My parents were depression era kids. The experience made them frugal and they worked hard to earn what they had and to provide for me and my sister.

As I came of age I learned a couple of lessons from them regarding some basic principles of borrowing and lending. One principle was derived from my wife’s and I wanting to purchase our first house.

I didn’t ask, but my parents volunteered to help us with a downpayment. They gave us $6000.00. This was back in 1976 and interest rates were much higher (10-12 %) than they are at the time of this writing (Jan., 2020).

The conditions for the help were we had to pay back $5000 of the $6000. The first $1000.00 was a gift; charity from my parents. The $5000.00 to be paid back was a loan without interest. We had to make a monthly payment. I do not remember what the payment was but it was reasonable.

I confess that at the time I resented the fact that the entire sum was not a gift of charity. I was not over-the-top resentful but it bothered me that other parents paid for their kids education or gave far more substantial gifts to their kids. In other words, I was jealous and covetous. If you are a Christian that should remind you of a commandment.

My parents sought to teach me valuable lessons about life and finances.

My wife and I both worked full-time. We were childless for the first six years of our marriage. We saved next to nothing. While we did not make a fortune we did just fine with two incomes spending the surplus on “stuff” rather than saving anything substantial. We were immature and in our early twenties.

The rule of thumb at the time was you needed 20% of the total cost of the house for your down payment. The house we bought cost $35,000 so we needed $7000.00. My wife and I had a little over $1000.00 in savings and my parents provided the rest. I should have been grateful rather than jealous of others who received bigger breaks from their parents.

So the first lesson from my parents was, learn to save your money so you won’t have to borrow or borrow as much when the time comes to purchase something big like a house or car.

Although I’ve said that was the first lesson it really comes after what I’ll call the first principle. Both my wife and I worked from the time we were teens. I had my first job the day I turned 16 and my wife had a job at age 15. The principle is of course, work and then save. Start early.

The other principle that my parents taught was pay back what you owe regardless of to whom it is owed. We already had a car payment so we understood we had to pay that back because it was a legal contract.

Understanding that we had to pay back a parental loan was an animal of a different color since I was still thinking it should have been a gift of parental charity. Gee, aren’t parents mean when they try to teach you to be responsible.

A little while after the birth of our son my wife and I became Christians. I slowly began to realize that I had learned some basic principles of biblical stewardship from my parents who were not steeped in chapter and verse.

We attended a class at our church on biblical stewardship and were surprised by how much we had learned of personal financial responsibility from our parents. They really did know what they were talking about.

It’s beyond the scope of a short blog article to be comprehensive about all the Bible has to say about stewardship, especially borrowing and lending. For a comprehensive treatment on the subject I recommend Wayne Grudem’s book, ,Christian Ethics and the chapter, Borrowing, Lending and the Question of Debt.

One passage will suffice:

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. 

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 13:7–10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

In verse 7 Paul expects the Roman Christians to pay their debts. It would be stealing not to (verse 9). Paul assumes the repaying of debt is a simple moral responsibility. He does not attach any conditions to the responsibility. if you borrow pay it back.

In verse 8 Paul says owe no one anything, except to love each other because that fulfills the commandment to love your neighbor. Verse 8 does not contradict the command in verse 7 where he commands that payments be made for debt. How so?

Grudem comments:

Paul’s point here is to direct Christians in Rome to pay whatever is rightfully expected of them, including taxes, but also including honor and respect. This teaching does not prohibit all borrowing, so long as the debt is repaid at the time it is promised. The point is that we should pay what we owe when we owe it, and the command, “Owe no one anything” is simply a summary of the preceding verses and means we should pay our debts when they are due.

Christian Ethics, Wayne Grudem, pg 1047

In verses 9 and 10 Paul references the law regarding human relationships. Love your neighbor as yourself does not mean to love yourself more as some seem to believe. Rather, Paul tells us in verse 10 love will do no wrong to a neighbor. In other words, we are to do what is in their best interest.

My parents whether they knew it or not did that for me and my wife. They came from a “Christianized” culture that recognized the idea of taking responsibility for your decisions and actions. Later I came to learn the hard way the dangers of credit card debt-something my parents had cautioned me about the day I received my first credit card. Those cautions were ignored for a long time and because of that we had a hard time saving money since much went to debt service.

As we near the 2020 election there are a number of politicians campaigning on the issue of forgiving all student college loans. In particular, Bernie Sanders the avowed socialist and Elizabeth Warren, a socialist wannabe are promoting the policy. The premise seems to be that the debt is oppressive (and that no doubt is true) so the government that gives the loan should be merciful and just wipe it clean.

It is a popular idea for the student with a ton of debt. I can see where the idea gains traction to people who do not know any better and/or have been indoctrinated to believe that Marxist collectivism is a good thing. I can also see that way back when my wife and I were in our twenties we would have jumped at the opportunity for “free stuff” including someone forgiving all of our debt.

Besides the obvious pandering to young voters with a lot of student debt there is much wrong with the idea. At the outset it raises the question of basic “fairness” since there are plenty of students who have worked to pay off their loans-you know, the principle I just cited, pay what you owe when you owe it. If you think you can’t pay back then don’t take the loan.

One of the other things wrong with the idea is the whole idea that the government should forgive the debt. Allow me to state the obvious. Where does the money come from that goes to the government? In a word, taxpayers. Paul has much to say about that in Romans 13:1-6.

What you have in effect is taking from one person to pay off the debt of another. The emphasis is on the word “taking.” While Christians are to pay their taxes and this means the government can do what they will with those taxes, we must realize that what is being proposed is a form of stealing. It is not government charity since the government does not produce income, it taxes income.

I can imagine that back when Paul wrote the words he did that the Roman government spent the money on all kinds of stuff that a taxpayer might find objectionable. Do we really need a new aqueduct? How about that Coliseum, seems a bit much, don’t you think? You get the idea. The taxpayer had no say-so in these matters while we do.

We have the privilege of electing leaders. We also have the responsibility of examining their policies in the light of what Scripture says.

Those proposing the forgiveness of student college debt have a far more reaching agenda than simply pandering for votes. They seek to change the basic fabric of our country and turning it into a soft Marxist\collectivist state. To get there they need the votes from young people who have been taught to rely on government to solve all their problems. Perhaps they have been raised by parents who believe the same.

I have no objection if a corporation wants to hire a college grad and pay off their student loans. I can see where that might be a rather large incentive to take a job with that corporation.

I can also see some nice soul coming forward and helping a student pay off their debts as an act of charity just like my parents gave us the $1000.00.. gift. Charity, rightfully defined, is a biblical principle, but stealing from “A” to give to “B” is not charity nor is it in my opinion really helping the student to get responsible and prepare them for like.

I am forever grateful that my parents did not give me what I coveted. Their motto was earn, save and pay what you owe when you owe it.

Some will argue that you can’t apply biblical principles to a culture that does not hold the Bible in high regard. Well, I get that but I do get to vote (so far) for the politicians who do seem to be for sound financial principles. Whether they know it or not, they like my parents line up with good biblical counsel.