Is it permissible for a Christian to file for bankruptcy?

The Bible teaches us to live peaceably with all men. Romans 12:18 “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” This includes not to owe anyone anything. Romans 13:8 “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” Debts cause one to be a servant to another. Proverbs 22:7 “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” As a matter of fact, this is one of the major causes of marital problems and even divorce in our modern society today. But misfortunes do happen in a person’s life.

Loan sharks may take away one’s ability to pay back. Exodus 22:25 “If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.” The practice of usury was forbidden Among the Hebrews themselves. Deuteronomy 23:19 “Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury.” They could lend with usury among the Gentiles. Deuteronomy 23:20 “Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it. The idea of usury does not mean simple interest but exorbitant interest. God expected usury on His money. Matthew 25:27 “Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.” Another word for usury is interest in the New Testament but in the Old it usually meant exorbitant interest.

Sudden death may throw financial problems on a family. 2 Kings 4:1-2 “Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen. And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.”

A Prolonged illness may come and consume all the means we may have saved up. Luke 8:43-44 “And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.

Even robbery as in the case of the parable of the good Samaritan. Luke 10:30 “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

Even possible momentary negligence. What did God provide for these misfortunes? Deuteronomy 15:7-15 “If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land. And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: Thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day.”

So what happened in the 7th year? If one was sold for their debts, they were released of them in the 7th year. So seven years was the maximum one can suffer for financial difficulties.

There was also the year of the Jubile. Leviticus 25:9-10 “Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land. And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.”” This was even the returning of inherited land to people making sure there was always an inheritance and land ownership. When a person sold a piece of land it was in accordance to the number of years left to the Jubile. Leviticus 25:14-17 “And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour’s hand, ye shall not oppress one another: According to the number of years after the jubile thou shalt buy of thy neighbour, and according unto the number of years of the fruits he shall sell unto thee: According to the multitude of years thou shalt increase the price thereof, and according to the fewness of years thou shalt diminish the price of it: for according to the number of the years of the fruits doth he sell unto thee. Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God.” To try to permanently take someone’s land away was considered an oppression. This always guaranteed that if one shall make a serious mistake in his life time, that mistake will not fully pass on to the next generation.

Today, we do not have this system as such but the provision in this country of bankruptcy somewhat a similar provision. It should not be misused but in certain cases, as shown in the above texts, it can be used by a Christian who is impoverished due to certain circumstances.

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