A close friend and brother in Christ was chatting with me on the topic of ‘loans’ and the ‘repayment’ of the same. We both agreed that as Christians, we have helped many by loaning ‘interest free’ money to help others in their hour of need but sadly the very same persons have avoided further contact in the fear that they will be reminded of the loan. Upon close observation, the very same persons appear to be doing quite well but are not willing to come forward on their own and repay. There’s a case wherein my friend has even taken money from his credit card to help a friend in need and is paying huge interest on the same. The borrower has been contacted several times after he has not delivered on his promise and my friend continues to pay interest. Will he ever get his money back? Meanwhile, he himself is going through a financial problem! This is not a case wherein the loan can just be written off!
Another friend stood guarantee for his ‘friend’ who disappeared soon after getting the loan. The bank has now forced the guarantor to pay the installments until the whole loan is paid up. The case is in court and that is an added headache too! Again, this is not a case wherein the loan can just be written off!
Jesus linked forgiveness of money debts and spiritual debts (Luke 7:36-50, 11:2-4, 16:1-13), and made forgiveness of our debts contingent on our forgiveness of the debts of others (Matthew 6:9-15, 18:21-35). Early Christians applied the call to practice debt cancellation literally and spiritually. The parable of the Unrighteous Steward (Luke 16:1-13) speaks of a man who apparently cheats his master by writing
down debts … BUT DOES THIS APPLY TO MY TWO FRIENDS? I THINK NOT!
There are far too many people in this world who are living irresponsibly BEYOND THEIR MEANS! When these fall into trouble, they come asking for help and expect their Christian brothers and sisters to help. Some will borrow and not pay back. Others will borrow from Peter to pay Paul!
I believe the debt cancellation that Jesus talks about is regarding cases where one gives freely/writes off loans, to help the ‘genuine needy’. The early Christians lived differently. In the book of Acts, disciples sell property and fields, share wealth, break bread together, rest and study and restore community (Acts 2:43-46, 4:32-37). The theme gets extra emphasis in Acts 4:34’s close paraphrase of Deuteronomy 15:4:
"There was not a needy person among them..." And Barnabas, a Levite, sells a field and gives the
proceeds to the whole community, modelling ‘restoration’ of a blessed community.
Since the modern society doesn’t live like the early Christians, I wonder if DEBT CANCELLATION really applies! So if a Christian brother or sister approaches you for a loan, i would think the following would apply (?) .
· If the family is in genuine trouble due to no fault of their own, GIVE FREELY as much as you can give and do not expect anything back.
· If a person is asking for help because the children are suffering due to their parents’ irresponsible acts, help the children in their education and bare necessities of the family BUT DO NOT LOAN MONEY TO THEM!
· If someone is sick and the treatment is not covered by insurance, help as much as you can without expecting anything back!
· If you’re loaning money with interest (b'coz the other is re-investing the money), you understand the risk and so it falls in a different category ( since the person is also benefitting through the loan!).