Archives for posts with tag: finances

 

Traditional slavery, chattel slavery, is officially illegal in all countries.  However, while most of the world has since eradicated the antiquated systems that once forced multitudes of people into involuntary servitude, today, there is a new form of slavery—a new slave master.

 

According to Cambridge Dictionary, slavery is defined as “the condition of being legally owned by someone else, or the system in which people are owned by others.” Wikipedia puts it this way:  Slavery is “a legal or economic system in which principles of property law are applied to humans allowing them to be classified as property, to be owned, bought and sold accordingly, and they cannot withdraw unilaterally from the arrangement. While a person is a slave, the owner is entitled to the productivity of the slave’s labor, without any remuneration.”  In today’s capitalist economy, financial institutions have become the new captains of the slave trade.

 

Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender,” (NIV).  No where is this truer than in “free trade.”  The average American is shackled by debt.  According to an article published on Nerdwallet.com, as of October 2015, the U.S. household consumer debt profile was as follows:

  • Average credit card debt: $16,140
  • Average mortgage debt: $155,361
  • Average student loan debt: $31,944

 

The article further went on to say that the total debt owned by American consumers was:

  • $11.85 trillion in debt
    • An increase of 1.4% from last year
  • $918.5 billion in credit card debt
  • $8.09 trillion in mortgages
  • $1.19 trillion in student loans
    • An increase of 5.9% from last year

 

The median household income for 2014 was $53,657. As the numbers suggests, most Americans are in over their heads in debt.  The problem is not so much the debt itself.  The problem is the issue of usury, which is illegal and morally reprehensible.  Merriam-Webster defines usury as, “the lending of money with an interest charge for its use; especially:  the lending of money at exorbitant interest rates.”  How does one quantify and/or qualify exorbitant?  Today’s credit card APR can range from low 13% all the way to 29.9 %.  I would make the argument that even 13% could be considered exorbitant.  Who determines exorbitance?  I’m sure it’s not the average citizen.

 

The main difference between traditional slavery and economic slavery is that most individuals, at some point, voluntarily entered into their financial engagement(s).  However, the similarity that both conditions typically share is the inability to readily disengage from the entanglement.

 

Let’s take another look at the definition of slavery.  The first part of the definition of slavery asserts that slavery is orchestrated by “a legal OR economic system.”  By definition, the financial system is an “economic system.” So, check.  The second condition of slavery is that an individual is “legally owned” by another individual(s).  Yet, another check.  I must say this, although individuals are not physically owned by financial institutions, they are economically imprisoned and shackled.  Before I expand on this though, I would like to state the third condition of slavery, which is “they cannot withdraw unilaterally from the arrangement.”  Check!

 

Most financial institutions are in the business of buying and selling debt.  It is not uncommon for people who are saddled with debt to see their loan(s) change hands several times during the lifetime of their loan.  With each change of ownership, there are new notices and disclosures, which are usually multiple, page documents that are typically indiscernible, microscopic fine-print with an inherent obligation for compliance.  In essence, the borrower does not get to pick and choose which terms and conditions they accept and agree with.  Once the loans are sold, the borrower’s finances become subject to the new lender’s (“owner”) discretion. The borrower cannot readily disengage from the financial obligation without legal recourse or ramifications.  In some cases, many individuals are working solely to pay debts.

 

There are people who are reading this post and are probably thinking that individuals who are indebted are in the position that they are in because of poor decision-making.  While that may or may not be true of some, it’s not true of others, and I caution such thinking.  There are many individuals, who have made prudent decisions, yet have still found themselves victims of circumstances, including divorce, life, sickness, death, fraud or even hunger.  Not everyone in debt is living above their mean.  Some people are simply trying to live.  A mother who uses her credit card to buy food and clothing for her family is a far cry from a squanderer.  A young, doe-eyed humanitarian who made a prudent decision to attend medical school to refine his God-given gifts and impact his community and the world around him is far from what I would call irresponsible.  While I am sure there are people who’ve placed themselves in the lion’s den, this is not everyone’s story, and the truth is, even if it were, do they deserve to be eternally imprisoned?

 

King Solomon said it best when he said, “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all,” (Ecclesiastes 9:11, NIV).  One on the worse things that any of us could do on our journey on this Earth is to make distinctions between “us” and “them.”  If anyone has lived on this Earth long enough, one of the valuable lessons learned is that time is the ultimate equalizer where “they” often becomes “me.”

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I was born a slave.  As an ancestor of the son of man, I was born a slave to sin.  As a black woman living in the United States, my ancestors were owned by man.  Even today, there are so many things in this world that attempt to hold me hostage. Thankfully, I embrace the freedom that Christ has given to me. Christ died on Calvary to set me free, for who the Son has set free is truly free indeed, (John 8:36).  Nonetheless, there are still forces that be that attempt to incarcerate me. One of the greatest of them all is money.
Many Christian erroneously think that having money is sinful. It’s not. That belief is not even Biblical. Having money has never been an issue. It’s the love of money that’s the problem (1 Timothy 6:10). Why? The love of money equal idolatry, and God will not stand for anything or anyone being placed ahead of Him. However, Christ understood that in this world’s system, money is needed, and in some cases, required. Christ illustrated that best when he produced the coin from the belly of the fish when asked to pay His taxes. This miracle illustrated two things:
1. Even Jesus, the most powerful man that ever lived, honored the laws of the land.
And
2. God will make a way where there seems to be no way.

In today’s upside down world, there are those that use money to keep people in bondage. Debt is the biggest shackle of them all. Proverbs 22:7 says that, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” As I sat today to pay my student loan, I thought to myself, “Wow, this world’s system is created to make us perpetual slaves.”  The truth is this, no one told me to go to school, and no one forced me to acquire debt to pay for my education. However, the system is designed such that there is a cost for advancement, one which neither my family nor I could independently afford, even though a great portion of my education was funded by academic scholarships. Like many, I knew that in order to advance the visions that God placed on my heart, I would have to assume some liability—take risks, including possible debt. But advancement of our dreams, if we are not careful, could result in situations where we are in the same, or worse, positions than before, particularly financially. If we are not careful, instead of making an impact on the world, we could find ourselves just trying to make a dent in our debt.
Many of us are slaves to the lender, which is exactly where the lenders want us to be. Let’s face it, the system is designed that there are more poor people than there are those who are rich. If everyone had a million dollars, we would all be equal, and the enemy is not a fan of equality.  The customary practices of usury in our society is designed to create and maintain a distinction between the haves and the have nots. Think about how many great ideas were conceived by financial slaves, whose visions were stillborn, or worse yet, stolen and nurtured by others with the financial wherewithal.
In the world’s system, debt is inevitable. But in the body of Christ, even the inevitable can become the remarkable. If we were to be honest with ourselves, most of us do not have the initial financial resources to attend college, start a business or pursue other ventures. One thing I do know is that we can use debt as a launching pad, but we do not have to remain indebted indefinitely. Our finances is an area where many of us overlook and underestimate the power of God and the power of prayer. Though it might seem weird, pray over your stack of bill. Ask God to help you to be a good financial steward of your money and resources. Ask God to make supernatural provisions. Also, set up a plan. Many of us do not have a financial plan. We can always ask God to move on our behalves, but sometimes, we have to take that first step.
Today, I want to issue a financial challenge. Over the next 30 days, incorporate a financial plan and budget. Write down where you see yourself financially at the end of 30 days, 1 year, 5 years, 15 years and 30 years.  Pray over the 30 -day course that God will give you favor, wisdom and abundance. Also, pray Deuteronomy 28:13 over your life:

The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them, (NIV).

 

The promises that were made in Deuteronomy were made to the Israelites. But our God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The promises that were made to one are still available to all today and forever.  Therefore, I pray that God will make us the head and not the tail; above and not beneath; and a lender and not a borrower, in Jesus’ name. Amen