Recently there has been much discussion about the President’s plan for student loan forgiveness. Those who receive the benefits of it are naturally pleased with the policy, but others who have repaid their loans feel that it is an unjust policy. Putting the political arguments aside, this THOUGHT will deal with the biblical instructions dealing with borrowing and debt forgiveness.
While borrowing is not strictly prohibited in Scripture, neither is it encouraged. Proverbs 22:7 is an example of this: “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” The word translated “servant” is literally a “slave”. Who wants to be a slave? When a person borrows, it is expected that the debt will be repaid. Consequently, the borrower should only borrow when necessary, and an amount they expect they shall be able to repay. Ecclesiastes 5:5 states, “Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.” Part of the problem today is that rarely is any consideration given by the borrower on their ability to repay in the future. The mindset is often this is what I want today without any thought of tomorrow. Another problem associated with this is a lack of contentedness with the things we have today. The Apostle Paul learned how to be content (Philippians 4:11).
Responsibility in this area also rests with the lender. Lending institutions usually have some sort of investigation to determine whether a borrower is capable of repayment. A business or a government cannot survive too long if they loan out $10 and only get $5 in return.
But what about forgiveness? Doesn’t the Bible encourage, if not demand forgiveness? The answer is a definite YES. But to whom? Recently I saw Matthew 6:12 (“forgive us our debts…”) quoted as a proof that it is right for the government to cancel student loan debt. But why just student loan debt? There is no description given in the verse as to what kind of debt is to be forgiven and so it should apply to all debt. If all debt is to be forgiven, why would anyone loan anything? Applying this verse to student loan debt makes little sense.
This verse is part of what is commonly (but incorrectly) called the Lord’s Prayer. It begins with an address to the Father in heaven and so it is a request for Him to forgive. The word translated “debts” is the Greek word “opheilema” which means “that which is legally due,” which may include more than monetary things. Luke’s record of this same prayer states, “forgive us our sins…” (Luke 11:4). It becomes clear that what is legally due in Matthew’s gospel is the debt of sin.
I also recently saw a meme that said something to the effect that the person who has paid for their sins should be angry with Jesus for paying for everyone else’s. There is a HUGE problem with that meme. Scripture is very clear from Genesis to Revelation that the cost of one’s sin is death- not just physical, but eternal. No ordinary man has ever paid that debt, nor can he. If man is capable of repaying his debt from sin, it would not have been necessary for Jesus to die. But being the eternal Son of God, Jesus’ one act of dying had eternal significance and was able to cancel the debt of all humanity.
The prayer of Matthew 6 is the prayer of one who is spiritually bankrupt to a God who is infinitely gracious. It is not a proof text for student loan forgiveness.
Why did they nail Him to Calvary’s tree?
Why, tell me why was He there?
Jesus the Helper, the Healer, the Friend
Why, tell me why was He there?
All my iniquities on Him were laid
He nailed them all to the tree.
Jesus the debt of my sin fully paid
He paid the ransom for me.