“The alien among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower. He will lend to you, but you will not lend to him.” – Deuteronomy 28:43-44
“The borrower will be a slave to the lender.” – Proverbs 22:7
“Why not, as long as there will be peace and security in my days?” – 2 Kings 20:19
Hezekiah is the classic picture of a guy who doesn’t care what happens to the next generation. When Isaiah the prophet warns him that some day, his ancestors will be taken away to become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon, Hezekiah responds, “The word of the Lord is good.” As the writer of 2 Kings reports, Hezekiah takes this news as good news, because at least “there will be peace and security in my days.” We can’t say he took no thought of his descendants, but he really cared only about his own peace and security.
Hezekiah’s irresponsible attitude sounds all too familiar, when we look at our current national debt scenario. As one commentator put it, our leaders wish to take the U.S. Treasury to the crack house.
We are told the problem is not enough taxes on the rich. I have no intrinsic problem with tax increases on the rich or anyone else, or with government spending on the poor. Yet our spending is far beyond what taxes can pay for, even if we confiscated all the assets of the rich. And very little of that spending has anything to do with helping the poor.
We are told that our situation requires “shared sacrifice.” This, from a president who lives by the Roman emperor Caligula’s philosophy, “One must be either frugal or Caesar” (Suetonius, Gaius 37), that is, he expects us to sacrifice while he lives in opulence like a Caesar, throwing stones at corporate jets, while flying in jumbo-jets he expects us to pay for. “Shared sacrifice” carries far more credibility when it comes from the mouth of PM David Cameron or President Carter.
Instead of “What Would Jesus Cut?” (which is not a hard question to answer – let’s start with high-speed rail, unspent stimulus money and loans to Brazilian oil), the real question is, “Whom Would Jesus Bankrupt?” Would Jesus practice generational theft? Certainly we can survive as a nation by rolling back our budgets to the 2008 level before our recent orgy of spending.
As Walter Brueggemann wrote long ago about Solomon’s government spending, the temple of cedar leads to forced labor. Forced labor is an apt description for what this debt will do to us. Our current leaders wish to replace Solomon’s whips with scorpions.
Our leaders shamelessly use fear to pistol-whip us into surrendering more and more money we don’t have, like a mugger who demands, “Give me all your money, or your economy will never recover!” We had the Wall Street bailout, then the “stimulus” and now the debt limit, with the threat to take Social Security checks hostage. Plus, we have the printing of money, which steals from the pockets of rich and poor alike.
Surrendering our credit rating would at least be an honest solution. The words “full faith and credit” no longer match the reality of our irresponsibility.
The closest thing to “shared sacrifice” proposed lately is a proposal by Senator Tom Coburn that truly hits everybody: a deficit reduction of $9 trillion over 10 years, including elimination of tax giveaways, cuts to the White House, cabinet agencies, and the military, slowdown of Social Security and even veterans’ benefits. It is the opposite of the White House’s long list of untouchable budget items. Not surprisingly, almost no one likes it. The public actually wants this irresponsible spending to continue. We want our electric scooter, even if we have to steal it from the milk money of tomorrow’s retiree.
“There will be peace and security in my days.” Look around you. We’ve already been made into eunuchs, and the Babylonians in Beijing are poised to foreclose on us.
Jesus is the last person who would demand such shameless generational theft. On the question of borrowing sums undreamed of in Jesus’ day, in the context of Proverbs 22:7, his words to us are more likely to be, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”
TOM HOBSON of Belleville, Ill., a PC(USA) pastor for 28 years, is currently serving at First Church in Herrin, Ill and as adjunct professor at Morthland College, West Frankfort, Ill.