Forgive us our debts lest we stagnate, default, inflate, or worse

The Lord’s Prayer has been a classic piece of must-read spiritual economics for almost 2,000 years. Who would have guessed that its teachings would be more relevant to our 21st Century than Jesus of Nazareth’s time during the heyday of the debauched, luxury-loving 1st Century A.D. Roman Empire.  Do you remember how the “Our Father” prayer goes?

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:9-12 King James Version).

Since World War II the Western world’s governments, corporations, and individuals have accessed a seeming inexhaustible mountain of credit (supplied by the Chinese and oil-rich Arabs), which has allowed us to dig ourselves into what now seems to be bottomless pit of debt. Men may be born free, theoretically, in the Western world but our national and personal debts may surely enslave both us and our children and our children’s children.

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender (Proverbs 22:7 English Standard Version).

In 1945 consumer credit debt in the United States amounted to a little less than $5.4 billion. As of July 2008, this household debt had mushroomed more than 481 times to $2.6 trillion.  This personal debt of Americans represents about 100% of the U.S.A.’s total Gross Domestic Product for a year! The last time Americans racked up such a high percentage of household debt in comparison to their country’s GDP was in 1929. As we know, that debt did not foreshadow better things to come in the 1930s.

Of course, consumer debt is just part of the American “what’s owing” picture. Some economic analysts figure the combined total public and private debt and unfunded but legally mandated pension and health-care obligations in the U.S.A. now add up to roughly $100 trillion!

Where will the U.S.A. find enough creditors to cover these present and future debts? The origin of the English word “credit” comes from the Latin “credere, which means “to believe.” Historically, most creditors must believe that a debtor will repay him before the loan is made.  Does the chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve really believe that his nation will be able to repay its borrowed trillions? Or has it become the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time?

Anywise, the United States has a lot of company when it comes to owing multiply times one’s national GD–much of the European Union including the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, and even Switzerland are in the same mess. Iceland owes 12x their GDP, while Ireland carries a 7x load. Canada has a relatively lighter debt of about 2.5x GDP. But we shouldn’t be smug. If many of our trading partners enact austerity measures, as the recent G20 meeting announced, Canada will be affected negatively, too.

Again, the Western world is in serious trouble. Economists know the deficit financing model popularly used by most Western governments, corporations, banks, and private individuals has unraveled on a massive scale. What the future holds, according to these economists, may be an unpalatable mix of stagnation, default, and massive inflation.

The best of possible outcomes according to economists would be if the in-hock Western democratic nations worked off their debts through a combination of budget austerity and economic growth. But economic growth is unlikely due to ageing populations and smaller future workforces. As for democratic governments enacting sufficiently drastic austerity measures to make a difference, most voters will never voluntarily vote for their own economic pain.

Nevertheless, a debtor becomes a slave to the creditors. Some economists speculate that what is needed by the profligate Western democracies is a surrender of some measure of national sovereignty to a new global authority led by a “free-market dictator” similar to Chile’s Augusto Pinochet. Just as Pinochet forced Chileans to accept the constraints of the global economy (privatization, reducing wages and social services) and to repay their debts (principal and interest) to their creditors, so this “free-market dictator” would make the Western debtor nations accept “neo-liberal” reforms similar to those imposed by Pinochet. Don’t expect peace and harmony as part of such a scenario.

Perhaps it is time for us, hypocrites though we may be in things pertaining to God, to turn to the Bible for a real workable solution that would preserve our liberties instead of embracing those false, secular messiahs who would reduce us to a 21st Century version of slavery.

Jesus’ teaching about forgiving debts is soundly based in the Hebrew Scriptures.  (He was a Hebrew after all!) Check this out:

1 “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts. 2 And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the LORD’s release (Deuteronomy 15 New King James Version).

Under the divine economy massive amounts of debts and global elites parasitically living off interest payments would never have the chance to develop. Our present situation of massive debts and massive interest payments merely serves to widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

But the God of the Bible’s economic plan went much further than merely cancelling out debts every seven years. In Leviticus 25:8 the Scriptures outline a 50-year re-adjustment called the Jubilee. In the divine economy all land belongs to God. He divides it up by household giving a portion of the nation to every family. Families make their livelihood from this land and only pay taxes on their productive increase. There was no such thing as a fixed property tax like today. Taxes were paid only on productive increase. Since the land belonged to God, it could never be permanently sold, though it could be leased to any non-family member for up to 49 years.  But every 50 years was a Jubilee on which all land and buildings on that land freely reverted to the family who held the original inheritance. And this property would revert to the original stakeholders without mortgage, debt, or other encumbering lien.

Give me that old time religion and it would completely alter our present system of intergenerational economic inequalities and oppression, What freedom! What liberty! What equity! What economic stability and fairness! And we think we’re “progressive” and the ancient Hebrews primitive?

If we want to avoid what looks like a miserable economic and political future of austerity and authoritarianism maybe we should take Jesus up and ask God to forgive our spiritual debts while we wipe out all the financial debts and mortgages owed to anyone and everyone in this world. We would do this in a massive celebration in the spirit of the ancient Hebrews 7th year of debt release. Then, maybe, we can re-divide up our nations to all the people who actually live in the land. These are two policy changes that would change the entire world for the better instantly.


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