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Debt, Wealth and God’s Law

America is in trouble today. Foreign policy is in shambles, the economy is declining, personal and government debt have grown to astronomical proportions; disaster is at our doorstep and to top it all off, no one in any position of authority seems to know what to do about it. I submit that this is the case because no one is willing to look deeply enough into the roots of the problems. The preference seems to be to come up with a solution that doesn’t require any real change in how we live and think as a people. The feeling is that we are basically OK, the system is fundamentally sound and all we need to do is tweak a little here or there and everything will be just hunky-dory once again. And if that’s not in the cards, let’s at least find a way to transfer the problems to the next generation and let our children work their way out of the mess we leave behind.

Many today (even some Christians) see God’s law as a primitive law for primitive people and totally inapplicable to today’s culture. One hears reasons such as: “it’s too simplistic and cannot begin to address the many issues that arise in today’s complex society.” In response to this, let’s look at just two of God’s laws that relate to debt and wealth accumulation.
There are many things wrong in our country today but let’s look at two that appear to be fundamental to most of the rest. First is the extent to which our culture has become debt ridden. Debt, historically, has always led to slavery and we as a people have allowed ourselves to slip into what approaches a condition of slavery to civil government, especially Washington. We have allowed government and quasi-government agencies to take control of our money, our education, our retirement, our medical care and many other aspects of our personal lives. To the extent we have done this, to that extent we have become slaves. What is a slave?  Is it not someone who is forced to work and then required give all his wages to his master in return for the necessities of life? Are we not slaves to the extent we are forced to transfer our income to the government in return for its providence? Yes, we voted to place ourselves in this position but there’s no way out, no turning back the clock, is there? We are just as ensnared today, as were the domestic slaves of earlier history.
The second and even more fundamental problem America faces today is the degeneration of our once proud Republic into first a democracy and then an oligarchy (rule by the few). We go to the polls faithfully, but whichever party wins, nothing really changes. Money rules in Washington and those with the most money call the shots. This should not surprise anyone; we should expect people with great wealth to protect their own interests. The center of governmental authority in this country shifted from the counties to the states to the Federal level. Why? It is because the power of the very rich is strengthened with fewer, or preferably, a single point of control over civil government. The next step, as globalism progresses, will be one-world government. Why is this so? Is there no remedy, no way to avoid the inevitable concentration of such great power into the hands of a few? America is a country that places no limits on the accumulation of wealth, or on the power that it puts in the hands of the extremely rich. Very few sinful men are able to bear the responsibility that comes with extreme power. Heads swell with the intoxicating effect it produces and few are able to resist employing it, albeit often with good intentions, at least to begin with.

It could be argued that the wealthy act to protect themselves from the radical democratic idea that everyone, regardless of wealth or status, should have an equal vote. In this scheme, the many with nothing to lose are then able to outvote the few that have much to lose. Democracy, a proven failure throughout history, survived long in Christian America. The wealthy though, are not fools and did not sit idle while their wealth was increasingly being stripped away. They responded by first influencing and then circumventing the election process. They used their wealth to finance the election campaigns of men that would do what they wanted; they also took control of the news media and employ for their own benefit the power it has over popular opinion.

The basic problem is not that we have extremely evil men ruling over us. They are really not so different from us; were the positions reversed, most middle class people would be doing the same sorts of things. The fundamental problem is that we have a law system that allowed the wealth differential to increase to the enormous differences we see today. We should not expect people with wealth and incomes millions of times greater than the average to sit back and not exercise, to their own advantage, the vast power over others that comes with great wealth.
God’s Law
The question then is what can we do about this situation? Well, first we should appreciate that this degree of wealth disparity did not exist in early America. The Puritans that founded this country started out with the right idea but didn’t hold to their original principles strictly enough. They started with God’s law as the premise for all law but never fully implemented it. Over time, they relaxed their standards and became less and less diligent in following it. What bearing though would God’s law have had on the problems of debt and excessive wealth? Of the many injunctions we find in that law, two stand out as pertinent: First there was the year of release which prevented long term debt and then there was the Jubilee that prevented extreme wealth disparity.

The year of release (Deut. 15:1,2) cleared all debts every seventh year. Loans were made based on their being forgiven in the seventh year. Presumably, repayment schedules were adjusted accordingly. This made every person in the nation, whether he liked it or not, debt free at least once in every seven years. It gave the individual prone to fall into debt a chance to mend his ways; he had a new start every seventh year. Also, with all the debt of the entire nation cleared every seventh year, the kind of private and government indebtedness we see today was strictly curtailed.

The Jubilee (Lev. 25:10-28) restored all land to the original owners every fiftieth year. This prevented the accumulation of land (and the wealth it represented) from being gradually accumulated by a few families. Land could be sold (based on its productivity) but its loan value would diminish as the Jubilee year, when it would be returned to the original family, approached. This didn’t prevent the more industrious from outdoing and becoming more prosperous than their neighbors. But it did prevent them from accumulating so much wealth that they could become their neighbor’s masters and eventually enslave them. This periodic re-balancing of the distribution of the nation’s source of wealth prevented the concentration of power in the hands of a few. This in turn made possible the continuance of a reasonably balanced economy and allowed a representative form of government to function without the kinds of distortions we see today.

Much more could be said about God’s law and its applicability today but we can see from just these two injunctions how much wisdom is to be found therein. God tells us in Jeremiah 10:23, “the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” So we see that God’s law is not an option; it is a necessity. Much of today’s troubles can be traced back to our forefathers’ failure to fully implement and adhere to that divinely inspired law-word. Likewise, we today will continue to dabble in one program after another until we realize we need to go back to the basics, the basics of God’s word. The choice is simple, we can adopt God’s law to govern us or we can continue on the path of least resistance, the path that we have been following. The end of that road is failure, poverty, slavery and despair.