Forgive Us Our [College] Debts?

With President Biden’s announcement that college debt forgiveness plans will go into effect, many Christians are left wondering. Conservative outlets and politicians have slammed the President; liberal and Democratic voices have demanded this debt forgiveness for years. On top of this, many voices on social media and in conversation have pointed out that God calls us to forgiveness, and even uses “debts” to describe Gospel forgiveness. How should Christians think about this issue?

The Bible does not tell us which temporal laws or policies are right and wrong for this world – it has a much more important job: to reveal eternal salvation from all evil in Jesus Christ! However, God’s Word does give us wisdom to evaluate our lives to take every thought captive (II Corinthians 10:5).

Scripture is clear that debt is dangerous (Prov 11:15; 22:26). In fact, Proverbs 22:7 reminds us that it is easy for the “borrower to become a slave to the lender,” and that we are to “owe no one anything, except love…” (Romans 13:8). We see the wisdom of God’s truth when credit card interest, loan problems, and other financial issues can hurt people, marriages, and families.

Contemporary findings show that 44 million American owe $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, which is greater than credit card debt or auto loans (source). If the federal government “forgives” this debt, many estimates suggest this will add as much as $300 billion to our national debt (source: Wharton UPenn). Clearly, this is a lot of money. Is this wise?

Experience of College Debt

Christians engage in risk every day – traveling on busy roads, operating dangerous farm equipment, and countless other choices. It is not sinful for a student to take out a loan, on the risk that future earning power will justify the debt. It is also not sinful for those who opted out of college to question having to pay for other peoples’ debt from their tax dollars.

To give an example, one of Pastor Brian’s friends, a child of missionary parents, is very excited about the student loan forgiveness. Having taught in college and university settings, this man with a PhD ended up borrowing $67,450 in undergrad, masters, and doctoral work. To date, this man has paid over $25,000 on his loan, yet today he owes $75,112 total! That is almost $8,000 more than the original, and a total bill that will exceed one hundred thousand dollars. When President Biden announced his plan, this man nearly wept with joy.

Another man, however, who is nearly the exact same age, had to forego college to go save the family farm when a tragedy struck. Unable to go to college, this impacted his earning and hiring potential. Should this man be required to pay for something he didn’t partake in, and that he himself missed out on completely?

Wisdom for Finances

God lavishes His gifts on His people by the Spirit (I Corinthians 12:7). These gifts include wisdom and knowledge. Some people will try to apply wisdom to this situation, and point out that regardless of what the Biden administration does, there will be legal and financial repercussions. They might try to show this is a legal impossibility. They might argue we ought to offer the level of forgiveness already available for all kinds of debts in American jurisprudence. By excepting student loan debt from bankruptcy protections, they could argue that federal regulations have eliminated a significant means of safeguarding unsophisticated borrowers – young grads and their parents – from predatory lenders and practices. These people could point out that by making our federal government a financial lender prioritized above all other lenders, this has demonstrated extreme partiality (James 2:1).

The same gift of wisdom might bring other conclusions, such as that the goods of free public education in K – 12 ought to be applied in select areas to college education as well. They might wisely point out that not all college degrees have equal earning power, and so a degree in Gender Studies should not be compared to an MBA, which should not be compared to a Elementary Ed degree in loan forgiveness. They might wisely show that college grads are the best group of Americans to pay off debt, rather than the general public. Or, they might show that wisdom regards it as an honor to equip the people for work and knowledge, and find ways beyond “debt forgiveness” to pay this, such as jobs allowing employees to choose to support their retirement or their loans.

In our world of polarized debate, many of us will have heard each “side” shouting the other down. But wisdom reveals that the anger of man rarely produces the result we desire (James 1:20). Before we jump into an argument about if “debt forgiveness” in this way is even possible, we would do well to consider if this is even wise. There are many wise voices out there who can help us consider this issue, such as here (“Should The Government Forgive Student Loans?“) and here (“Biden Student Loan Forgiveness Appraisal“).

God’s Law for Finances

No matter where we balance wisdom and risk, God’s unchanging, timeless Law stands firm, and we must never forget it. When we argue and discuss “debt forgiveness,” no matter who we are talking with, and no matter what is said, Jesus Christ must be honored in obedience to His Law. This will include:

  • Loving others in how we treat and speak about them (Mark 12:31)
  • Speaking only the truth, and not propaganda or scoring points (Prov 6:16 – 19)
  • Giving honor and respect to political leaders, even if we disagree (I Peter 2:17)
  • Recognizing that some matters of law and finance are more important than others (Matthew 23:23)
  • Not allowing politics to become a stumbling stone to the Gospel of Jesus (Romans 14:13)
  • Being self-controlled, even over anger (Galatians 5:23)
  • Rendering unto Caeasar what is his – money, and rendering to God what is His – yourself! (Luke 20:25)
  • Demonstrate submissive obedience to God, even when rulers and powers are unjust (I Peter 2:13 – 19)
  • Giving glory to God in everything (I Corinthians 10:31)

About blund

Brian J. Lund is minister of Word & Sacrament at Zion Evangelical & Reformed Church. You can follow him at his website or @BrianJLund.
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1 Response to Forgive Us Our [College] Debts?

  1. Gloria & Kay Burk says:

    Just responded to this…and somehow…it wouldn’t allow me to type in my info…wonder where it went, but Thanks for giving me a different prospective on this issue…

    Sent from Mail for Windows

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