Theonomy on Debt
Debt is for the Christian a violation of the commandment, “Owe no man anything save to love one another” (Rom. 13:8). Debt rests on covetousness, a desire to possess what our neighbor has, even though we lack his means. As a result of covetousness, the slave desires to possess a home, car, furnishings, and clothing which he sees the wealthy possessing, and his means of securing these things is debt. St. Paul declared, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is also certain that we can carry nothing out. But having food and clothing, let us therewith be content” (1 Tim. 6:6, 7).
The covetous man or nation goes into debt to gain added power, purchasing power, prestige, resources, and other forms of visible might. The result is indeed an increase of power, but it is short-term power purchased at the price of long-term disaster. The debtor sees perpetually additional goals, new increases of power possible through debt, and as a result plunges ever more deeply into slavery. Debt is a way of life, a covetous way of life and a form of slavery. The eventual outcome of a debt-economy, for men and nations, is bankruptcy.
The short-term power, however, is impressive. The debtors themselves are profoundly impressed by this power, and hence they ascribe to the greatest debtors the greatest power. They believe, moreover, whenever they become aware of the pinch of debt, that the evil is in the moneylender, not in themselves for having lived covetously. As a result, they begin to rant against “the hidden money power,” and often amass data concerning it. The grains of truth concerning the money establishment obscures the grim reality that debtors create this money-establishment, and the real evil is covetous living, not banking, erroneous though modern principles of banking are.
The perspective of those who concern themselves about the “money-trust” is thus a very faulty one. They believe in the triumph of evil, and they fail to see the basic evil as debt, as covetousness. Such people would outlaw banking, a legitimate activity, instead of forsaking covetousness. Money-lending is not a sin; slavery is a fact of life, and the debt-slave cannot blame a man who honestly and legitimately lends him money. The Bible recognizes such a transaction as legitimate; the slave is not outlawed by God, but is merely regarded as a person whose way of life is a very limited one. The biblical law makes provision for the slave who wants slavery; it simply insists that he publicly acknowledge what his way of life is, an act of will (Ex. 21:1–6).
The believer who avoids debt declares thereby that he refuses to be a slave, refuses to be covetous, acknowledges that the earth is the Lord’s and man also, and, therefore, that life can be lived only in terms of God’s law. The Christian cannot mortgage himself or his future: it is God’s, not his own. In terms of this faith, and this way of life, power returns to the Christian man, whose loss of freedom and of power began with a loss of faith and that covetous mind which is the mainspring of debt-slavery. The beginning of true power is always obedience to God.
Reprinted from Politics of Guilt and Pity (Thoburn Press). Used with permission
Copyright © 1987 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian History magazine.
Click here for reprint information on Christian History.