Debt recovery in a secular world
The following statistics should send your mind into an incomprehensible whizz. Money Charity.org, has produced a list of staggering figures which highlight the amount of debt we as a nation have accrued over the last year. The figures are from Oct 2021. So sit down and prepare to be staggered. But first let us state our national gross debt at the end of March 2021 : £2,223,0 billion (gov.uk)
The average household debt including mortgages: £62,938.
Average adult credit card debt £1,081/person
Average adult debt £33,072
Credit card debt: £72.2 Billion
Household credit card debt: £2.058
In the addition, it would be well to take a look from these figures:
The population of the UK grew by an estimated 777 people a day between 2019 and 2020.
• On average, a UK household spends £4.33 a day on water, electricity and gas.
• 313 people a day were declared insolvent or bankrupt in England and Wales in August to October 2021. This was equivalent to one person every 4 minutes and 37 seconds.
• In Northern Ireland in October 2021, there were 3.3 insolvencies per day. In Scotland in the three months to September 2021 there were 20.8 insolvencies per day.
• Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales dealt with 1,910 debt issues every day in the year to October 2021.
• 4.5 properties were repossessed every day in July to September 2021 in the UK, or one every 5 hours and 23 minutes.
• The number of UK mortgages with arrears of over 2.5% of the remaining balance fell by 1.8 a day in the year to September 2021.
• The number of people unemployed in the UK fell by 548 per day in the twelve months to September 2021.
• 1,130 people a day reported they had become redundant in July to September 2021.
• Net lending to individuals and housing associations in the UK grew by £182 million a day in September 2021.
• Government debt increased by £429 million a day in the year to October 2021.
• Borrowers paid £123 million a day in interest in September 2021.
• It costs an average of £23.25 per day for a couple to raise a child from birth to the age of 18.
• For a lone parent family, the cost of raising a child comes to £28.22 per day.
• 30.8 mortgage possession claims and 13.4 mortgage possession orders were made every day in England and Wales in July to September 2021.
• 111 landlord possession claims and 60.9 landlord possession orders were made every day.
Let us emphasise one thing first, whether we like it or not; the minute a country begins to borrow money it places every citizen regardless of age in debt. In order to get that money back off everyone it has to introduce taxes. Taxes are never abolished; they are moved to existing forms of revenue or new ones are created.
The moment a person is registered at birth and given a birth certificate, they become, in essence, a vehicle by which the government can extract tax. The certification of birth, gives us an identity and a number which we receive when we begin working. We very quickly become part of a chain of extraction that we even inherit from our parents, through our homes and properties for example.
It is not enough that we pay tax on our salaries; we pay it on mostly everything we consume. Even our cars are collectors of taxes. Ultimately, we own very little. In moments of crisis the government can acquire our property and dare I say even our money, in order to pay off debt. We see this all the time as banks repossess our belongings to have our debt to them paid off.
Personally, I’ve always had an issue with mortgage companies not adjusting mortgage payments in times of difficulty in favour of the lender. Instead they choose to repossess. Why? Because its easier and cheaper to get some money back instead of waiting for the debt to be paid off. It is pure evil.
The Bible tells us that the love of money is evil.
1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
2 Timothy 3:2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy.
Hebrews 13:55 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Having money is not an evil. God uses it to prosper and to bless when it is used in conjunction with the divine economy. Kingdom wealth is never stored up - it is used. The dynamic is: we work, we take what we need, we give out. In other words: we sow, we reap, we get the harvest. Increase comes from the relationship we have as responsible custodians of the wealth God apportions us. We see this in the parable of the talents. Matthew 25:14-30, and again in Luke 19:16.
Prosperous economic and trading times are alluded to in Yeshua’s prophecy regarding the end times in Luke 17:26-30.
Now I’m going share something personal with you. When I was child, my family was always in debt. It became normal. We had things taken away when my father didn’t pay a bill and we went to the grocer to ask for vegetables - 'on the tick.’ it was called. I often, as a boy of seven, had to make the trip to our local green grocer’s to get bags of vegetables. 25lb bags of spuds were an almost weekly requisite. But mum always paid off the debt the following week if she could. We were in debt in order to purchase our food rations for the week. The reason for the debt was predominantly down to my father’s alcoholism which meant the housekeeping money was more often spent before he came home on Friday night. A few years later my father left the family and the borrowing of money from lenders continued for decades after. My mum struggled. We had what we needed; we made our own toys and entertainment when we could not buy them and clothes and shoes were always passed down. I am sure that many people have the same experience. But one thing for sure was that despite the tough and painful times we siblings were always happy.
Today, things are somewhat different. Debt is normal and bankruptcy in no longer a stigma. In fact we are now encouraged to borrow more and build our businesses on debt. We are even encouraged to borrow for our education. The average student debt in 2021 is £45.000 (statistic.com)
The pressure to have what we can’t afford is increasing and to look at the long term effects of debt on our personal lives remains behind a clouded lens. Most people don’t want to see what it reveals. They choose to address the situation later or if things become less fluid. Consumerism forces many into debt and the trends that force themselves into everyday aspects of our lives quietly overwhelm us. The bank of England figures tell us that the average household spend per month is £2000. Around Christmas time that figure will increase to around £2500 and the average cost of wedding is just over £25000.
The bar level of poverty in the west, is also getting higher as the perception of what is needed to sustain an acceptable lifestyle is changing. In comparison to poverty levels in developing countries we have no idea what true poverty is. But for many people there is a new trend. One that has been steadily growing over these last few years. It was one that only the brave would consider; the decision to leave the rat race and live a simpler life. All you haver to do is to sell all that you have, keep what you need, and pay off your debts. Simple!
Debt, is like Japanese knotweed, that winds itself around the branches of our convoluted lives. My view at this point is that almost all of us have been forced into the life we lead. We might say, “Oh No, I’m in charge” but the fact is that if we are in debt then we are not in charge. We can only choose to pay off debt and struggle to live a debt bought life, or get out and truly own all that we have.
In 2018, the biggest ever US lottery was won. The person won a staggering $1.537bn.
Now, the odds of winning such prizes are millions to 1. People want to win such prizes, including the already wealthy. Having wealth is not enough for some; millionaires want to become billionaires. Buying tickets becomes an addiction. Spending in the hope of becoming rich, sends , unfortunately, many into spiralling debt.
The Guardian in Oct 2018, reported:
Across the US, people who make less than $10,000 spend an average of $597 on lottery tickets, around 6% of their income. African Americans also spend a disproportionate amount of money on the lottery, spending five times as much on tickets as white people.(Guardian Oct 2018) Consider now, how much money was actually spent on tickets alone.
As believers, our faith guarantees an outcome because we are told to place our hope in kingdom investments. In these, the world economy has no effect. Matthew 6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The sweet taste of wealth comes at a bitter cost. Yeshua said that the rich already have their reward in this world.
I once knew a pastor who on the subject of debt, said, ‘as long as you can afford to pay your debt you are not really in debt.’ I agree to a point but the point is that regardless of whether you can pay or not or how soft it might seem at the time, you are still in debt.
Proverbs 22:7 says, The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.
Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Debt may provide a brief moment of exhilaration when we hold the newness of our purchase in our hands or it may provide a moment’s breath between bills, but debt only gives us anxiety. We begin to worry about tomorrow, or the week after. We can look to many, for example, who found themselves in chaos and desperation in Greece when money could not be transferred on time to pay wages or to be accessed from ATM’s. We see this closer to home when electronic banking systems crash and fail to make necessary transactions.
Look at what Yeshua spoke about in Matthew 6:25-34
"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? "And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?
"And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. "But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
How many of us put faith in these words?
The principle of forgiveness in the Lord’s prayer admonishes us to release debt. We should neither borrow, forcing someone to lend, nor lend, forcing someone into debt. The principle is found in Leviticus 25; the year of Jubilee. Where 50 years are counted numbering 7 sabbath years. It outlines a comprehensive list of redemptive acts. And shows that what must be returned, really must be returned and what is owed must be paid off (in a nutshell) the ‘Shmita' year though predominantly referring to an agricultural system, admonishes the wiping out of debt. The rules applied to fellow Israelites but not to foreigners.
In the Lord’s prayer we find a specific command: to forgive us our debts as well as those who are indebted to us. Other translations render trespasses, or sins. The rendering alludes to the breaking of a precept. We should not put others in debt and whatever we owe we must pay as soon as we can without interest.
Psalm 32. Also draws our attention to the same principle.
How blessed are those whose offence is forgiven,
those whose sin is covered!
2 How blessed those to whom Adonai imputes no guilt,
in whose spirit is no deceitWhen I acknowledged my sin to you…
5 when I stopped concealing my guilt,
and said, “I will confess my offenses to Adonai”;
then you, you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Selah)
6 This is what everyone faithful should pray
at a time when you can be found.
Then, when the floodwaters are raging,
they will not reach to him.
7 You are a hiding-place for me,
you will keep me from distress;
you will surround me
with songs of deliverance.Don’t be like a horse or mule
9that has no understanding,
that has to be curbed with bit and bridle,
or else it won’t come near you.
10 Many are the torments of the wicked,
but grace surrounds those who trust in Adonai.
11 Be glad in Adonai; rejoice, you righteous!
Shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
We learn that when we do not acknowledge our sin we hide our guilt. The Lord protects those who forgive and are forgiven. He does not lead us into temptation or distress v7. He says that he will surround and let us not fall into evil. Our freedom will cause us to sing songs of deliverance.
Un-forgiveness and neglecting to admit our own guilt causes a breach in the relationship with God. The good times become not so good. God’s grace in operation allows us to repent and walk upright instead of bent over and burdened with debt.
There is a spiritual reality to debt, therefore. If being unrepentant of debt, trespass and sin causes such a breach, then we can assume that there will be a withdrawal of the presence of God. This may answer why we seem to lack power in the church. We speak against poverty and yet many of us are riddled with debt and other areas of sin, which we have hidden and probably forgotten about. Yeshua spoke about asking for forgiveness every day. In that way, there can be no accumulation of sin and it is a lot easier to remember and deal with. It's a bit like interest on a loan. If you get it paid off quickly you have less to pay off.
Debt is inevitable in our society. Our economy is based on it. We all owe, water, electricity, phone and other taxes and charges. We have to balance situations out like a bank statement. But when that debt becomes hard to pay we can often turn to other means. Hopefully we might find favour or a sympathetic ear to help us work something out, but often debt in our faith family is not approached. We see people give in offerings but assume everything is all right. I was once a witness to a situation where a couple received a gift to pay their electricity bill. The amount given was the exact amount to get them out of debt. The tithing message was very rarely missed in the services, and so they gave out of the cash they had received. It meant of course that they were now short in paying the bill. God wants us to stay clear of debt.
Returning to the Lord’s prayer, in the King James Version Strong’s 3783. Greek noun: Opheilema - means debt, offence , sin. Number 3782 ‘GK: Opheile’ a debt or duty.
Whether we use the words ‘trespass’ or ‘sin’ the meaning is the same. This leads us to the conclusion that if Yeshua is emphasising a sin issue then it needs to be addressed. Sin issues are addressed so that transgression can be forgiven. It’s about wiping the slate clean. The idea of indebtedness is therefore highlighted because we are speaking about the issue of freedom and deliverance referred to in our reference to Lev 25. Moreover, we see that Yeshua had to pay the price of our debt owed to God. He did this because He knew we could never do it. The debt was too high for us.
If we are in debt, then we are indebted to others and not to God. Why would God wipe out my sin debt in order for me to accrue more debt, metaphorically? It does not stand to reason. There are deeper spiritual areas here. If we remain in debt we also labour in vain and our pockets are forever empty.
Another issue arises too. Haggai 4 presents to us a charge from God:
4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in your panelled houses, while this house lies in ruins?”
5 Now this is what the LORD of Hosts says:
about your ways.
6 You have planted much
but harvested little.
You eat but never have enough.
You drink but never have your fill.
You put on clothes but never get warm.
You earn wages to put into a bag pierced through.”
7 This is what the LORD of Hosts says:
about your ways.
8 Go up into the hills,
bring down lumber, and build the house,
so that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,
says the LORD.
9 You expected much,