Debt [Heb. נשיכי with the added second person pronoun added to נשי = nešî, “pay your debt” 2 Kings 4:7; מַשָּׁאוֹת = mašāôṭ (Proverbs 22:26); נֹשֶׁא = nošê “One that is in debt” (1 Samuel 22:2). δάνειον “loan” in Matthew 18:27; ὀφειλὴ “a due” as in Matthew 18:24-34; Romans 13:7; ὀφειλήματα “something owed” as in Matthew 6:12 and Romans 4:4.]


Lending to the needy required

In Deuteronomy 15:7 the Lord counseled believers: “If there be among you a needy man, one of your brethren, within any of your gates, in thy land . . . For you shall surely open your hand unto him, and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need in that which he is in need” = . כִּי-יִהְיֶה בְךָ אֶבְיוֹן מֵאַחַד אַחֶיךָ בְּאַחַד שְׁעָרֶיךָ בְּאַרְצְךָ

כִּי-פָתֹחַ תִּפְתַּח אֶת-יָדְךָ לוֹ; וְהַעֲבֵט תַּעֲבִיטֶנּוּ, דֵּי מַחְסֹרוֹ אֲשֶׁר יֶחְסַר לוֹ. One must lend to the needy sufficiently unto the need and this does not give license for any predator loans. The confinement of the loan is within capacity of need period. No interest may be charged otherwise it becomes a predator’s loan.


No interest charged to believers or unbelievers

Some scholars have wrongly concluded that Nehemiah 5:11 permitted interest charged to unbelievers or “foreigners” but that is not a correct reading of the context. Nehemiah is reprimanding them for taking the oil, fields, houses and interest from the unbelievers saying: “The thing that you do is not good; ought you not to walk in the fear of our God, because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?” = לֹא-טוֹב הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר-אַתֶּם עֹשִׂים:  הֲלוֹא בְּיִרְאַת אֱלֹהֵינוּ תֵּלֵכוּ מֵחֶרְפַּת הַגּוֹיִם אוֹיְבֵינוּ (Nehemiah 5:9). The result was that they came in line with God and return everything. That is not permission to charge interest from unbelievers.

“If you lend money to any of My people, even to the poor with you, you should not be to him as a creditor; neither shall you lay upon him interest” = אִם-כֶּסֶף תַּלְוֶה אֶת-עַמִּי אֶת-הֶעָנִי עִמָּךְ--לֹא-תִהְיֶה לוֹ כְּנֹשֶׁה לֹא-תְשִׂימוּן עָלָיו נֶשֶׁךְ (Exodus 22:24). The same principle applies for the next verse: “If you at all take your neighbour's garment to pledge, you should restore it unto him by that the sun goes down” = אִם-חָבֹל תַּחְבֹּל שַׂלְמַת רֵעֶךָ--עַד-בֹּא הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ תְּשִׁיבֶנּוּ לוֹ (Exodus 22:25).


Pledge items taken for loan and taboos regarding the taking of them

Deuteronomy 24:6 does not permit that food-processing utilities in the kitchen be taken as pledge for debt: “No man shall take the mill or the upper millstone to pledge; for he takes a man's life to pledge” = לֹא-יַחֲבֹל רֵחַיִם וָרָכֶב:  כִּי-נֶפֶשׁ הוּא חֹבֵל. The claim to one’s financial rights has to be upheld in dignified and orderly appropriate manner: “When you do lend your neighbour any manner of loan, you should not go into his house to fetch his pledge” = כִּי-תַשֶּׁה בְרֵעֲךָ מַשַּׁאת מְאוּמָה--לֹא-תָבֹא אֶל-בֵּיתוֹ לַעֲבֹט עֲבֹטוֹ (Deuteronomy 24:10). For misuse of this rule see Job 22:6. Proverbs 20:16 is not a license to take pledges from a foreigner or stranger but a case sample of how business practices are an abomination before the Lord (Proverbs 20:10). Proverbs 22:26 “Be not of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts” = אַל-תְּהִי בְתֹקְעֵי-כָף;    בַּעֹרְבִים, מַשָּׁאוֹת.


A poor believer who sells himself for labor should not be treated equally as other laborers

“And if your brother [in faith] be waxen poor with you, and sell himself unto you, you should not make him to serve as a bondservant” = וְכִי-יָמוּךְ אָחִיךָ עִמָּךְ וְנִמְכַּר-לָךְ--לֹא-תַעֲבֹד בּוֹ עֲבֹדַת עָבֶד (Leviticus 25:39).


The dire consequences of debt is spelled out in Proverbs 22

“If you have not wherewith to pay, why should he take away your bed from under you?” = אִם-אֵין-לְךָ לְשַׁלֵּם--    לָמָּה יִקַּח מִשְׁכָּבְךָ מִתַּחְתֶּיךָ (Proverbs 22:27).


Ellen White and debt

Ellen White counsel on debt that spending money as soon as they receive it incurs debt (Adventist Home 392.4); one in debt is in one of Satan's nets and his target is the person's soul (Adventist Home 392.5). Expenditures should be kept within the limit of their income (Adventist Home 374.2). Debt weakens faith (Adventist Home 393.1). Do not incur another debt (Adventist Home 393.4).Debt is a curse and should be avoided as smallpox (idem). Church in debt is a dishonor for God (Christ in His Sanctuary 24.5). Suffer rather than get in debt (Christian Experience and Teachings of Ellen White 115.1).Overwhelmed by debt people get discouraged, it is a burden, a tyrant, and reckless.


Adventist administrators’ advice on debt

Jones (1929) indicated that the minister should keep within his income allowed by the conference. Debt can be detrimental to the minister and the work. Exceeding his income the minister borrows and weakens his influence by borrowing (p. 11). It prevents him to be a leader in sacrifices and gifts to God's cause. It gives the minister anxiety and discouragement and prevents him to cheer up others in discouragement. Solution: cut down expense within income. Save little by little for the children's future. Study economy in the home: simplicity in diet, discarding luxuries, caution in selecting furniture and clothing and thus there will be savings. Cottrell (1929) pointed out that if the person is not living within his/her income the ultimate result is financial and spiritual collapse. Do not fall into a temptation to invest in a get-rich quick scheme. Solution: husband and wife put all money on the table, remove the tithe and then allotted the money for personal expense of each and joint expense like the house and housekeeping. Do not short the Lord in His portion when an amount is inadequate to cover. Pay rather cash.  Credit is an unsafe basis of operating. Eat in rations and safe thus. Wells (1929) cited Ellen White's statement in Testimonies Vol. 6: 217; 211 that Debt is a leprosy. The solution is to refrain from needless expenditure to gratify pride, selfish desire, or love of display, eliminate every extravagance. Much thought, careful planning, earnest prayer, determined purpose, self-denial and sympathetic co-operation by each member of the family is needed.


Non-SDA perspective on Debt

R. Blue listed some misgivings about debt and the Bible in modern times: It doesn't say … it's a sin to borrow; or, it's wise to borrow; or, God will bail you out of debt; or, debt is an exercise in faith; it's a sin to loan money. Blue indicated that it is wrong not to repay debt: “The wicked borrows, and pays not; but the righteous deals graciously, and gives” = לֹוֶה רָשָׁע וְלֹא יְשַׁלֵּם    וְצַדִּיק חוֹנֵן וְנוֹתֵן. (Psalm 37:21). With a faithful approach believers in debt should get out of debt rather than bet their debt, Blue maintains.


Debt counseling: Non-Adventists and Adventists

Some books are helping people to get out of debt: see the books by Ramsey (2013) and Dayton (  ). And Adventist perspective is that of P. Thompson (2018). Paul Thompson is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Credit Management. He is a master presenter for the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in England and Wales. He provides free debt counselling as a ministry. In an article Thompson indicated that in 2012 the SDA church was supposed to have generated $14 Billion but did only $2 Billion in tithe. Where did the other $12 Billion go, he asked. Debt. People are caught in debt.

Thompson pointed out the biblical position on debt as follows: “The Bible divides debt into two categories:

borrowing and lending. In addition to these two broad headings the Bible uses the following terms in association with debt: usury, trust, vows, striking hands, co-signing. These terms relate to debt, in one form or another,

something Christians are cautioned to avoid. The psychological impact of debt is real, often leading to marital issues, fear of being found out, and some members avoiding church office due to non-tithing. Many caught up in the debt spiral report feeling trapped and isolated, with no one to turn to for advice.”

How does debt start? Thompson listed them: Money problems usually occur when:• Expenditure exceeds income • There is unemployment or insufficient income • There is inefficient spending or impulse Buying • Priorities are not set • When set, priorities are disregarded • Significant life-changing events occur, such as ill health, divorce or bereavement • We lose focus on God’s plan for our lives. How to get out of debt?

1. Prepare spiritually and phone a friend for daily prayers. “Use daily devotionals that promote good stewardship to help you reinforce. good habits.” 2. Contact all creditors “Be brave, contact all your creditors and explain your position, then ask for more time to spread your payments. Put God to the test; go in faith.” 3. Decide on priorities “The debts which are more serious, such as mortgage arrears, should be given priority.” “Seek advice from the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau or a debt charity. They have the powers to stop harassment and undue pressure from creditors. The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) or the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) are ready to deal with any complaints relating to unfair treatment or strong-arm tactics by creditors”. 4. Prepare a financial statement “Prepare a true list of your income and expenditure. Be honest, even though it may surprise you, for this is an essential part of the process of recovery.” 5. Maximise income “Look at other ways of increasing income: rent out a room, take a part-time job, sell at car boot sales or on eBay.” 6. Review expenditure aggressively “ Decide seriously what you are prepared to give up. It could be a holiday, a car, or chocolates. Make up your mind to sacrifice.” 7. Negotiate “Spend time in communication with your creditors. Many are willing to work with you if you show commitment. In some cases, you may be able to get significant debt mark-down.”

Thompson ended with a citation of Ellen White: “There are only two places in the world where we can deposit our treasures – in God’s storehouse or in Satan’s, and all that is not devoted to Christ’s service is counted on Satan’s side and goes to strengthen his cause.” E. G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 6, p. 448.



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