop, as we say.
But aren't things different in the "modern economy"? Doesn't inflation make it prudent to borrow? Can you be a good steward without going into debt for appreciating items? Some will say, No, all borrowing is not prohibited, and in some cases may be wise.
It is the contention of this paper that these counselors have been misled by modern, Secular Humanist economists. The old ways are the better ways.
Those who justify borrowing make two mistakes (besides misreading the verses quoted above). First, they fail to consider all the Scriptural reasons to avoid debt. Some of these reasons are set forth in Bill Gothard's Men's Manual, Vol. II, beginning at page 74. Second, they fail to consider how monstrously evil the modern economy is. Borrowing puts one right in the heart of the beast. And in our modern "inflationary economy," not only is borrowing unwise, it actually is the cause of inflation, and therefore violates clear scriptural injunctions.
"'Monstrously evil'? Come on" some will say. "Borrowing causes inflation?!" These charges are as strong as they are unfamiliar to most Americans. Let me start by showing you that our nation's clock just isn't telling the right time.
Take a quarter or a dime out of your pocket. Examine it. Notice that the edge is orange. Inside, the coin is copper. It has been plated with nickel to give it the appearance of silver.
Why would the government paint a copper coin to make it look like silver? Dimes, quarters, and half-dollars were in fact made of silver up until 1965, but in order to fund activities which the Scriptures nowhere command the State to undertake,4 the State began to substitute inexpensive copper for the more expensive silver. Show a quarter or dime to your pastor or financial advisor. Point out the orange center. Ask him what kind of money this is. If you don't eventually hear the phrase "debased currency," your advisor is not equipped to give you sound, Biblical economic advice. The post-1965 coin is a classic example of "debased currency," which every economist can describe. History records this kind of debasement as occurring in every empire in human history - right before its collapse. The practice has always been recognized as immoral. It is a form of theft. It is plainly prohibited by Biblical Law.
Few people are aware of the significance of this subtle change in coinage. These coins are but the tip of the iceberg. Most of our economy is not run on coins, but follows the same techniques of "debasement." The implications are staggering.
Every time I talk to people about the tangled subject of usury, debt, and our nation's currency, I find it uncovers a whole army of other problems, such as covetousness, inability to defer gratification, and brainwashing at the hands of the State's schools (Romans 12:1-2). And a false system of money not only permits the widespread charging of interest, it "violently" oppresses the poor, according to the Scriptures.
I passed the California Bar Exam in 1988. I was awarded a full scholarship to a Summer Institute at the Foundation for Economic Education in New York. I have had a dozen or so articles published by the Institute for Christian Economics.3 I'm no expert; I just know enough about law and economics to ask dangerous questions.
(3) Box 8000, Tyler, TX, 75711. Part of the "Christian Reconstruction" movement. Bill Moyers did a PBS documentary on the movement, noting that its leaders were responsible for the creation of the "Religious Right" back in the late 1970's. Few people are aware of the impact this movement has had in this country.
(4) For example, a "War on Poverty," a war on Vietnam, and a war on God in public schools.
Cleansing the Home| | The Ungodliest Man in the World! | | God's Law Concerning Money | | Usury and Unabombers | | What About Borrowing? | | "The Evils of Capitalism" -- Wrong Enemy | | FRACTIONAL RESERVE BANKING AND VIOLENCE | | Getting out of Paper | | A Purified Life | | The Freemen of Montana | | For Further Reading
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