Is It Dishonest for a Christian to Declare Bankruptcy?

After listening to the debtor’s Christian answering machine message, the collector left an indignant message demanding to know how a self-proclaimed Christian could steal from his creditor by not paying his bills on time.

For many people, bankruptcy is a deeply emotional decision when faced with a moral dilemma. On the one hand, we are taught to live responsibly and pay our obligations. On the other hand, sometimes it becomes impossible to meet those obligations.

For example, the most common factor in personal bankruptcies in the United States is medical bills. And while the politicians try to hammer out a solution to the healthcare crisis, the fact remains that unforeseen health issues can send a family into a financial tailspin.

Bankruptcy was established by law as a way to provide people with a fresh start in the wake of severe financial crisis. The concept of bankruptcy is rooted in the Old Testament concept of “jubilee” when debts were canceled, slaves were freed, sold properties were returned to their original owners, and everyone received a fresh start.

Are there consumers who take advantage of bankruptcy laws? We have not seen cases in which consumer actually file bankruptcy even though they were able to pay their bills. Someone who considers bankruptcy will always experience financial hardship. As more and more families become trapped by a combination of rising expenses and falling incomes, bankruptcy may be the only option. And “for most consumers, bankruptcy is not a dishonest gambit, but a desperate last chance to regain dignity and control.

For example, if you charge $200 worth of clothes on your credit card and make minimum payments on the card, how much do interest and fees add to the price of the clothes? Are you paying double for your car? Triple for your house?

And when credit becomes such an integral part of family finances, how many times can the bill be multiplied before it becomes unmanageable.

Are there creditors who take advantage of the law? Are there creditors who routinely violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act? Are there creditors who promptly report a ten-day delinquency on a consumer’s credit report while never mentioning years of on-time payments? Is it right for a creditor to smugly assert moral superiority over an honest consumer who just can’t make ends meet?

For most debtors, bankruptcy is a last resort. When financial problems first begin, you try to reorganize, cut expenses, and regain control. But the situation gets worse. The worse your credit gets, the harder it is to rely on short-term solutions to get past a temporary problem, and the problems begin to build. Late payments trigger late fees and higher interest rates. Bounced checks incur severe penalties. You have to pay cash for things you need that you can no longer finance. You may face repossessions or foreclosure. Finally, you consult an attorney.

The attorney advises you that bankruptcy is the best solution. And you may ultimately learn that the fresh start offered by bankruptcy allows you to make a new beginning. Historically, the jubilee was a time to celebrate a new beginning.


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