Forgive Us Our Debts
Last week, America’s national debt crossed the 14-trillion dollar threshold – a number so immense, it requires twelve zeroes just to express it in writing! And the number is growing larger at the astounding rate of over one-trillion dollars each year.
Two thousand years ago, the Galilean carpenter taught us to pray the simple words: Our Father which art in Heaven… forgive us our debts (St. Matthew 6:12). Each day the wisdom behind these profound words – that indebtedness is terribly destructive to individuals and corrosive to society – is coming into sharp focus! Like a lifeline in a terrible storm, debt-free living is becoming more attractive and displaying a luster of wisdom not previously appreciated – at least to the millions who are in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings or home foreclosures or business liquidations. Even churches are now filing for bankruptcy protection – such as the mega-church in Orange County, recently citing $55-million in unmanageable debt. The collective cry of sinking debtors the world over, are beginning to sound a lot like the inspired words our Lord taught us to pray – forgive us our debts.
It was Benjamin Franklin who coined the famous dictum – now long forgotten — warning us against the dangers of debt: “He that goes a borrowing, goes a sorrowing.” For though God may forgive us our follies, creditors do not! The out-of-control debt levels in America are actually much worse than we would like to admit, according to Boston University economics professor Laurence Kotlikoff. “Forget the official debt,” he intones. The “real” deficit – including non-budgetary items such as the unfunded liabilities of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the defense budget – is actually $202 trillion, he calculates. This is fifteen times the “official” numbers. America has become the singular largest debtor nation in the history of the world! If we do not understand this fact, then we will not be able to even begin interpreting the calamitous events currently unfolding.
What does the Creator Who designed this world and formulated its laws have to say about debt? His clear command, found in Deuteronomy 28:12, issued as the Twelve Tribes of Israel entered the Promised Land, is cogently summarized in four simple words: Thou shalt not borrow! How wise and reliable these words have been along the corridor of history! What friends they have become to those who have honored them! But why, we might ask, did the Almighty issue such a firm command? In Proverbs 22:7, King Solomon furnishes us the reason: The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. Those made in God’s Image are to resist slavery – and remain free under His rule alone!
Is has been said that people either know history or they become history! If America does not change her profligate ways, she will soon become history – as have many other great nations which also once ruled the world! May our nation once more discover the wisdom behind the prayer our Lord taught us to pray: …forgive us our debts!