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Arthur Penrhyn Stanley: In Christ’s name, go and do it.

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:7-8

“Is there no reconciliation of some ancient quarrel, no payment of some long outstanding debt, no courtesy or love or honor to be rendered to those to whom it has long been due; no charitable, humble, kind, useful deed, by which you can promote the glory of God, or good-will among men, or peace upon earth? If there be any such, I beseech you, in God’s name, in Christ’s name, go and do it.”

Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (1815-1881), English churchman, Dean of Westminster, known as Dean Stanley, in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, compiled by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert (New York: Wilbur B. Ketcham, 1895) 204.

Today marks my last post in a series on debt. You will have to wait until tomorrow to see the next topic. With this meditation, I am giving the dean of Westminster Abbey the last word. “In Christ’s name, go and do it.”

Go reconcile any broken relationships. Pay outstanding debts. Show love and courtesy to everyone. Extend charity with humility to those in need. Bestow good-will and peace to all. You will look different from the world around and, in so doing, bring Christ glory.

“In Christ’s name, go and do it.”

This is a fitting transition because the house has become empty. Jenni and Sophie leave this morning. Sophie returns to San Diego Christian College for her final year. Sammy has returned to work at Front Range Christian School. I am home alone with Joy (our dog) to contemplate a new topic.

Again, go do the good that needs to be done in the name of Jesus everyone!

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William Mackergo Taylor: Plain, Substantial Building

My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. Psalm 131:1-2

“It is better to have a plain, substantial building, with not extravagance about it, but without a debt, than to have the most splendid specimen of Gothic architecture that is overlaid by a mortgage.”

William Mackergo Taylor (1829–1895) Scottish Congregationalist Minister in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, compiled by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert (New York: Wilbur B. Ketcham, 1895) 151.

As David the psalmist writes, we must not concern ourselves with things out of our league, but be like a calm, quiet, weaned child that has learned contentment.

To many modern-day ministers have argued that growing a church requires a splendid specimen of a building. Sadly, few proclaimed messages like Taylor that a simple building without debt will do.

The early church in the New Testament took over the ancient world and we have no record for over two centuries of local congregations sinking money into facilities.

Ministers must model and teach contentment in this. If you have a plain building without debt, put it to work. A fancy facility with a mortgage doesn’t propel ministry. It actually sets you back.

Many might disagree with me, however, no one can refute the reality that taking on debt makes assumptions about the future that exhibit discontentment with God’s provision in the present.

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Wendell Phillips: Fatal Disease

You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. Deuteronomy 23:19

“Debt is the fatal disease of republics, the first thing and the mightiest to undermine government and corrupt the people.”

Wendell Phillips in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 166.

God’s design for His people is that they lend freely to one another. God made this point clearly to Moses in the Deuteronomic Law. 

Phillips explains why debt is so dangerous. It undermines government, corrupts the people, and ultimate destroys republics.

As today’s post is short, I will add an excerpt from C.S. Lewis, posted previously, from his classic work, Mere Christianity, which connects usury (lending at interest) and generosity.

“There is one bit of advice given to us by the ancient heathen Greeks, and by the Jews in the Old Testament, and by the great Christian teachers of the Middle Ages, which the modern economic system has completely disobeyed. All these people told us not to lend money at interest; and lending money at interest — what we call investment — is the basis of our whole system…

Some people say that when Moses and Aristotle and the Christians agreed in forbidding interest (or ‘usury’ as they called it), they could not foresee the joint stock company, and were only thinking of the private money-lender, and that, therefore, we need not bother about what they said. That is a question I cannot decide on. I am not an economist and I simply do not know whether the investment system is responsible for the state we are in or not.

This is where we want the Christian economist. But I should not have been honest if I had not told you that the three great civilizations agreed (or so it seems at first sight) in condemning the very thing on which we have based our whole life. One more point and I am done.

In the passage where the New Testament says that everyone must work, it gives as a reason ‘in order that he may have something to give to those in need’ [Ephesians 4:28]. Charity — giving to the poor — is an essential part of Christian morality: in the frightening parable of the sheep and the goats it seems to be the point on which everything turns.

Some people nowadays say that charity ought to be unnecessary and that instead of giving to the poor we ought to be producing a society in which there were no poor to give to. They may be quite right in saying that we ought to produce that kind of society. But if anyone thinks that, as a consequence, you can stop giving in the meantime, then he has parted company with all Christian morality.

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them. I am speaking now of “charities” in the common way.

Particular cases of distress among your own relatives, friends, neighbours or employees, which God, as it were, forces upon your notice, may demand much more: even to the crippling and endangering of your own position. For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear — fear of insecurity. This must often be recognised as a temptation. Sometimes our pride also hinders our charity; we are tempted to spend more than we ought on the showy forms of generosity (tipping, hospitality) and less than we ought on those who really need our help.”

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) in Mere Christianity (New York: Harper One, 1980) 85-87.

Much to think about! Admittedly, it’s hard to live generously in a world where the whole system is based on usury. For us, we endeavor at all costs to avoid the latter so we can practice the former. It’s God’s design in the Scriptures.

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Horace Greeley: Support and Solace

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

“Hunger, cold, rags, hard work, contempt, suspicion, and unjust reproach are disagreeable; and debt is infinitely worse than them all. And, if it had pleased God to spare either or all of my sons to be the support and solace of my declining years, the lesson which I should have earnestly sought to impress upon them is, “Never run into debt; avoid pecuniary obligation as you would pestilence or famine. If you have but fifty cents and can get no more for a week, buy a peck of corn, parch it, and live on it, rather than owe any man a dollar.”

Horace Greeley (1811-1872) in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 166.

Greeley offers keen counsel in three areas. (1) He paints an appropriate picture of the infinitely disagreeable nature of debt. (2) He shares sound instruction regarding how to avoid in during hard times: live as simply as possible, even get creative with a peck of corn, to stay within your means. (3) He speaks of impressing truth upon his sons so that they may be “support and solace” to him in his declining years.

Let’s drill down on that last point.

When we live within our means, store up treasures in heaven, and impress this on our sons and daughters, we have something better than a retirement fund. We have discipled the next generation to provide us with the same aid they saw us give to others when we are older.

To me, the most toxic aspect of worldly financial advice is that those who store up riches for themselves, in so doing, teach their children to be selfish. So, as the parents age, they often die alone with their financial wealth only to have the children fight over it after they are gone.

Prepare for your declining years by living generously and teaching your sons and daughters to avoid debt and to give generously. Lead by example because your countercultural, biblical behavior will bring you the “support and solace” you dream of having later in life.

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Philip Dormer Stanhope Chesterfield: Long negligence

“I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. Proverbs 8:12

“A man who owes a little debt can clear it off in a very little time, and if he is a prudent man will; whereas a man who by long negligence owes a great deal, despairs of ever being able to pay, and therefore never looks into his accounts at all.”

Lord Philip Dormer Stanhope Chesterfield (1694-1773) the 4th Earl of Chesterfield in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 166.

Lord Chesterfield describes aptly both sides of the proverbial debt coin: prudence and long negligence, also known as procrastination. Notice that the prudent clear off debt, whereas the procrastinator is swallowed by the sense of despair.

Our daughter, Sophie, has helped a few fellow college students assess their financial position and get out of debt. She’s also seen others ignore their situation and allow it to sink their lives. Perhaps you know someone who struggles with despair associated with debt?

Such people might drop out of school or drift into other sinful habits to try to drown out the despair. Sophie has learned that having a regular coffee with a debt-ridden soul, listening to them, encouraging them, and providing some accountability can make a big difference.

On a Starbucks napkin she has taught fellow students to put their income in one column and expenses in another column and make sure their cashflow remains positive. In plain terms, she says to spend less than you make, so you remain free to live, give, serve, and love like Jesus.

For those who struggle with debt, our greatest act of generosity may be to help them understand their situation and point the way out of it. That can be as easy as buying them coffee and showing them graciously how to make money their slave rather than being enslaved to money.

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L. Carroll Judson: Without a compass

Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you. Proverbs 22:26-27

“Contracting debts is like the man who goes to sea without a compass; he may steer clear of rocks, sand-bars, a lee shore, and breakers, but the chances are greatly against him; and if he runs foul of either, ten to one he is lost.”

L. Carroll Judson in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 166.

Yesterday I received an email from a friend expressing gratitude for the recent posts on debt. He wrote, “We’ve paid cash for everything for over a year. We’ve increased our giving as well…We praise the Lord for His strength and courage to tackle this issue FINALLY!”

That friend found a “compass” and has charted a course to get out of debt. The Lord has supplied strength and courage and, don’t miss this, he and his wife have been able to increase their giving. They are sailing out of debt while joyfully and obediently storing up treasures in heaven.

What about you? Calculate how much interest you paid on all indebtedness last year. Include everything from mortgage interest to other forms like car debt, credit card debt, etc… Total up the number. Now compare that number to your total giving for the same year.

Look at how much charitable giving you claimed on your taxes last year plus any other giving. This is how much you stored up in heaven. If you are not keeping track, start today. Remember, it’s not your money, it’s God’s and someday you will have give an account.

What you do from this day forward is up to you. I suggest you take a moment and pray a simple prayer to make the first figure go away (debt and interest) and help the second one rise (giving). We do this by getting a compass (a plan) and charting a course.

May God supply the strength and courage you need in abundance. You got this!

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Jeremy Taylor: Debt is dreaded and dangerous

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty. Proverbs 27:12

“There is nothing more to be dreaded than debt; when a person, whose principles are good, unhappily falls into this situation, adieu to all peace and comfort; the reflection embitters every meal and drives from the eyelids refreshing sleep.”

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 166.

When, at every turn, marketers want to offer you debt to purchase things with money you don’t have, say to yourself: “Danger!” As the proverb begins, “The prudent see danger and take refuge.” In plain terms, steer clear of the trap.

As Taylor notes, debt causes us to lose peace, comfort, and even refreshing sleep because it burdens the present by making presumptions about the future. How can we avoid it so it does not hinder our generosity?

If you have debts, pay them off starting with the smallest one first. Tell a friend so you have some accountability. Celebrate small victories as you pay them off, one at a time. “Take refuge” by building a basic budget to help you live with the means God has supplied for you.

Pay cash for purchases (or use credit cards to get points or miles and pay the bill in full each month). Save for a year or even a decade for major purchases, and for advice on Avoiding College Debt, click to read the Christian Leadership Alliance blog I recently wrote.

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Matthew Hale: Run not into debt

Don’t give sleep to your eyes or slumber to your eyelids. Get yourself free like a gazelle from a hunter, like a bird from the hand of a fowler. Go to the ant, you lazy person; observe its ways and grow wise. The ant has no commander, officer, or ruler. Even so, it gets its food in summer; gathers its provisions at harvest. Proverbs 6:4-8

“Run not into debt, either for wares sold, or for money borrowed; be content to want things that are not of absolute necessity, rather than to run up the score; such a man pays at the latter end a third more than the principal comes to, and is in perpetual servitude to his creditors, lives uncomfortably, is necessitated to increase his debts to stop his creditors’ mouths, and many times falls into desperate courses.”

Sir Matthew Hale (1609-1676) in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 166.

I am deepening my research linked to debt to see what voices through church history have to say about this leading limiting factor to generosity. Three phrases grip me from this quote.

(1) “Be content to want things that are not of absolute necessity.” What beautiful wisdom! The world says that we must have things and have them now. Be content merely to want things you don’t really need.

(2) “Run up the score…perpetual servitude.” Rather than position us to live, give, serve, and love like Jesus, when we run up debt two things happen: we overpay (limiting our capacity) and it enslaves us (limiting our ability).

(3) “Lives uncomfortably.” Debt often promises comfort and pleasure and delivers the opposite. If you are in it, like a gazelle from a hunger…run away! The paradox is that comfort only comes with freedom and contentment.

Solomon points us to the ant as the role model. Without ruler or chief, it does what God made it to do. Each one labors not for itself but for the colony. Hard work coupled with generous sharing is God’s design in creation!

Likewise, when we work hard and share generously so that everyone around us has enough, we live, give, serve, and love following God’s design for us. Getting rid of debt moves us in this direction.

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Adam Daniel Finnerty: The Shakertown Pledge

Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15

If you have traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, you have likely heard of Shakertown. In 1973, a group of retreat center directors gathered there and made a pledge. While it does not mention the topic of debt per se, it brings sharing with the needy into view, which often results in the retiring of debts. I heard about this pledge in the book cited yesterday.

“Recognizing that earth and the fullness thereof is a gift from our gracious God, and that we are called to cherish, nurture, and provide loving stewardship for earth’s resources, and recognizing that life itself is a gift, and a call to responsibility, joy, and celebration, I make the following declarations:

1. I declare myself a world citizen.

2. I commit myself to lead an ecologically sound life.

3. I commit myself to lead a life of creative simplicity and to share my personal wealth with the world’s poor.

4. I commit myself to join with others in the reshaping of institutions in order to bring about a more just global society in which all people have full access to the needed resources for their physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth.

5. I commit myself to occupational accountability, and so doing I will seek to avoid the creation of products which cause harm to others.

6. I affirm the gift of my body and commit myself to its proper nourishment and physical well-being.

7. I commit myself to examine continually my relations with others and to attempt to relate honestly, morally, and lovingly to those around me.

8. I commit myself to personal renewal through prayer, meditation, and study.

9. I commit myself to responsible participation in a community of faith.”

Adam Daniel Finnerty in No More Plastic Jesus: Global Justice and Christian Lifestyle (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1977) 97.

The notion of sharing with the poor rather than accumulating for ourselves requires a whole different way of living than how society tells us to live. It’s living with margin and resources to aid others like the Good Samaritan. For Israel, God’s instructions meant living differently than the nations around them.

Just as in the days of Joshua, we must choose to fear the Lord and serve Him in faithfulness, regardless of what others are doing. This requires making commitments. The Shakertown Pledge declares such commitments. We may not change the whole world if we choose to live this way, but we will undoubtedly change the world in which we live.

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Ross & Gloria Kinsler: Radically different

At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. 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. Deuteronomy 15:1-2

“The Jubilee mandates include the remission of debts so that slaves might be freed and all families might return to their lands and houses…God’s people are to treat each other, even those who fall into slavery, in ways radically different from the way people of other nations treat one another…cancellation of debts, freeing of slaves, return to family lands, and rest for the land and the workers.” Ross and Gloria Kinsler, The Biblical Jubilee and the Struggle for Life (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1999) 16-17.

God’s instructions to His people on debts outlined that no one should remain enslaved in perpetuity. Notice how the proclamation of “the Lord’s time” in Deuteronomy 15:1-2 sounds similar to the language Jesus used in quoting Isaiah 61:1-2a as recounted in Luke 4:18-19 when launching His earthly ministry.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

These thoughts on debt relate to us in at least three ways: (1) We, as God’s people, must be known by our love for people over profit. (2) Our business practices should appear “radically different” from the world, reflecting the fair treatment of workers. (3) We should help release people from slavery to debt.

Can you imagine God’s people living this way? What a witness! God’s design comes across as both gracious and merciful. As we study God’s heart on debt in the OT law, it reflects God’s amazing love and kindness to a watching world. Will we reflect it today?

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