Our Stimulus Money, Our Debts, and the Law of Moses
(Deuteronomy chapter 15, verses 1-11) by Rev. Paul J. Bern
There has already been such an extensive amount of news coverage about the state of the stimulus money currently threading its way throughout America that I’m going to skip over all that for now. But there are some key things that must be done in order to get the American people caught back up on their rent, utilities, mortgages, student loans and credit card debts, while doing so in a manner that is consistent with the Scriptures. Otherwise, this flow of stimulus will have only a minimal effect. Our entire economy is based on the accumulation of debt, which in and of itself is unsustainable. Lately, due primarily to the Covid-19 pandemic, nearly everyone has been in a financial bind for well over a year, and it hasn’t been until just the last week or so that things have finally begun to loosen up for the American people.
As a result of all this, it has occurred to me that, if all the US workers who are still without jobs had been properly taken care of and paid at a realistic level of compensation prior to the pandemic, and if many American companies were better managers of their human resources, many of these other economic and social issues would be moot. So today I am going to use the Law of Moses from the Book of Deuteronomy back in the Old Testament, as a ruler and a metric, and as a means to judge whether or not the American labor market and economic system is fair as judged by Biblical standards. So at this point I think it would be best if I quoted from the Scriptures first before commenting further.
The Year for Canceling Debts
“1) At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. 2) This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel any loan they have made to a fellow Israelite. They shall not require payment from anyone among their own people, because the Lord’s time for canceling debts has been proclaimed. 3) You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your fellow Israelite owes you. 4) However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, 5) if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. 6) For the Lord your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you.” (Deuteronomy chapter 15, verses 1-6)
Verse 1, if it were being adhered to here in America, would bring the entire debt-based capitalist economic system we currently live under to a grinding halt. Imagine a 7-year limit on mortgages, cars and truck loans and title pawns. The 7-year limit on mortgages alone would cause a real estate crash that likes of which none of us has ever seen before. Some of the 84-month vehicle loans currently on the books would have to be “renegotiated”. Notice that the Israeli’s were allowed to charge interest to “foreigners”, but not their fellow Israeli’s. That could be applied to the US economy of today. What if Americans could borrow interest free, while those persons and companies from overseas had to pay market rates?
Or, suppose an American company could get an interest-free business loan from, say, a US credit union or a bank? Like it says in verse 3, “You may require payment from a foreigner, but you must cancel any debt your fellow Israelite owes you.” In our case, “Israelite” gets supplanted by “American”. The only repayment the Lord Almighty wants is the principal of the loan repaid on time. America used to be just like the country described in verse 6: “…. you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none”, but that was a long time ago, and those days are now so much water under the bridge.
Continuing the second half of this week’s commentary, the Word reads as follows: “7) If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelite’s in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8) Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9) Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelite’s and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10) Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11) There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelite’s who are poor and needy in your land….” (Deuteronomy chapter 15, verses7-11)
The message contained within these last 5 verses of Scripture are unmistakable. Give to those in need without hesitation. Since we don’t have any $1,400 checks to give to people, let’s make ourselves our own currency and give freely of ourselves. To refuse to do so amounts to a grievous sin committed against your own people, and ultimately against yourself. Verse 9 is a stern warning to not abuse the system put in place by God through Moses, who was himself a direct descendant of Christ. To abuse the system by borrowing money in such a way as to evade repayment of any part of it is considered sin against that same system, which was instituted by God. But the fact remains that all debts between Israeli’s/Americans are required by the Scriptures to be canceled every 7 years. So for the world to continue with ‘business as usual’ financial transactions while making no changes is a sin against God because it deliberately ignores the precepts of God. In verse 9, the whole point is summed up with these words: “…. do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelite’s and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin.”
The Prophet then wrote: “10) Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11) There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelite’s who are poor and needy….” (Deuteronomy 15, verses 10-11) These last 2 verses read a lot like the Gospels that we treasure today. Isn’t this similar to what Jesus taught? Despite the passage of time, the precepts and teachings of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ the Son of God, remain unchanged.
So in closing, imagine a world that obeyed the laws written down by Moses or his scribes, in which every person and every American business, from tiny mom-and-pop establishments all the way up to giant corporations, operated debt free. No more income tax, no more federal withholding, no more student loans of more than 7 years, and – get this – no more mortgages of more than 7 years duration. Anything higher than that would be a crime, and the same thing goes for all other kinds of loans. What a wonderful world it would be, if only we obeyed the Law.