TODAY'S SERMON: The Debt Ceiling Vote Was NOT Good. It Was Bad. Scripturally Wrong.

In his Farewell Address of 1796, George Washington wisely said, regarding national debt, “Avoid likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear... You should practically bear in mind that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue....” He was right then. He is right now. But our nation’s leaders have not listened to him.
The vote on the debt ceiling was bad. Some say, “It was the best we could do.” Well, it was not good enough. Some say, “Well, Speaker McCarthy could not have gotten more.” Well, he (or rather, We The People) did not get enough.

The fact is, the debt is continuing to rise. That is not good. Someday, all Americans will realize this. But it may be too late then. As if that is not offensive enough, this new bill does not even have a “cap.” It allows the debt to go to any amount – repeat, any amount – from now until 2025. To add insult to injury, this means that a lame duck Congress (between November 2024 and January 2025, which has no accountability to the American people) and possibly even a lame duck President, can spend any amount they want. That is horrific.

Add to that the fact that Speaker McCarthy’s promise to get rid of 87,000 weaponized IRS agents was violated. Oh yes, they did cut their budget. How much? From $80 billion to $79 billion (with another $20 billion being “reallocated). Bottom line: This is not good. Let’s take a hard look at the national debt, through the eyes of Scripture.
Let’s begin with an imaginary story of a family meeting. Gather in, kids, the dad hollers out the back door, calling his family from outside. We are going to have a family meeting, he declares. The kids have heard Dad give the “State of the Family” speech before, so they roll their eyes, gathering once again around the kitchen table. Today we are talking about our finances, informs Dad. This family meeting is going to be even more boring than they had imagined.
“Here are the facts,” Dad announces. “Our total family income is $52,000 a year, which is average in America today.”
“Okay,” the four kids respond, each thinking that $52,000 sounds like a lot of money.
“And we are spending $60,800 a year.”
“Wow,” says Junior, the oldest, “that means we are going in the hole $8,800 a year? How do we live?”
“Oh, it is easy, Son. We put it on our credit card.” The younger children all nod affirmatively, thinking that since Dad said it, it must be okay.
“But wait,” says Junior, “have we been doing that for a long time?”
“But in that Family Life & Planning class I took last year, we had to prepare a mock family budget and plan so that we spent less than we took in.”
“Yes,” Dad responded, so proud that his son really understood economics.
“But Dad, you just said we are spending more each year than we have income. How long have we been doing that?”
“For decades, Son.”
“So, how much do we owe?” asked Junior nervously.
“We have $308,000 on our credit card as of last month’s bill,” was Dad’s carefree response.
“Well, Dad...uh, how do we pay that back?”
“Don’t worry, Son, we are in the exact same position as the federal government. You don’t see the president worrying about it, do you?”
“But my friend got a D in that class, because his budget spent way more than the family income. The teacher told him that that is a bad thing.”
“Don’t worry. Your mom and I will be fine.”
“But Dad, who will pay it back?” Junior inquired.
“Well, family, that is why I called all of you together. You will!” “Wait, Dad, are you saying that you and Mom ran up this debt, and you are dumping it on us?” “Exactly.”

What kind of a father would do that to his family? A very selfish one. The family figures given above are, according to the Heritage Foundation, comparable with our federal government debt, except that was in 2014, and it has gotten considerably worse since.
Before Barack Obama was president (2009-2017), he agreed with this. However, after he became President, it seemed to change. Campaigning in 2008, Obama rightly condemned George Bush for taking the national cumulative debt of $5 trillion—from all the previous presidents—and running up another $4 trillion, for a staggering total of $9 trillion. What did Obama call Bush for doing this? Irresponsible and unpatriotic.
Obama stated, “The problem is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first forty-two presidents. Number forty-three added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back—$30,000 for every man, woman and child. That’s irresponsible. It’s unpatriotic.”

And Obama was correct. But what has he, Barack Obama, done during his presidency? Doubled the debt from $10 trillion to $20 trillion. If what Bush did was irresponsible and unpatriotic, what is this?

Interestingly, the defenders of Obama would have us believe Obama has not really increased the debt. And they scoff at the family illustration, claiming that a government budget is not like a family budget. Let’s grant that there might be differences. What does not change, however, is that no one can continually spend more than he makes.

Eventually the economic bridge will collapse under the weight of debt, and wise are the people who understand that fact.

When a government refuses to restrain an immense, unpayable debt, it dooms its country’s economic well-being. Don’t think this can happen? Remember the Weimar Republic after World War I? Germany was in such economic debt that hyper-inflation rendered the currency of the day virtually worthless.

But it has gotten worse. So much worse. America’s debt is now $32 trillion. That means every U.S. citizen owes $95,000. Every U.S. taxpayer owes $248,000. This is a national shame.

It seems to make no difference whether we have a Republican or Democrat president. The national debt keep rising. Under Biden, the debt level has been taken to an irresponsible, unpatriotic and terrifying new level.

The Bible is clear about this. It says, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). That not only applies to us today, but it also means we should not steal from future generations. The presidents and the Congress, by running up unsustainable, unpayable debt, have stolen the future of our young adults and children. It is wrong. It is sin. The national debt has become a moral, theological, biblical issue. Every pulpit in America ought to call out our national leaders for this sin. The greatest greed is not on Wall Street. It is in Washington, D.C.

What percentage of the Members of Congress attend a Bible-teaching church? One congressman told me 20 percent. That means 80 percent are not in a biblically-centered church. But for the 20 percent that presumably do attend such a church, how many of those hear their pastor preach sermons on the moral, theological and biblical underpinnings of our nation’s economics? Probably very few. Maybe none.
These otherwise good and sane men and women, our congressional members, continually approve budgets that are spending us into economic oblivion. It is irresponsible. It is immoral. It is called sin. Yet how can we possibly expect the members of Congress to do what is right if pastors will not address this from the pulpit? How can we possibly expect parishioners to consider this issue in the voting booth if their pastor fails to speak on it from the pulpit? The Apostle Paul, speaking of disseminating the truth, raised a good question: “And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14).

Pastors do not need to become more political. They need to become more biblical. The Bible has many verses that speak to economics, whether it is the economics of a family, the government, or any entity.

The good news is that there are those in Congress who do care about economic integrity, and they are fighting to correct this. Nevertheless, they are still too few. Similarly, too few preachers are willing to preach about this topic. This is the classic case of sinning by omission that James 4:17 (ESV) warns about: “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” We need pastors, the voters and the elected to become more well-versed, to understand that this obscene debt will someday profoundly injure our nation, our children, and our future.
The reason why our debt towers so high is actually quite simple. Politicians bribe the American people—with their own tax money— to expand government programs. It has been said, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe  the public with the public’s money.”

I tried to convey this message once at a pastor’s conference. Some looked at me and said, “That’s too political; why would we care about the national debt?” I attempted to make the case that this was ultimately not political, but biblical. Sure, it has implication for the political realm, but at its core the issue of debt—national or personal—is a moral, ethical, biblical issue. If I run up a high debt, someone is going to have to pay for what I have done. And that is theft.

America’s pastors will need courage to make the sin of massive national debt known. Apathy rages amongst our citizens since the threat of catastrophic consequences seems so far off. Pastors need to instill a sense of urgency about the issue and a strong sense of morality to buck the tide of entitlement mentality and once again reintroduce into the American consciousness a sense of frugality, discipline and restraint.

President Obama is correct. The amount of national debt run up under George W. Bush was unpatriotic. I would add immoral and unethical. And then doubling that debt by Obama is even more unpatriotic, immoral and unethical. And debt soared under Trump (admittedly much of it Covid related) and even much more under Biden. Our government is setting an incredibly poor example for its citizens by showing actual and true contempt for the wealth of its citizens and the devastating impact this wastefulness has on industry, initiative, and family welfare.

There are, of course, acceptable instances of debt—unforeseen hospital healthcare emergencies, for example. Most of us have debt on our house, cars, and in school loans. The Bible never explicitly says debt is forbidden, but issues clear warnings against the danger of debt. The truth is, “the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).
And we are a debtor’s nation. We are becoming the servant to the nations (China, for example) from which we borrow. In addition, our children and grandchildren will become the slaves of those who own their financial notes. This is an untenable situation.

Debt becomes wrong when it burdens future generations. Those who have allowed the debt situation to spiral will suffer none of the consequences, as the next generations will have to pay the debt. The biblical lesson is this: being presumptuous on the future will have a devastating impact on us as a nation and as families. James 4:14 warns that we do not know what the future holds. Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.

Let us state the issue positively. Paying one’s debt is biblical. Does our government have any intention of paying off its obligations? If not, then it is incredibly ungodly and untrustworthy. Psalms 37:21 states, “The wicked borrow and do not repay.”
No country has the authority to take money that people need to provide for their own families, while the government squanders it on useless and counterproductive activities. Scripturally, government is to only take that which is needed for it to perform its fundamental, biblical role of executing justice against evil-doers and encouraging the growth of good (Romans 13:4). How much of the annual federal budget would fall into either of these two categories?

What if we first saved the money, then made a purchase? Whatever happened to earning the money to pay for something ahead of time, being patient, being appreciative of what has been worked for? 1 Timothy 6:6–9 says, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”

Debt allows us to enjoy things sooner than if we had to work hard for them first, but having debt doesn’t allow for the risk associated with unforeseen major problems that may impact us. To run up consumer debt, that is, on depreciating items, is to presume on the future. What is true in the life of an individual is true of a nation. Wise investment is to be praised, as Jesus himself taught in the Parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14–30), but squandering wealth or excessive spending—beyond one’s income—is never biblically promoted or encouraged.

Massive national debt isn’t biblical. It is morally wrong. Our leaders are squandering the people’s wealth. When this happens, the people groan (Proverbs 29:2), and that groaning will grow until responsible men and women, both at a government level and at a personal level, become good stewards again.

Succinctly stated, the debt ceiling vote was and is a moral, theological and Biblical issue. And one cannot say that the bill that passed was Scripturally sound. It is not. It increases the already exorbitant debt. And there is a word for that. It is called sin.

(NOTE: Much of the above was taking out of Well Versed: Biblical Answers to Today’s Tough Issues by James L. Garlow, pages 135 ff.)

Dr. Jim Garlow
Well Versed

Rosemary Schindler Garlow
Well Versed
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