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No Biblical basis for student debt cancellation


Republicans have opposed President Biden’s debt cancellation for students who piled up tens of thousands of dollars in debt to get a degree. The left assumes many of the Republicans are Christians and this gives them an opportunity to prove again that the Democrat party doesn’t understand Christianity or like it: 

I’m not Christian, but with all the teachings about giving, I’m pretty sure Jesus would be cool with President Biden’s decision on cancelling student debt,” spouted anti-Trump antagonist David Weissman on Twitter. “A whole lot of folks who supposedly pray, ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors’ don’t see debt forgiveness as an answer to prayer,” added preacher Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

God didn’t forgive our sins with a wave of His hand; He paid for them with the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. That’s why the Bible says frequently that we who are “born again” in the words of John have been redeemed or purchased for a price. God chose to give His son in exchange for us and He can confer forgiveness on anyone He wants because He can know the hearts of everyone. He doesn’t forgive insincere or evil people looking for a fire escape. Since no human can know the heart of another the way God can, much of the debt cancellation will simply go to deadbeats from people who had no choice in the matter and many of whom didn’t go to college.

Christians who support the debt cancellation handouts drag out the Torah practices of Jubilee and Sabbath year debt forgiveness as precedents. A larger effort decades ago to erase the debts of poor countries was labeled “Jubilee 2000.” But Jubilee and Sabbath year debt forgiveness, found in Leviticus chapters 25 and 26, protected property rights.

Jubilee required the buyers of land to pay the value of its produce for the years remaining until Jubilee, at which time the land returned to the seller. In modern terms, the land was not sold but leased, with the lease price prorated for the productivity of the land times the number of years until Jubilee. The Torah didn’t allow people to sell land, but only lease it for 50 years at most. Jubilee merely signaled the end of the lease.

Every seventh (a Sabbath) year, lenders were to forgive all debts. Real debt forgiveness works only when lenders can’t anticipate it. Surprise decrees of debt forgiveness were common in other nations at the time Moses wrote the Torah, and monarchs used them to buy the good will of the poor (most people). If lenders could anticipate such episodes, they could protect themselves by lending less or calling in loans earlier. God’s debt forgiveness occurred on a regular schedule, advertising to lenders when it would happen and preventing people from borrowing more than they could repay in seven years while protecting lenders. If the lender loaned more than that amount, he understood he was giving charity.

Some scholars, such as Joseph Lifshitz (in his book Judaism, Law & The Free Market) have written that God never intended the government to enforce the Jubilee and Sabbath year debt forgiveness laws. Those were moral/religious laws and not the civil laws that the courts adjudicated. Israel left enforcement of the moral laws to God.

There are other objections to student debt forgiveness. The federal government never had the Constitutional authority to make the loans in the first place, and the Bible admonishes Christians to obey the law (Romans 13) even if the Supreme Court refuses to enforce it.

Also, the Constitution, the Bible, and natural theology require the government to treat all people the same and not show preference. Leviticus 19:15 says “You must not show special favor to poor people or great people, but be fair when you judge your neighbor.” The government is a minister of God (Romans 13) and since God treats all people equally, the government must do the same. So, if it forgives $10,000 in debt for some, it must give $10,000 to every other citizen or it has acted unjustly.

God never gave the state the authority to take from one group to give to another. Yes, the Bible is full of admonitions to help the poor. But the Biblical model for helping the poor is always private charity, never the state taking from one group to buy votes from another. That is how all Christianity understood poor relief from the time of the Apostles until the 20th century, when a minority of Christians became idolaters over socialism.

If people want to help students drowning in debt, they are free to give their own money. If the government wants to return to a just system, it will allow students to declare bankruptcy on their debt, in which case lenders will be much more careful about to whom they lend.

Roger McKinney is the author of Financial Bull Riding and God is a Capitalist: Markets from Moses to Marx.

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