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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Economic Recovery for All 4: Faith Perspectives, Pt 1

I want to acknowledge Andrew Mbuvi, Amanda Mbuvi, Dan Rhodes, and Eric Greaux, who brought their insight into editing meetings at various steps of producing this document.

A Working Paper for North Carolina United Power
from an Interchange Among Theological Educators
July 2009

III. Faith Perspectives on Responding to the Crisis

A. Introduction

Among the most cherished biblical texts in the Christian scriptures is Jesus' teaching to his disciples concerning prayer in Matthew 6. Verse 12 says, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The same Greek word in this passage has historically been translated by both the English words “debts” and “trespasses.” The first translation affirms an economic obligation; the second implies a broader, metaphorical one. While both are theologically significant, the first has been underemphasized.

The background of this economic obligation appears in Deuteronomy 24:10-13. A lender must not take away a borrower’s essential items for survival as a pledge for a loan. A loan must serve the good of the whole community, both borrower and lender. When a family member or neighbor is in dire economic straits, biblical economics deems it wrong for a relative or neighbor to make a profit on their misfortune. If someone needs assistance, the command of the Torah affirmed by Jesus is that our hands ought always to be open to help the poor (Deut. 7 and John 12). The Sabbath Year and Jubilee Year laws insist that there is a limit to what a lender can demand from those who have fallen on hard times. This kind of mutuality is what God blesses and it is to be the material and economic shape of our earthly lives if they are to reflect existence as it is in heaven.

However, far from taking reasonable steps to assure the safety and security of borrowers in need, many banks (and hence, many businessmen and women of faith) currently are forcing people out on the street, refusing to share the impact of the loss of real estate values. In contrast to this scenario, Biblical economic principles demand shared risks and as shared opportunities for lenders and borrowers as well as limitation on lending so as to prevent usury.

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