Monday, August 26, 2013

My Money Now!!! - Newest Question

If a person has borrowed a substantial amount of money, and has not made any effort to repay the other, what should happen next? This is in the neighborhood of thousands of dollars, and three years have passed by. There is no mention of the outstanding bill. However, the borrower has proceeded with a lavish lifestyle of vacations and many unnecessary purchases. There has been a foreclosure on the home of the borrower as well. What should the lender do? It's a large amount of money, and too much time has gone by. I believe it's time to settle, or at least instill a plan to do so. A three year grace period was more than enough.

Oh boy, this is a rough place to be.

I know this may not all be part of the situation but since this has to do with lending money and because this site is about offering Biblical perspectives to real world situations (as awkward and tough as they may be) I feel it very important to offer the readers a crash course in Biblical lending at the end of the discussion.

Now to address the question specifically ... 

I would take the Matt 18 approach with this person and see it through.  Obvious, there is failure in this person's life and it is only going to get worse.  If this person is cared for, his or her future needs to be challenged, or this is just the beginning of everyone's pain.

Mat 18:15  "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16  But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY WORD MAY BE ESTABLISHED.' 17  And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. 18  "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19  "Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." 

This is Jesus instruction ... let's follow it.  The lender should approach the lendee privately ... if money is owed and the person is living lavishly, that should be addressed.  If the lendee is not properly managing his or her finances, that should be addressed from the perspective of helping teach good financial discipline.

If the lendee refuses the lenders approach, then the family, personal community, or church leadership (depending on the parameters of the relationship ... it should be respective to the relationship) should get involved.  All too often, we avoid this because it makes us uncomfortable to face conflict.  But that is our responsibility.  That same failure is why our family members fall to pieces on our watch ... we choose to hind behind the false notions of peace and love rather than show true love ... to stand in the face.  No one wants to be addicted and hopeless ... but it's so easy ... the road that leads there is short and fast.  

This most likely won't be an easy confrontation.  The person may feel ambushed or attacked.  This will need to be strategically planned.  It may even feel like a lie.  I always suggest never doing these things over meals or food.  Just invite the person over.  When they ask why, just tell them you want to talk.  When the person asks the infamous "about what" ... tell them that it's important.  I also strongly suggest doing it in a safe atmosphere ... somewhere neutral ... where privacy is secured but not in either of the homes of the people with the issue.  It is vitally important to go into that meeting with an open mind.  Sometimes, the person complaining doesn't have all the facts or may not be communicating them.  The person accused may just be innocent.  That is why we, as the governing group, should be mature and unbiased.

If the lendee still refuses to hear us out, then we must follow Jesus advice.  Treating a person like a "heathen or tax collector" certainly did not mean to kick that person out like so many have inappropriately translated.  It simply means to let it be known ... to not let that person have leadership influence.  We mistranslate so much from that passage ... but God promises to follow and support our decisions if they are made in Him.  We still show love ... we don't turn our faces away.  But no future lending should be done until this is made right.  We should also warn everyone in the circle of what this person's actions and responses have been ... so that his or her failures are not fed.  

Is it humiliating?  Maybe it is.  BUT, sometimes a little humiliation brings humility .. a very good characteristic that God can work with.  Remember the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:2-10).  He stole from people for years.  One divine moment of humiliation with Jesus and not only was Zacchaeus life changed forever, so were the loves of those he had stolen from.  When Zacchaeus repented, he gave 4 times as much as what he stole.  In other words, what was stolen was turned to a great investment return.  Imagine the people when he showed up.  Some would certainly still be bitter, but I bet many had forced themselves to go on ... knowing what he was capable of but choosing to live forward.  Imagine what the range of emotions when Zacchaeus stood there ... apologizing ... and returning their investment.  I will also bet that some of them were at a place of desperation and Zacchaeus was right on time.

I see investments lost differently than I used to.  Trust me, my thoughts to those people who stole from me were not legal or Godly.  But in truth, that money would have been spent on something ... lost doing something. In the times where people have repaid later, it was always at a time when I desperately needed it ... and had no idea how the need was going to be met.  

No amount of money owed should be powerful enough to dissolve the bonds of any close relationship...ever. 

In God, our resources are never lost.   Think about the pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).  Who walked away justified??  

I was once approached by a young man asking for money ... a need supposedly.  He needed help in paying his bills and asked that we would offer financial assistance.  The first thing I always do when a person asks to borrow money from me is to see their budget.  I would never ask this from anybody just to do it.  But if I am being asked to offer money for a need, I want to see that it is a need and that I am not just feeding someone's inability to live within their means (as is many times the case). 

I always offer to help build and prepare a budget.  Many people don't know how to do that.  Giving those people money blindly only will cause the problem to grow, and it will demand your continuous provisions because the nature of spending frivolously includes all monies expected, even those lent.

If the person will allow us to help them with their budget, I have always, as I have had the ability, met those needs, but never as a loan.  I will not loan a family member money and put them in a position to be humiliated.  There is no good ending there.  If there is a need and I can meet it, I give it freely with no demand for repayment.  If we do work out an open ended lending agreement, it is understood that failure to repay is nothing ... do it when you can, won't think of it ever again.  I have "loaned" 1000's of dollars this way.  Some I have been repayed, others have been lost ... but the relationships almost all have survived.  Any relationship that failed only did because the person that felt the obligation to repay hid is face in shame ... though there was no need.

If the person refuses my financial "investigation" I offer that person no help.  The need cannot be so bad if their pride is that intact.  

I have both lent and borrowed.  In fact, right now as I speak, I have 10's of thousands of dollars owed to me by people, companies, and churches.  Some of them owe money borrowed ... some owe money contracted (business deals).  My largest debtors are churches ... one alone owes me over $9k.

At the same time, I owe thousands to certain family members and a friend.  

In both situations, I follow God's policy.  To those who owe me money, I will not allow the godless justice system of the world to have say inside of my relationships with other believers.  I have made my case ... some cannot pay and I don't want it.  Others can but refuse.  In the first case, I am a blessing, in the other, God knows and has provided.  I do believe it is OK for believers to sue unbelievers, but I personally will not.  God is always my judge.  I believe that if we seek justice from this world, God respects that decision, but His hand in that situation is drawn back.  

To those whom I owe, I will repay ... because I gave my word.  However, I only accepted with both of our understanding that it may be some time.  

If money was lent improperly, it must be given to God.  We fail as a church, and often in our families, when it comes to teaching proper and Biblical lending .. finances as a whole.

A Crash Course on Biblical Lending

A)  We are NEVER to become surety (cosign loans) for friends or strangers.  When we cosign, we promise to pay the debts with our own assets that someone else have taken.  

Pro 6:1  My son, if you become surety for your friend, If you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, 2  You are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth.

Pro 11:15  He who is surety for a stranger will suffer, But one who hates being surety is secure. 

Pro 17:18  A man devoid of understanding shakes hands in a pledge, And becomes surety for his friend. 

We place ourselves in great financial danger not being able to see the future or the heart of the lendee.  Remember, there are people out there who purposely start friendships and associations with the specific intent on ruining the lives of those they befriend.  They are very convincing ... they are very good at what they do.  In many cases their actions are not against the law.

B) If we have a member within our family (or congregation) that has a legitimate need we are to help that person with what resources we have.

Our gain ... our wealth is not for us to hoard.  We were called to be rivers of blessings, not dams of them.  All too often we lose ourselves in our prosperity as if by honoring God beyond the doors of the church building is not needed because we "tithe."  Hogwash.  The fact is that the stereotypical western church has become the Hoover Dam of blessings.  We applaud our 1 million dollar outreach budget and ignore the 12 million dollar building note ... a majority of church bodies outreach and benevolence funds don't add up to a quarter of the giving while the salaries usually take more than half of the budget ... that is up to each of the individual bodies to govern for themselves but this I know:  when you give to a person in need directly, it all gets there.

Lev 25:35  'If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. 36  Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. 37  You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit. 

Gal 6:10  Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. 

Pro 3:27  Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do so. 28  Do not say to your neighbor, "Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give it," When you have it with you. 

The hope here is that the person in need will be able to get to a place to repay what was loaned as well as offer that same help to a future person in need.  

C) If we lend within our family or (arguably) within the body of Christ, we are not to collect interest.  

We are not conduct business within the body.  I know this goes against what seems to be a current trend of the church concerning inner marketing of businesses.  But we cannot be more spiritual than God.  He says not to do it, we need to obey.

Deu 23:19  "You shall not charge interest to your brother—interest on money or food or anything that is lent out at interest. 20  To a foreigner you may charge interest, but to your brother you shall not charge interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all to which you set your hand in the land which you are entering to possess. 

 This does not say we cannot collect an honest wage for work done, nor does it imply that we are not allowed to be reimbursed for monies loaned.  But it does mean that we are not to see our family members (both blood and body) as the means of increasing our business.

D) We are not to accept repayments within our family or the body if those repayments will take from their ability to supply for themselves.

We are to be patient with those that are in need.  If we pressure them to repay before they are able, we force them to go to extremes to supply for their own or to go without.  Both are unacceptable options that will have intrusive rippling effects within the lives of all involved. 

Exo 22:25  "If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest. 26  If you ever take your neighbor's garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. 27  For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious. 

If they go to extremes, they will find the resources they need through questionable sources or they will break the law.  Both will end up in your living room or church demanding repayment with considerable interest.  If they go without, your loved ones are suffering on your watch.  Sleep with thanks.

E) We are not to just offer help to those we know can repay us.  

Let's look at what Jesus said Himself.

Luk 6:33  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. 35  But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36  Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. 

The problem with selective help is that we miss fulfilling real needs.  The danger is that we put our relationships in great danger.  Lending to those we know can repay us often causes us to ignore whether their stated need is truly legitimate.  You can actually feed your friend's, or family member's, addiction by your selective lending.  Sure, they may repay you all the while their very soul is being taken deeper and deeper into captivity ... and you are feeding this.

God promises to bless us if we look out for His hurting children.  (Matt 25:31-46; Matt 6:1-3)

F)  We are to allow those who were in need that have borrowed from us whatever time they need to repay us.  We are not to pressure them to repay.

Our purpose of lending is to only help those enslaved by their need to be freed from it.

Deu 24:10  "When you lend your brother anything, you shall not go into his house to get his pledge. 11  You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you lend shall bring the pledge out to you. 12  And if the man is poor, you shall not keep his pledge overnight. 13  You shall in any case return the pledge to him again when the sun goes down, that he may sleep in his own garment and bless you; and it shall be righteousness to you before the LORD your God.  

If we pressure those that owe us to repay, we have only transferred the ownership of their slavery from need to us ... we have only one Master, and He is very jealous.  He doesn't tend to look well on us when we accept the position of being someone else's master (Matt 18:23-35).

G)  We are to handle any failure of our family members or other believers to appropriately repay debts (or any other grievances) within the family or congregation.  

The only way this will work is for the church leadership to be involved.

1Co 6:1-11  Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2  Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3  Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? 4  If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? 5  I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? 6  But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! 7  Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? 8  No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! 9  Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10  nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11  And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. 

All too often, we try to involve the elders (as Jesus says we are to) and they cower from their duty, claiming  to strive for a false peace.  We are not in any way supposed to allow ungodly justice to have authority within our walls, even if we have to except loss.  We must remember that God is watching and overlooks nothing.  

Deu 32:35  Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things to come hasten upon them.' 

Rom 12:19  Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. 

Heb 10:30  For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. And again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE." 31  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 

We cannot Biblically justify that our situation allows us to go outside of God's parameters ... ever.  Doing that says we know more than Him ... and that His justice is flawed (a very bad idea).

That's my take anyways!!!

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  1. Great discussion and advice using God's word on a subject that can be difficult.

    Your brother in Christ,

    1. Thanks Jerry. I appreciate your comment. It is a difficult and touchy topic ... all the reason for the church to rightly present it. The church is handcuffed in debt ... and relationships are strained within the body bc of inappropriately dealing with financial issues ... and frankly incorrect teaching.

      Any input, perspective, experience, or opinion is always greatly appreciated ... always invited.

      Hopefully, our circles will cross again. Glad they are in the digital world.

      To those who read, you should know that Bro Jerry Gross was a very important person in my Christian infancy ... we were in the same "church" while serving in Bosnia ... a mentor and a greatly appreciated one.