Monthly Archives: January 2014

DON’T BE FORCED INTO SERVITUDE

“. . . the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).

There are many types of servants in our society. Some serve others in their employment in order to make a living and support their families, while some serve others out of love for them or their love for God. However, the type servant spoken of in Proverbs 22:7 is not a volunteer. This servant is in servitude by bad decision-making. They serve loan sharks, payday loan companies, title loan companies, and credit card companies. Most of the victims are poor, not well educated, and in some type of desperate financial situation. The sucker signs tell them “Easy Money,” “Get a Loan Today,” “We will Give You What You Deserve,” “E-Z Payments,” “Bad credit? No problem.” They believe borrowing money is quick and easy, but they are charged extremely high rates of interest, and when the time comes to pay, they don’t have the money. Therefore, they make a new loan to pay off the old one, and make a new loan to pay that one off, and it on and on it keeps going. Soon, they are paying only the interest and the debt keeps growing. They often lose a great deal in this process, from cars to credit, and they move from being borrowers to being victims.

People need wisdom in order to avoid the traps of predatory lenders. The book of Proverbs falls into the category of “wisdom literature” revealing wisdom of the ages, and more importantly, the wisdom of God. It says when it comes to borrowing, “Don’t!” God is good! He loves us, and he does not want us to live in servitude to loan sharks. Follow His counsel and just don’t fall into the trap of being a servant to the lenders.

Dr. Robert Wilkerson is a minister, writer, and founder of People for the Christian Way, an organization whose mission is to encourage all people to practice Christian principles in business, politics, and every area of life. drbobwilkerson@bellsouth.net, http://www.peopleforthechristianway.com

MY FRIEND JESUS–PART II

“You are my friend if you do what I command” (John 15:16).

“Let me out at the next corner,” the boy said, as he was riding with four of his friends. Several of them asked why he wanted to get out of the car. “Are you chicken?” The fifteen-year-old ignored their questions, and said a bit more forcibly, “Please let me out!” The car pulled over to the curb. He climbed over one of his friends and got out. “See ya’ later,” he said to them, turning and walking away as the car sped off. The group was going to a party where teenage boys and girls would be drinking beer and whisky, dancing, and eventually pairing off for sex. As he rode with them, an inner voice said to him, “This is wrong. You’re a Christian. Don’t do this.” That’s why, in spite of peer pressure, he got out of the car.

As verse two in the old hymn, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus” tells us, he can help us in our trials and temptations. Jesus helps us by warning us. Temptations don’t sneak up on Christians. We recognize them when they come.

In addition to the inner voice, the Bible tells us how to avoid being overcome by temptation. Surprisingly, it doesn’t tell us to confront it, take it on, or fight it. It simply says run from it, avoid it, don’t go near it. The inner voice we have as Christians will warn us, but it is up to us to avoid it.

It may help us also to remember what God tells us in I John 3:4, “Greater is he (Jesus) that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

Dr. Robert Wilkerson is a minister, writer, and founder of People for the Christian Way, an organization whose mission is to encourage all people to practice Christian principles in business, politics, and every area of life. drbobwilkerson@bellsouth.net, http://www.peopleforthechristianway.com

MY FRIEND JESUS, PART 1

“You are my friend if you do what I command” (John 15:16).

One of the favorite hymns of millions of Christians is the old hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” It has been popular for many years because we all have a heartfelt need for a friend like him.

He is a unique friend in that as the hymn says, “He bears our sins and griefs.” No matter how much we may be loved by our friends, we have only one friend who can, and did, bear our sins. His name is Jesus. We sinned, but he paid. He took our sin, our shame, and our punishment upon himself on the cross. As God’s word says, “We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

He is unique, too, because he can help us bear our griefs. Jesus knows about grief. Isaiah says of him, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with grief” (53:3). Grief is widespread here on this earth. Death often comes and takes our loved ones, leaving us sad and lonely. When that happens, we need to lean heavily on Jesus. He can help us bear our grief and overcome our sorrow. Oh, what a friend he is.

Dr. Robert Wilkerson is a minister, writer, and founder of People for the Christian Way, an organization whose mission is to encourage all people to practice Christian principles in business, politics, and every area of life. drbobwilkerson@bellsouth.net, http://www.peopleforthechristianway.com

 

MAKING THE POOR POORER

 

“What are those men doing in my backyard?” she said, looking out her kitchen window. After watching them a few minutes, she charged out into the yard. There were three big white men out there with a wrecker that didn’t have a name on it. She yelled, “Get out of my backyard! Get out!” She had an envelope stuffed with money in her hand and said, “Here. Here’s the money. Take it and leave me alone!” The men ignored her. They didn’t say a word, and they didn’t take her money. She told them, “I got to that office one minute late yesterday, and I saw people inside. I banged and banged on the door, but nobody would come, or take my money.

She watched helplessly as the wrecker towed her car away. Trembling and crying, she went back into her kitchen and mumbled to herself, “They ain’t got no right to do that. Why did they do that to me? How am I going to go to work? How am I gonna pick up the babies? What am I going to do?”

This woman was just another victim of the predatory lending industry. She was short of money one week and went to a title loan company for one of their short-term, quick, and easy loans. She didn’t know what she was getting into, or what her small loan would eventually cost her. She was just one of many whose lives are ruined by predatory lenders.

The term “predatory” is an appropriate one for payday and title loan companies. They prey on the poor and low-income people. They make bad situations worse, and drive people to desperation. They target poor people who won’t be able to pay off their loans when they are due. When the borrower can’t pay, the lender offers to roll over the amount owed into a new loan. The borrowers become trapped in a vicious circle of borrowing to pay off one loan after another. Borrowers are incapable of paying off the principle and are forced into paying monthly interest payments, which oftentimes are more than the original loan amounts. Interest rates run 456% and 300% for payday and title loans. These two or four-week loans often keep their borrowers mired in debt for almost a year. It is sad, but true: It is impossible to borrow our way out of debt.

In addition to hurting individuals, predatory lenders hurt their communities. Like the so-called “electronic bingo” parlors, they infest areas where poverty and desperation run high. They decrease property values and increase crime. They locate near each other and become eyesores, making it harder to bring in business and jobs. They ruin a communities’ reputation and lower its quality of life. The only people who profit from them are the loan sharks who own them.

Several communities have started working to rid themselves of these predators. The question is should they be eliminated or capped and more tightly regulated. Personally, I would prefer their total elimination. However, we live in a real world governed by laws and regulations made by politicians, some of whom can be influenced by money. The best the people may hope for, at this time, may be greater regulation and a cap on interest rates at 36%. There seems to be a consensus on that.

You can help make this situation better. Call your representatives. Tell them what you think about predatory lenders and what should be done. Let them know you will be tracking how they vote on this issue. Even better, go to the state capitol, attend the subcommittee meeting, and any subsequent meetings that deal with this issue.

The God we serve is deeply concerned that the poor and needy receive justice. The poor are mentioned more than twenty-five times in the book of Psalms, usually in terms of what the wicked are doing to them, or what God is doing for them. Thus, to be on God’s side is to champion the cause of the poor. Jesus said, “. . . whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me” (Matthew 25:45).

The testimony and financial data shared in this article is based on information shared at a Fair Lending Rally held at the YWCA in Birmingham, Alabama on January 10, 2014.

Dr. Robert Wilkerson is a minister, writer, and founder of People for the Christian Way, an organization whose mission is to encourage all people to practice Christian principles in business, politics, and every area of life. drbobwilkerson@bellsouth.net, http://www.peopleforthechristianway.com