This week we will take a look at some of the most threatening ‘shoal waters’ we as a nation, a society, and family are facing. It is a slow acting cancer that conceals the pain it will bring until it is too late. That cancer? National, family and individual “DEBT”. This is another moral issue about which the Bible is exceedingly clear…avoiding debt. The Bible is clear about debt, telling individuals in Proverbs 22:7 that “the borrower becomes the lender’s slave”. To the degree that someone is in debt, to the same degree is that individual’s liberty diminished by reducing the number of options one has for what can be done with earned income. God commanded His nation Israel to avoid debt: For the Lord your God will bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow,…(Deuteronomy 15:6a). God knew that if Israel was a lender, she ruled others; but if she was the borrower, others ruled her. Our Founding Fathers understood this: To preserve their [the people’s] independence, we must not let our rulers load us with debt. We must make our election [choice] between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. [ Thomas Jefferson, Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Henry Washington, 1854, Vol.VII, p.14 as written to Samuel Kercheval on July 12, 1816]. Jefferson believed that frugality produces liberty, but spending produces slavery. So strongly did the Founders oppose debt that Jefferson declared: I…place economy [frugality] among the first and most important of republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared. [Ibid, Vol. VII, p.19, to Governor Plumer on July 21, 1816]. President George Washington agreed: The progressive accumulation of debt…ultimately endangers all governments. [George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, ed. Jared Sparks, Boston: American Stationers Company, 1837, Vol. XII, p. 53, “Speech to Both Houses of Congress”, November 19, 1794]; further he stated: No pecuniary [monetary] consideration is more urgent than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt. [Ibid, Vol. XII, p. 41, “Speech to Both Houses of Congress”, December 3, 1793]. How much longer can America afford to mortgage its future?
But not only do we no longer heed that guidance, leaders now encourage just the opposite…that elevated spending, and thus increased debt, actually creates prosperity. Apparently many Americans agree, for the average debt per American family has increased nearly 40% just since 2000, while family net worth has fallen 16% during the same time [Tim Mullaney, “More Americans Debt-Free, but the Rest Owe More”, USA Today, March 21, 2013]. Citizen debt, which includes things such as mortgages, car loans, and student loans, is now in excess of $11.4 trillion [Bill Fay, “Americans in Debt”, Debt.org, August 4, 2014]. The average mortgage debt is roughly $148,000; auto loan debt is nearly $31,000; student loan debt is $35,200; credit card debt is $15,000 (usually spread over three cards). Debt has become a way of business in most families. Unfortunately, it is one of the major, if not the major, destroyer of families we now experience. In the past decade the national debt has swelled to more than $19.5 trillion. To help understand just how massive this debt is, experts have created what they call the debt ratio, which compares the national debt to the annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP)…total value of all goods and all services produced by all individuals and all businesses in the entire United States in a single year. This is a massive number! Using the debt ratio, each percentage point indicates that one year is necessary for the normal economic effect of the total output of national individual and business productivity to pay off the national debt…as long as no new debt is incurred [“Debt-to-GDP Ratio”, Investopedia, www.investopedia.com]. Thus, the lower the percentage, the fewer years needed to pay off the debt. In 1980 the debt ratio was 32 percent of GDP, meaning that at that point with full economic production, it would take 32 years to pay off the debt as it existed at that time. Since 1980, the debt ratio has grown to 103 percent, meaning with no new debt it would take 103 years to pay off the national debt assuming no new debt [USGovernmentDebt.us, “Government Debt Chart”]. Because so much more debt has been added…and is still being added…the GDP ratio will be 190 percent by 2038. When was the last time that you saw the debt going down? Don’t be confused by ‘debt’ and ‘deficit’. Politicians will brag about reducing the ‘deficit’ but as long as there is any ‘deficit’ the ‘debt’ will be going up.
Debt destroys freedom and prosperity and produces taxation, servitude, and oppression. Servitude is what Americans are unwisely choosing today, not only for themselves but their children, their children’s children, etc. A child born in 2014 owes the government $39,500 as his or her share of the federal debt; by 2032, when that child is eighteen, his or her portion will be $90,000, and by 2038, at age 24 he or she will owe $142,000. This is immoral! In no other arena of life do we allow such a practice. We are obligating those who are not yet born to bear an unbearable debt. And a great number in our society are attracted to politicians who promise government ‘free stuff’. This is unbelievable. Thomas Jefferson declared: No generation can contract debts greater than may be paid during the course of its existence…Neither the representation of a nation, nor the whole nation itself assembled, can validly engage debts beyond what they may pay in their own time, that is to say, within thirty-four years of the date of the engagement…Succeeding generations are not responsible for the preceding. [Jefferson, Writings, Vol.6, p.608]. Our posterity for decades to come will pay a price they will be unable to bear. Where is ‘Jefferson’ when needed by future generations?
There is a part ,though, that the churches can play in helping Christians get through this age of irresponsible leadership. It can help its members be “men of ten minas” and not “two minas”. God wants us to be wise in the management of the gifts He has given us and the church can play an important part in that goal. Only through our increase can we generously help others. I will close with a success story of one church…the First United Methodist Church of Port St. John, Florida. It had a massive mortgage debt that was keeping it from expanding its missions both abroad and within its own facility. It was decided to embark on a three year program to pay off the debt. With the help of an organization that specializes in church debt payoff the members made a concerted effort to pledge their finances in the goal. One of the efforts included a six week program…”I Was Broke, Now I’m Not” presented by Joseph Sangl and facilitated by various church members. Attendees learned the principles of money management, budgeting, record keeping, and investment. The final results were more than the congregation could have ever hoped for. Within a year…not three years…the mortgage was paid off in full and plans to enlarge the church facility were able to go forward. So much of the ‘world’ that many have come to detest could be modified if all churches would just see that politics and the churches are so intertwined that separation is just not possible. The church is the people and the people are the government…let us not fall asleep while on watch and let the enemy drive us further into the “shoal waters”.
Next week we will take a look at entitlement programs. While well intended at conception, like most government programs, they became corrupted and many do more harm than good. Maybe we need to rename them ‘earned’ and ‘unearned’ entitlement programs. Not attended to, they will destroy this nation just as surely as the debt.
– Bob Munsey