I, unabashedly, am a "Christian," although I prefer "Follower" or "Disciple" of Christ, as I see my path is never-ending in my desire and pursuit of Him. Now that I've espoused my personal belief(s) to you, I want to discuss how my personal beliefs as a Follower of Christ and my profession as an attorney can, and often does, come into apparent "conflict," with a number of clients. Let me offer some examples for clarification...
Approximately 73% of Americans identify with being Christians. In the South and the "Bible Belt," I would venture to say that number is enhanced greatly. As such, a majority of my prospective clients identify as being Christians. Correlatively, I am constantly approached in giving my opinion on the subject, "Is bankruptcy permitted for Christians?"
The short answer, at least to me, is YES; however, let me explain to you my own personal journey in arriving at this answer. I was approached with this question early on in my career, and I quickly found out that I needed to find out the answer for myself before I began counseling my clients on such an important subject. So, with prayer and investigation into God's Word I went to find the answer. Here's what I found out...
Let's start with some basic premises, including:
- that the Bible does not forbid debt, but cautions against it.
- And, that borrowing constitutes an obligation to repay.
Proverbs 22:7 says: "The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is servant to the lender." Proverbs 22:26-27 states: "Don't agree to guarantee another person's debt or put up security for someone else. If you can't pay it, even your bed will be snatched from under you." While this verse is aimed more at the cautioning against co-signor relationships, the general cautioning against debt is present. Hebrews 13:5 warns us to "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” The general idea behind cautioning against owing too much debt is centered around the premise that God desires to be the center of your life. If you owe too much to lenders, then you, in reality, become a slave or servant to their demands, and they (the lenders) become the master or center of your life, which is in direct conflict with God's plan.
Now, let's see what the Bible says about debts, and making promises or "vows" to repay. It is written in Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 that: “When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He takes no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.” Psalms 37:21 says that “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.” Again, Proverbs 22:7 says: "The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is servant to the lender.” These verses seem to support the general idea that one should caution against borrowing, and that once you do borrow, one is subject to the "rule" or governance of the lender. Once one does establish the lender/borrower relationship, and the borrower makes a vow to repay; thus, a vow made to anyone can be seen as a vow made to God, and of which should be taken seriously.
Now that we've established the general principles that borrowing, while not forbidden, should be taken seriously; and, borrowing constitutes an obligation to repay...let's look at the situation when one, as the borrower, cannot fulfill that obligation to repay and defaults on that obligation. What is he/she to do?
The idea of bankruptcy appears to be rooted in the Old Testament, and was mentioned first in Deuteronomy 15:1-2 states: “At the end of every seventh year you must cancel your debts. This is how it must be done. Creditors must cancel the loans they have made to their fellow Israelites. They must not demand payment from their neighbor or relatives, for the Lord's time of release has arrived.” The release of a debtor's obligation to repay is also mentioned in Leviticus 25:10-17, where it speaks of the Year of Jubilee. This, too, released a debtor from a creditor in that land and properties were returned to original owners every fifty years.
The argument for the validity of bankruptcy is not based on the theory that Old Testament laws are still in force today, but that the principle behind the law is still applicable today. God does not want his people, or anyone else for that matter, to live in never-ending servitude to lenders based on an economic decision beyond their control, or even including a poor economic decision willfully made in the past (getting into too much debt).
God is gracious, forgiving and expects societies to imitate Him. Therefore, if we are called to such qualities, then our laws should reflect the same. Therefore, the bankruptcy laws come into play.
Let me be clear, however...Bankruptcy needs to be a last avenue of recourse...not a first. I encourage every potential client, through my assistance, to thoroughly examine their situation. We look at income, expenses, assets, debts, and their respective "paths" that led them to my door. We, together, look at any and all viable alternatives to bankruptcy, including the following:
- debt settlement, whereby the creditors agree to take less than what is owed, either in monthly installments or in a lump sum payment;
- restructuring and/or tightening of one's budget, which involves a dissection of one's entire financial household, and may involve selling personal property or even taking on a part-time job to help bridge the gap between income and expenses;
- personal prayer, where I encourage Christian clients to ardently pray over their situation, and request a Holy peace to come into their lives in making such an important decision;
I encourage all my clients, self-identifying Christian or not, to examine their lives, and ask some hard questions, including:
- What were your intentions when you incurred these debts? 99.99% of the time, I truly believe that my clients had the intention to pay their just debts.
- Are there viable alternatives available? These alternatives are spelled out above.
- Do you feel at peace with this decision? If not, then I encourage reflection, thought and, above all, prayer.
Jesus desired us to be free from constraints of lenders so that we can more freely focus on giving. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” Luke 6:38. Only upon His terms can we experience life in its full capacity. For Jesus stated that "I have come that they may have life, and they may have it more abundantly." John 10:10.
If you find yourself burdened by debt, and don't know where to turn next, feel free to give me a call, 205.939.0780, shoot me an email: [email protected], or visit our website at www.snablelaw.com for more information. As always, the consultation is FREE, and we want to help!
*Snable Law Firm, LLC is a debt relief agency as defined by the Bankrutpcy Code, 11 U.S.C. 528. Snable Law Firm, LLC and its attorneys can assist you in filing for bankruptcy relief.
**No representation is made that the quality of legal services to be performed is greater than the legal servicses to be performed by other attorneys.