My father declared personal bankruptcy when I was a child. However, I grew to respect my parents even more when I learned how they handled themselves through this difficult time.
Many Christians feel guilty, or have been made to feel guilty by others over filing for bankruptcy protection. They feel guilty because the perception is that they ran up large debts on their credit cards and now are unable to pay back the money to their creditors. The truth is most personal bankruptcy is due to job loss, or uninsured medical expenses beyond their ability to control. And, many believe the Bible condemns bankruptcy. It’s important for us to define what is meant by the term “bankruptcy”; then, we can critically examine what the Bible tells us.
Wisely, those who governed us, many years ago, viewed the “debtors prison” ideas as clearly unchristian. So instead, under U.S. law, a debtor may receive a discharge of debts in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy once every eight (8) years. The Bible, likewise, contains debt forgiveness laws. Under Biblical law, the release of debts came at the end of seven (7) years.
“At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts. 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 15:1-2
Justice says that if you agree to borrow money and repay the debt, you must pay it back. But, the law of mercy allows those who cannot pay debt, to obtain forgiveness for their obligations through bankruptcy.
Another guiding principle of U.S. bankruptcy law is one that requires persons who file for bankruptcy to have “clean hands.” Accordingly, a debtor may not be freed from debts involving fraud, drunk driving, and deliberate wrongdoing. Moreover, bankruptcy law does not allow the discharge of child support and alimony debts. Further, most student loans, taxes (Romans 13:1, 4, 7) and secured loans are not forgiven in bankruptcy. Through these restrictions, bankruptcy laws seek to balance justice and mercy (Proverbs 1:3).
I believe the biblical wisdom would permit bankruptcy for the following reasons:
With ISIS in the headlines and reports of thousands of Iraqis fleeing for their lives, it’s an appropriate time to have a conversation with your older children about how Christians should think about war. St. Augustine and later Thomas Aquainis formulated what has been called, the Just War Theory, arguing that some wars are morally justified. In doing so they laid down the principles that ought to guide Christians before going to war.
Their task was a challenge. Critics seem to have on their side the very teachings of Jesus himself, “Love your enemies. Turn the other cheek,” and “thou shall not kill,” teachings that seem incompatible with any form of defiance or violence.
But Augustine argued that God judges the heart. The highest motivation for every act or thought must be love. Therefore, what is done from love, to bring about justice, must be good. That opened the door for Christians to perform outward acts that might appear to be forbidden by scripture.
So, what follows is a brief summary of this Just War Theory.
Let’s be honest, it’s flattering to be asked to serve on the Board of Directors of a Christian ministry, especially a large one.
I know how easy it is to be seduced into serving when men or women you respect, call on you to serve. I’ve fallen for it. To my shame, I’ve served on a few boards simply because I didn’t want to disappoint a friend who asked. Sound familiar?
And almost all board members are chosen for one or more of these reasons: Their affluence, their influence, their spiritual maturity or experience.
So, next time, before you say “yes” ask yourself and them these important questions.
Last year, I was introduced to a great ministry for men, The New Canaan Society http://www.newcanaansociety.org (At the end of this blog is some information about our own New Canaan chapter in Grand Rapids, Michigan). While attending their retreat/conference in San Francisco, I met a young, aggressive 30 something guy, also attending the meeting, but not yet a Christian. After one meeting, he and some of his friends and I had a glass of wine overlooking the city.
“I’m curious,” I asked, “Why would you pay $1,500 to come to a three day conference filled with Christians, if you’re not yet one yourself?” His response both inspired and challenged me.
“Ever since I was in college, I’ve been looking for a safe dad.”
He went on to tell me that his own father was a jerk. His parents had divorced, but he always longed for an older man he could trust to help him navigate life. Someone had invited him to a New Canaan weekly meeting and he was shocked! There, he met dozens of mature Christian men who were successful, but also clearly loved God and their families more than they loved themselves. He’d never met men like that before! “Whatever they have, I think I want, but I’m not there yet,” he confessed. So, there he was the proverbial rich young ruler, watching and listening – kicking the tires spiritually looking for a safe dad.
Are you too, looking for a safe, spiritually mature man or women to help you navigate life?