Stewardship II

  • Question from CM, United Kingdom

    In response to your previous answer to my question on Stewardship, is it good stewardship to get into debt, even for something like buying a house or a car?
    Is stewardship more of an attitude than a set of do’s or don’ts?

    Debt isn’t clearly addressed in the Bible, at least not in the modern sense of the word. There were Old Testament laws forbidding the charging of interest (Leviticus 25 v36) or of demanding repayment and taking away a person’s livelihood (Deuteronomy 24 v6). The first 11 verses of Deuteronomy chapter 15 outlines the plan that every seven years all debts would be cancelled. The problem with all these, and numerous other references, is that they tend to apply more to the lender than the borrower, perhaps because the lender tends to have power over the borrower (Proverbs 22 v7).

    The issue of debt comes down to personal choice. Some people would have no problem with it. Unless you are very fortunate, you will have to take out a mortgage in order to buy a house. It is a form of debt we are all familiar with. However, the average personal debt of an adult in the UK is running at £5500, not counting mortgages. In fact the UK’s combined personal debt is soon going to overtake the UK’s Gross Domestic Product. In other words as a society we are going to owe more than we can produce in a year.

    Stewarding our resources calls for us to be as ‘wise as serpents’. We are also called not to conform to the pattern of this increasingly materialistic society. Much of that personal debt has been incurred as people try to ‘keep up with the Jones’ or to have ‘something nice’. Impressing our neighbours with our material wealth may be a valid form of witness these days, but it lacks Biblical support and could be theologically dubious as well. The ‘You’re worth it’ attitude has led to people assuming an existential position – ‘If I don’t have the best, then I’m not worth the best’. The tie-up between personal worth and material wealth is getting stronger and stronger, reinforced by advertising and the obsession with ‘celebrity’ (which has to be the most cheapened word of the 21st century).

    Stewardship is clearly an attitude, not a set of rules, as you rightly pointed out, so there is no ‘should’ about getting into debt. It may be a ‘necessary evil’, but as Christians we need to make sure it is necessary, as that makes it a little less evil.

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