Headlines of economic turmoil splash across our news. The global economic crisis seems like a tsunami of Biblical proportions across many countries. We don’t see Debtors prisons much in the Western world. If you are in debt they might garnish your wages, foreclose on your house, take your vehicle, sell your stuff, or ruin your credit score.
But you’d be hard pressed to find people in prison here for debts they owe, unless of course it is their taxes!
It seems very counterproductive to demand payment from someone who isn’t working because they’re in prison. (Ah, but I editorialize!)
Let’s consider this text about debts. Jesus was telling this parable when he was asked a question. This is The Message version.
Matthew 18: 23 ‘The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. 24 As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. 25 He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market. 26 “The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ 27 Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt. 28 “The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’ 29 “The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ 30 But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. 31 When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king. 32 “The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. 33 Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ 34 The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt.’
Here are the key players: the debtors, the lenders, the government, the slave market, and the people all a part of the community. Sounds like a perfect storm brewing in the open waters of our economic systems around the globe today. Debt bondage has a key role in exploitation and trafficking and there are few remedies in most countries when a person or family gets trapped in debt. Some countries actually depend on the indebtedness of their people and can be complicit in keeping those systems in place.
What can you do with this information? Three suggestions for you to pray through:
First, are swimming in debt bondage? If so, study the Scriptures and begin to free yourself from the clutches that cruel taskmaster has on your life physically and spiritually. Seriously, this debt bondage can keep you from being free to do God’s will, to go where and when He calls you to be on the front lines of fighting the injustices of trafficking around the world. You can’t demand from others what you won’ t demand from yourself. Encourage personally a global effort to end debt bondage.
Second, reduce your debt footprint. Consider when enough is enough and when owning the stuff actually owns you. Our Western consumption mentality and indebtedness to have more “stuff” fuels trafficking and slave labor markets. We rarely consider the supply chains of what we buy. Learn more about this from Julie Clawson’s book “Everyday Justice” and surf the web for sites that grade companies on their corporate responsibility like: http://www.betterworldshopper.org/ or www.free2work.org.
Third, give to and pray for those efforts around the world in micro -enterprise that frees individuals and eventually whole communities from the grasp of debt bondage. There are wonderful stories of communities working together to free themselves from generations of bondage. Consider how to support financially those micro-enterprises and rescue operations that are doing the most good around the world at giving people back their dignity and worth as well helping them to know the One true and living God who created them with great value.