As I write in this 2019 Easter season, many now announce themselves as candidates for President of the United States. Americans don’t seem to know what has happened to their country. A fecal map of San Francisco reveals people are defecating in the street, a practice common in third world countries. Life expectancy is in decline as thousands die of drug overdoses. After being founded as a free enterprise capitalist society, in the backdrop of a growing body of homeless people living in the streets, there is talk of socialism, economic equality and guaranteed incomes.
All of this occurring in the wake of a financial collapse in 2008 where government decided to bail out the lending class with near-free money rather than throw a life preserver to hapless home owners caught in the collapse of home values.
In the aftermath, banks now only offer less than 1% interest on saved money compared to the 4-5% interest in the past. Savers don’t realize the rate of inflation is 6-8%, so their bank accounts are being eroded away in purchasing power. Because of this pension plans are short of the target yields they need to deliver on their promise to pay workers when they retire. ...and forgive them th... Best Price: $30.88 Buy New $26.95 (as of 09:15 EDT - Details)
The rapid rise of the super-wealthy “1%” that now accumulate almost all of the growth in the wealth of the country is an unprecedented development.
What does all this have to do with the crucifixion of a man named Jesus two centuries ago? The answer to that question is “everything.”
According to one authoritative source, Jesus was 33 years old when he was nailed to a wooden cross and left to hang till he died ~3:00 PM, April 3, 33 AD. His ministry lasted less than 36 months.
Jesus almost met His demise in the town of Nazareth where He had cast a demon out of a man and a furious crowd had driven Him to the brow of a hill with the intention of throwing Him off a cliff. But religious blasphemy (declaring Himself to be God) was not enough to kill Him. What He said about money and debt would. He made his way through the mob and escaped.
Months later Jesus opened the grave of had Lazarus who had come back from the dead in the town of Bethany, so there was quite a stir over this miracle. Immediately thereafter He headed directly to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. The Jews were yearning for a new king to free them from their occupiers, the Romans. The crowds wondered, is this our new king?
King of the Jews
His followers laid palm leaves on the road to Jerusalem and Jesus rode a lowly donkey into the city as “King of the Jews” on what became known as Palm Sunday. He was the common man’s de facto, blue collar king. He had gone to Lake of Galilee and befriended fishermen rather than wealthy people in Jerusalem. He had already been accused of blasphemy by challenging the authority of the religious leaders particularly by healing people, even on the Sabbath no less.
His unofficial title as “King of the Jews” alarmed the Romans who feared a religious uprising from any quarter. Upon His capture, Pilate, the Roman governor asked: “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus replied: “You have said so.”
Forgive us our debts
Months earlier at the Mount of Beatitudes in the region of Galilee, Jesus taught His followers how to pray The Lord’s Prayer which included the wording: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6: 12)
In some translations this patch of scripture has been maligned to say: “… and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.” But that wasn’t what Jesus meant. What Jesus was actually calling for is true debt forgiveness. So says an economist, Michael Hudson, who has studied the scriptures. Killing the Host: How ... Best Price: $32.00 Buy New $32.95 (as of 09:15 EDT - Details)
First priority: oust the money changers
Lest we forget, once inside Jerusalem, Jesus’ first action inside the Temple Mount was to chase the money changers out of the temple. Jesus did not take a liking to those who sold doves in exchange for coins so they could offer the birds as an offering. (There were also bread and meat tithes.) This was a shortcut to what the tithes were meant to be. The people were to bring their tithes, not buy them. Jesus was no friend to the monied classes.
The historical idea of debt forgiveness
The historical backdrop for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem is the practice of debt forgiveness described in the Book of Deuteronomy. One can read of this in the 15th chapter of the book of Deuteronomy (paraphrased below).
“Every creditor than lends shall release the debt owed,” paraphrased as “At the end of every seventh year there is to be a canceling of all debts! Every creditor shall write ‘Paid in full’ on any promissory note he holds.” … “then there shall be no poor among you.”
In his book AND FORGIVE THEM THEIR DEBTS, Professor Hudson says the Bible is preoccupied with debt, not sin. In fact, it would be considered a sin for a wealthy man not to lend to the poor!
And lenders were implored not to refuse a loan because it was close to the seven-year forgiveness of debt. “You must lend as much as they need. Don’t refuse a loan because of the year of debt cancellation is close at hand!
Side bar: be a lender not a debtor nation
As an aside, the Bible also offered this advice on a national level: “You should be a lender nation rather than a borrower and then you shall rule many nations rather than they rule over you.” (Deuteronomy 15:6)
In case you aren’t aware, the US has chosen to borrow ~$16 trillion from foreigners and other lenders and it pays more than $500 billion a year in interest on this debt, headed to $900 billion which will exceed what the country spends on Medicare and Social Security. Economist Martin Armstrong says it would be better to just print the money into existence rather than borrow it with interest as the country can’t bear the burden of paying interest for borrowed money.
Every public agency had a tax
J IS FOR JUNK ECONOMIC... Best Price: $23.47 Buy New $27.50 (as of 09:20 EDT - Details) In Jesus’ day, the land owners rented their land for farmers to grow crops. A portion of that crop or the money derived from the crop was paid back to the land owner with other portions going to the king (government) and even more to Caesar (Rome). To make matters worse, there was a temple tax (called the 10% tithe) to boot! Tax collectors were detested in the days of Jesus.
Debts rise faster than the ability to pay
Michael Hudson says there is a lesson here: “In all eras – from antiquity to the present – debts have tended to mount up faster than the ability of most debtors to pay. That is a basic mathematical fact: economic growth is arithmetic and can’t keep up with the exponential growth of debt growing at compound interest.”
Hudson goes on to write: “The big economic question is – and has always been – what will happen if debts cannot be paid? Will there be a debt write-down in favor of debtors (Hudson says at that time the President said there would a write-down of home mortgages, but later changed his mind and said he stood with the lenders), or will creditors be allowed to foreclose (as is customarily done on personal debtors and mortgage-holders), leading to their political takeover of the assets of the economy – and the government’s public sector.” Haven’t the bankers taken over America? Does anyone dare cross Goldman Sachs in Congress? Commentator Chris Hedges says lenders have become de facto rulers.
Hudson says the problem of debt backlogs can be tracked back to the invention of interest-bearing loans in agrarian 3rd Millennium BC Mesopotamia. Even then, in ancient history, leaders realized just a few lenders would end up owning all the assets and generated wealth of the economy.
All the money would be tied up on homage to the lenders. It would be like one player in the board game of Monopoly owning all the money and all the houses and hotels. At that point – “game over!” So, the practice of debt forgiveness re-started the game. (Leviticus 25). The year of debt forgiveness was called the Year of Jubilee.
Hudson says Jesus’ prayer “forgive them their debts” was the final straw. This Rome, the local government ruled by Pontius Pilate, and wealthy land owners as well as the temple priests who were collecting taxes were threatened, despite the Old Testament dictum to wipe the slate clean in the Book of Leviticus.
Hudson says, to create a renewable economy, debt cancellation would avert polarization of a society between creditors and debtors. Otherwise, creditors take over the land, then the economy, and then re-write religion in their own interest.
The love of money is the root of all evil. (I Timothy 6: 10)
Professor Hudson says greed and the forgotten practice of debt forgiveness is what led to the fall of the Roman Empire. Every politician in Rome who opposed the creditors was murdered. Even Jesus wouldn’t escape that fate.
Economist Martin Armstrong talks of guaranteed income being rigged to direct electronic payments to citizens bank accounts and then electronically forwarded to the creditors. Still no one would have any money. The Bible speaks of riches the wealthy keep to their own demise. (Ecclesiastes 5: 13)
Is debt forgiveness practical in modern times?
Cancellation of personal not commercial debts was a 2000-year old practice in the ancient world that is now long forgotten. Has debt forgiveness been practiced in modern times? Professor Hudson says, when the Allies took over Germany after WWII, they cancelled all debts except for what employers owed to their workers and left a balance of working capital in the banks. The German economy bloomed rather than floundered.
The middle is in a muddle
The financial battle in America is not rich versus poor. There isn’t financial polarization in America. Those on welfare are provided for. Middle-class tax breaks are appropriate but aren’t going to do. There is a destruction of those in the middle. The poor will not rise up against the government because they are bought and paid for. The lenders know how to damper a financial rebellion — pay off the poor masses. But eventually, the economy collapses on itself. Finance as Warfare Best Price: $15.00 Buy New $10.82 (as of 09:20 EDT - Details)
Hudson says America is committing financial suicide. “I don’t see any escape mechanism,” says Professor Hudson in his online interview with Chris Hedges.
But who heeds the financial wisdom of the Bible anymore?
Jesus adhered to the scriptures. He quoted from memory 24 Old Testament books that foretold of His birth, death, crucifixion, and resurrection as well as who He was, the fulfillment of scripture as “The King of the Jews,” who would usher in the kingdom of God. He said: “The Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). He referred to Scripture as “the commandment of God.” (Matthew 15:3). He said: “Not even the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the law, until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18). The financial wisdom of the Scriptures needs to be considered in light of the historical success of debt forgiveness.
While the Bible says the poor will always be with us (Deuteronomy 15:11), poverty as defined by the accumulation of debts beyond the ability to pay, to the point where the masses only have money to pay interest on their debts rather than the necessities of life, would be averted by debt forgiveness. (Deuteronomy 15).
Jesus was interested in eradicating poverty, financially and spiritually. Debt forgiveness was temporary, to reset the economy. Essentially, socialism and welfare represent permanent debt forgiveness.
Individually, the Bible teaches a work ethic, to be industrious and to earn a “just reward” for work. “Take your portion, rejoice in your labor, as this is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:19) “He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread.” (Proverbs 12:11). Workers are to be satisfied with their share. Laziness is not tolerated. (Proverbs 18:9). Welfare in the Bible was paid in kind (food, clothing), not coin. (Leviticus 23:22)
The Bible also advises “not to curse the rich.” (Ecclesiastes 10: 20) Recognize, wealthy people hire many people. The Bible says “the profit of the earth is for all; even the king himself is served by the field.” (Ecclesiastes 5:9)
The Bible speaks of people who have riches, who have everything they want physically but “want nothing for their soul.” (Ecclesiastes 6:2) He who loves silver shall not be satisfied with silver.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10)
Given the present reality these dictums were not heeded, Jesus said: “Sell what you have, give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21)