by John G. Merna
Most Christians do not rush haphazardly to the decision to explore bankruptcy. They arrive at this decision after years of paying debt. They pay regardless of how fair or just the contract for the debt was when they entered into it. They probably spend an equal amount of time praying about their financial situation.
After years of assisting Christian clients to get their life and happiness back, I learned a little about the common questions and struggle Christians go through when considering bankruptcy.
GUILT IS NORMAL:
Most Christian struggle and pray for guidance from God out of a fear of failure or a belief they are doing something “wrong”. They fear they have failed God by being a poor steward of their financial situation and spending. They experience the guilt of possibly wronging their fellow man, namely the creditors, by eliminating the debt in bankruptcy. This misplaced guilt is due to a similar mistaken belief that the Bible condemns bankruptcy.
GOD IS FORGIVENESS:
As a country founded on Christian principles, our Founding Fathers recognized the importance of debt forgiveness. In a country whose overarching principle they proposed was “freedom”, indebted servitude was inconsistent. The idea on debt servitude or slavery, which existed for centuries, was not consistent with their Christian understanding or the principles that were being embraced in our young country. It is not surprising they incorporated similar Biblical principles in our bankruptcy laws.
Bankruptcy law is the embodiment of “forgiveness” of debt. This forgiveness mirrors Biblical references. Under current bankruptcy law, a debtor can receive a release from debt through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy every eight (8) years. Under Biblical law, Christians are directed to release those they hold to a debt at the end of seven (7) years. Prior to 2005, bankruptcy law allowed the forgiveness every six (6) years. So bankruptcy law has generally paralleled the timeline for debt forgiveness in the Bible. Remember God forgives but it is only when we accept his forgiveness and allow ourselves to be forgiven.
“At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts. And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbor or his broth er, because it is called the LORD’s release.” Deuteronomy 15:1-2
FILING BANKRUPTCY IS NOT A SIN:
The feeling of guilt that many Christians have when filing bankruptcy is often based on the misconception that seeking relief in bankruptcy is a sin. We have discussed that the idea of debt forgiveness is rooted in the Bible. Most Christians do not seek our counsel regarding bankruptcy law until after much time praying for wisdom and direction from God.
DEBT AS BIBLICAL SLAVERY:
The Bible refers to the lender borrowers relationship as a form of bondage: “…the borrower is a slave to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). With the release from debt, the bible says:
“…in the seventh year you shall let [your Hebrew slave] go free from you. And when you send him away free from you, you shall not let him go away empty-handed; but you shall supply him liberally from your flock…” (Deuteronomy 15:12-14).
Similarly, bankruptcy law like the Biblical provision allows the debtor to keep certain property based on either state or federal law. The acknowledgement in both the Bible and bankruptcy law is that the released debt need some basic items/property to survive and get a fresh start. Your Christian bankruptcy lawyer will be able to ensure that the property you need, in most cases all of your property, will be protected to allow you to get a fresh start.
TWO FRESH STARTS ARE NEEDED:
Jesus taught that sin was a type of spiritual debt owed to God. He taught us that God “forgive us our debts [sins] as we forgive our debtors [those who sin against us]” (Matthew 6:12, Luke 11:4).
Many Christians come to our office after misfortunes that are beyond their control. However, if you have mismanaged your finances, it is your responsibility to confess your failings to Good and seek a fresh start in His forgiveness. Bankruptcy law provides you a secular “fresh start” from your debt. Jesus is mercy and love and bankruptcy law if based on these divine principles.
Jesus wants you to experience his forgiveness and have a fresh start through the forgiveness of your debt.
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