Freedom from Debt Servitude

All humans, made in the image of God, should be free from bondage to live freely.

But increasingly, people (especially the young) are enslaved in heavy debt to pay for education, housing or necessities. Companies and governments are evermore indebted. Consequently, we are reverting to debt-slave societies where some may never be free of debt in their working lives.

We urgently need to reverse the tax breaks for company debt, remove subsidies to banks and replace mortgages with lease-to-buy arrangements. More would then enjoy ownership responsibilities rather than debt bondage.


Thesis Background
Dr Paul Mills. Since studying for my doctoral thesis, I have sought to understand the Bible's warnings against debt and prohibition of the profiting from lending through interest. It is consistent with God's creation of humanity in His image to steward His Creation with freedom and responsibility. But debt entails bondage because a promise ('bond') to repay has been made - hence the borrower is no longer free from obligation. Lending at interest is therefore profiting from the financial servitude of another, even if it is self-inflicted. It is inherently anti-relational and unloving. Hence, Jesus' characterisation of taking interest as "reaping where one has not sown" and a feature of "hard men" (i.e. unloving) - Luke 19:22-23. Unsurprisingly, He enjoins His followers to go further than Moses' prohibition of lending at interest to fellow citizens (Luke 6:34,35; Deuteronomy 23:19-20). The diminishing influence of this insight - ironically since the Reformation - has now resulted in record levels of global indebtedness despite the lowest interest rates in human history and a near catastrophic financial crisis (2008-09) resulting from excessive indebtedness. This threatens near-term banking system failure if defaults rise sharply during the next recession. More insidious is the scenario that the debt expansion is kept going further to ward off recession until a crisis forces its restructuring through high inflation or mass default and writedowns. Until then, younger generations face increasing levels of student and consumer debt while buying a house entails huge debt commitments. Far better than such debt bondage and then systemic would be to delever the economy now by favouring non-debt forms of equity, leasing and rent-share contracts rather than continue to subsidise debt through the corporate tax system and the benefits given to banks - the "debt factories" of the economy.

4 comments

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  • I am not sure if his biblical basis is balanced, as he implied all debt is wrong and this I dispute. Why did Jesus talk about debt in parables? His complaint to the lazy servant who had one talent is that he did not put the money out to usury in order to gain at least something rather than do nothing to gain for his master. That implies Jesus sanctioned usury. Whilst decrying the existence of modern debt, Paul Mills does not ask why there is such debt in the first place. I do not dispute that debt is awful, but politically most countries are managed by debt. Is that not wrong in principle? And why do some members of the public complain about austerity on account of debt repayment, when they and their elected politicians have got them into debt in the first place? Most political parties in most countries are to blame for this. Why does he not address this? I am pleased not to be in debt! --Stephen de Garis
    • author
      Just to reply to some of these points:- Not all debt is wrong. Scripture frequently commends interest-free lending (with the debt of another implied). The OT law allows for the taking of security. The problem arises with the profiting from the debt slavery of another through interest.- Jesus does condemn interest/usury (same thing) in the Parables of the Talents and Ten Minas. The master judges the lazy servant "by his own words". IF he truly believed the master to be hard-hearted and rapacious then he would have deposited the money with the bankers. i.e. Lending at interest is an expression of hard-heartedness (absence of neighbour love); it entails 'reaping where you haven't sown' (theft). Jesus is upholding the OT law and the Prophets and is consistent with his own teaching to forgive principal/reciprocal favours when lending if needed (Luke 6:34,35).- Please read my various Cambridge Papers (on the Jubilee Centre website) on interest, the financial crisis and public debt for discussions of the other topics you raise. 
  • This is both an important issue, and the thesis addresses it with a clear set of policy outlines.  Where do we start to campaign for these objectives. Which political parties are addressing this issue?