Building on part 5 in this Government and Economics series, it is important for the sake of emphasis to double down on a problem of such enormity and significance that it is crippling our nation. Because the United States is carrying a $23 trillion national debt, it is important to taser you with the severity of this issue. The apostle Paul often repeated himself when he was trying to make a point. Allow me to do the same thing—with an eye toward debt solutions!
The looming, growing national debt is one of the biggest challenges facing you and our country. As I have studied Proverbs over the years, the Holy Spirit has turned my attention to what Solomon, the world’s wisest man who ever lived, would have to say regarding this if he visited the Hill. How would he go about personally encouraging you to solve this foreboding, national problem? If you had coffee with Solomon, what would he share with you? If you approach the book of Proverbs with this question, you might be amazed about what it says.
Remember that Proverbs is written by the head of a nation to advise his son who would soon take over his duties. What principles can we glean from the king’s advice to his son regarding how to best manage a country’s budget? I think you’ll find this study worth the time—a doubling down on this subject of fiscal responsibility. Here is God’s help and advice on how to tame the beast. Read on, beloved.
Scripture speaks of God’s creation and ownership of the world in numerous passages. For instance, God states in Psalm 50:10, “For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.” Psalm 24:1 states, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.”
God’s Word also declares His sovereignty, a theological term describing the unlimited power and control of God over nature, history, and the affairs of mankind (cf. Isaiah 45:9–19, Romans 8:18–39). In truth, God ultimately owns and controls everything!
Furthermore, the Bible states that God made you and me to be His stewards to manage His creation for Him (cf. Genesis 1:26–28). This is an awesome responsibility. Stewardship, as the word is used generally in the Bible, encompasses the idea of managing another person’s property, finances, or household affairs. (See part 2 in this series for more on this concept.) Mature stewards realize and are very sober to the fact that their time, talent, and treasure must ultimately be used to please the one who entrusted the responsibility to them. A close cousin to the biblical concept of being God’s responsible steward is that fact that we are His ambassadors, states 2 Corinthians 5:20.
Biblically then, you and I are the stewards of God’s creation, of what God owns. For those who have trusted in Christ, an attitude of stewardship is a necessary requirement of obedience. Paul portrays this in 1 Corinthians 9:17, stating, “I have a stewardship entrusted to me.” Earlier in the same epistle, he writes under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy” (4:2). I hope you have come to the nation’s capital with this motive and understanding. Do you clearly see yourself entrusted by God with a stewardship responsibility—not only in terms of your personal and familial life but in terms of how you manage the state?
All of the aforementioned stands in stark contrast to the personal motives of self-aggrandizement, which is a hyphenated word encompassing the meanings of self-advancement and personal enlargement. Unfortunately, too many have come to our capital with these wrong motives. They possess a “What’s in it for me?” mentality. Unfortunately for the nation, the self-identifying biblical principles of servanthood, stewardship, and ambassadorship are far from their character and motives. Such self-centered attitudes are the root of all fiscal problems.
What follows are eight guiding principles Solomon would advise you to implement in order to get out of debt.
Having stated these foundational basics, how a public servant handles the money God has entrusted to him—in a personal, familial, and national sense—is critically important. Decisions on the use of money stem from and reflect and serve to manifest one’s beliefs and character, respectively. How then does God want you to handle the money He has entrusted to you?
II. BALANCE THE ANNUAL BUDGET
The first principle Solomon would advise you to incorporate as a public servant is found in Romans 13:8, “Owe nothing to anyone.” Paul is not prohibiting borrowing per se. Notice he didn’t say “borrow from no one.” This understanding of Romans 13:8 is buoyed by the fact that God does make allowance for borrowing in other passages, such as Matthew 5:42 and Luke 6:34. Furthermore, capitalism, as we have seen in previous studies, is scripturally based. And for capitalism to work, there must be good borrowing practices. Paul’s prohibition on owing relates not to prohibiting responsible borrowing per se, but to borrow without the ability to fulfill one’s financial obligations. Accordingly, to be a good steward, one must be wise and plan well to avoid overextension, be it personal or national.
Another passage to add to Romans 13:8 is Proverbs 22:7. Solomon says here that, “The borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” This passage too is often misinterpreted. It doesn’t mean that borrowing is sinful. In fact, its instruction is aimed at lenders more than at borrowers. Context bears out that it is a warning against abusive lending practices. Informed by this passage, America has laws that prohibit lender abuse; borrowers should not (and in America cannot lawfully) be exploited. Solomon is saying to his son Rehoboam that without governmental oversight, lenders will often take unfair advantage of those to whom they lend; they will make borrowers their slaves if they don’t watch out.
Having presented the biblical caution pertaining to both parties in the act of borrowing per Romans 13:8 and Proverbs 22:7, it is appropriate to point out the obvious. History is replete with people and nations who became overly extended, and then when the unforeseen occurred, they had neither a sufficient buffer nor the means to acquire further credit, and financial ruin resulted. They were found characterized by what Paul called owing. Thomas Cook, Britain’s oldest travel agency that filed bankruptcy in September 2019, is a most recent example of this.
And there are many examples of nations lending to other nations and then, when the debt cannot be repaid, the lending nation becomes usurious in collecting, taking unfair advantage, resulting in various kinds of enslavement.
When one’s desired “lifestyle” requires more money than one’s income provides, it is extremely unwise for an individual, a family, or a nation to borrow in order to maintain that “lifestyle” versus immediately cutting expenses to a level below income. It is bad stewardship and downright foolishness for an individual, family, or country to borrow in order to cover expenses that far, far exceed income—especially when that is necessary in order for the government to cover costs that God never intended for the government to commit to like social programs! Those who borrow in this way not only disappoint God, who appointed them, but the voting populace who elected them (that is, if they are not the recipient of government handouts).
The first biblical principle then is for public servants to balance the annual budget, lest they immediately or eventually end up owing—and potentially enslaved in some form—to another person or nation. Don’t ever allow yourself or your nation to reach the degraded status of being someone who is in arrears by your misuse of credit.
Historically, many divorces are attributable to debt: in terms of spouse to spouse, borrower to bank, and constituency to leader.
The first principle Solomon would share over coffee with you for eliminating a $23 trillion debt is to balance the budget! Public servants must first give attention to plugging the accumulating fiscal leakage—it must plug the dam for heaven’s sake!—before any of the following biblical remedies can be enacted successfully. The solutions that follow will not do much good if expenditures remain out of control.
III. FURTHER INCENTIVIZE WORKERS AND JOB CREATORS
The next priority Solomon would share to reduce the debt would be to incentivize industry—especially small businesses since they create most of the new jobs in America. This is of fundamental importance and priority to creating a much larger economy. We all know that for commerce to compete on a worldwide scale, a country must possess adequate raw materials, energy, capital, limited taxation, and less regulation, all at extremely low costs and levels, respectively. A nation must have lower costs than other nations in order to compete successfully. Those are foundational elements to creating value-added products and services in order to increase market share. And most importantly, all of the aforementioned economic qualities can only stem from public servants who possess the prerequisite biblical perspective of God commanding those He created in His image to subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28).
Most essential and fundamental to incentivizing commerce in order to create a vastly larger economy, which serves to make the debt a lower percentage of the overall GDP, is the necessity of incentivizing the personal industriousness of the leaders and workers in and throughout commerce. Note what Solomon says in Proverbs 10:4 in this regard:
“Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.”
Industrious, diligent individuals have made our nation rich. It follows that nations whose governments incentivize people to be industrious will have more wealth than will communist and socialist nations whose governments get in the way by denying private property rights and by impeding progress through ludicrous and burdensome regulation. This is the major reason socialism always fails. Solomon states this necessary principle of personal industriousness also in 13:11:
“Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles, but the one who gathers by labor increases it.”
Biblically, wealth is related to labor. The result of laboring hard—by the sweat of one’s brow (cf. Genesis 3:19 ff.) is wealth creation. Proverbs 28:19 reiterates this principle:
“He who tills his land will have plenty of food, but he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty.”
Accordingly, if this is God’s formula for wealth creation, when having coffee with Solomon, he would say (since he already has a couple thousand years ago!) that government leaders must effectively incentivize individuals, industries, and small businesses in order to create a vastly larger economy. This includes unencumbering them from the unnecessary burdens of governmental regulations. You can’t have one without the other! Solomon states in Proverbs 14:4 that “much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.”
By increasing labor, the current $23 trillion debt would become proportionately reduced and less difficult to pay off. By way of illustration, if the economy were to increase by seven percent a year (a realistic goal if job creators are incentivized and unshackled from governmental regulations and other nations are no longer allowed to trade with us unfairly), the American economy would become twice as large in just ten years, and the $23 trillion debt would be proportionately one-half its present size relative to the gross national product (assuming the enactment of principle 1, a balanced budget with no increase in the debt load). In twenty years, the national debt would become relatively one-quarter its present size, even if it were not reduced by a single penny in that time span! And assuming the tax rates were unchanged for the sake of the discussion, the Treasury income would be four times as great as well since the economy would be four times larger! Accordingly, there would be ample money to pay off the debt (and this does not take inflation into consideration).
Summarily, Solomon would say that the first things a public servant must accomplish in order to bring down the national debt are to balance the budget and then secondly grow the economy.
IV. INCENTIVIZE POPULATION GROWTH
The false religion of “environmentalism” wars against this idea, but radical environmentalists are wrong; God has provided the earth with plentiful resources until His Second Coming wherein thereinafter He will make a new heaven and a new earth. Add to that, only five percent of America’s geographical landscape is populated at this time. To the contrary, both King David (Psalm 127:5) and God Himself (Genesis 1:28) stated the following timeless principles:
“Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”
“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.”
A full quiver was commonly understood to mean five children. Make no mistake here: Scripture is pro-growth and pro-large family! Environmental religionists are dead wrong on this matter—and the demographic realities of their biblically uninformed beliefs will soon come to roost in the voter booth, in that Christians have had many kids and environmentalists, very few.
Now consider this based on that presage: any debt is easier to pay back if there is a large number of responsible cosigners. The equation is similar to the previous point: in this case, there is less per capita debt when the population is larger. It follows then that policy makers would be wise to incentivize the kinds of marriages of procreation-able couples who have the ability to biologically reproduce! In addition to incentivizing men marrying women and women marrying men, would not Solomon also advocate for much larger child tax credits relative to the same? These are not radical measures; these are biblically based measures! Such incentives are essential, Solomon would say, to getting the country out of its massive debt.
V. INCENTIVIZE GAINING KNOWLEDGE
In Proverbs 24:4, Solomon speaks to the value of education—and how gaining knowledge is directly connected to wealth creation:
“And by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”
America’s education system with its world-renowned research universities is a major component of its economic genius; the seedbed of innovation is the laboratory. It follows that wise public servants will even more so incentivize education. Accordingly, laws that enable vouchers and tax credits to fund tuition, to create competition and capitalization for existing and additional schools, make total sense. In the long run, these kinds of educational choice incentives create a smarter, more competitive, productive, and efficient workforce. It is smart public policy: knowledge via education is a huge aspect of creating value-added products—a necessity to the stimulation and functioning of the two previous points as they relate to the objective of national debt reduction.
VI. INCENTIVIZE OBEDIENCE TO GOD
Obviously the institution of government cannot cause an individual to be obedient to God in his heart, but it can incentivize the institution God has ordained to accomplish that: His Church.
Take note of the following Proverbs (8:18–21) and what results from wisdom (wisdom here, is personified by Solomon) and obedience to God:
“Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, and my yield better than choicest silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice, to endow those who love me with wealth, that I may fill their treasuries.”
What a strong passage relative to this study! Solomon would look you in the eyes and quote that from memory to you over your second cup of coffee! This principle is often overlooked in secular books on wealth creation. But it is an absolutely essential point to ponder in relation to what this study is about! The blessings of God on individuals as well as their nation’s treasuries stem from personal wisdom and godly character. It is not the pursuit of wealth that makes a nation great; it is the pursuit of wisdom. Wealth then is a by-product, says Solomon. Don’t miss this insight.
Much of the Old Testament (OT), and especially Psalm 1 and Joshua 1, also serve to indicate a definite connection between a people living in obedience to God’s commands and receiving His blessings. In other words, when the individual’s first action is to honor God—which includes good stewardship—a person is in a position to receive God’s blessings. To increase your acumen in stewardship, ask yourself these questions when contemplating financial decisions:
Is it wise?
Is it unselfish?
Is it responsible?
These simple questions will help you make good, prudent financial decisions that will bless and prosper you both personally and in the affairs of the state. It is obedience to God, not riches, that needs to be the clear focus of a nation which God determines to bless. Notice Proverbs 11:28:
“He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.”
Again, it is the consequences of righteousness that produce wealth, not the pursuit of wealth. This is the same idea proffered by Jesus in the Beatitudes. Notice Matthew 5:6 in this regard:
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
Satisfaction in life is not gained by the pursuit of satisfaction; it, too, is the result of pursuing righteousness. Again, the highest objective of a nation must be righteousness, not wealth. Add Proverbs 13:13 and 21:
“The one who despises the word will be in debt to it, but the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.”
“Adversity pursues sinners, but the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity.”
These four Proverbs are akin to the better-known Proverb 14:34 that says, “righteousness exalts a nation.” America has been blessed because our nation has historically revered God’s commandments. It follows that Solomon would advise public servants today to further incentivize religious institutions via tax deductible giving and by other creative means in order to encourage them to evangelize, reconstitute, build, and maintain citizens of character—for sure, do not remove their tax-deductible status! To do so would damage a basic, historic, necessary engine in American society. Solomon attests in the aforementioned Proverbs that without character in the citizenry a country will never prosper (or get out of debt). And since the institution of government is not equipped to create the inner character of citizens (the church is causal and the government is reflective), government must therefore incentivize all not-for-profits for its own preservation and betterment.
As if the aforementioned were not convincing enough, this critical need and perspective to incentivize obedience to God is further dimensioned and illuminated by Solomon in 28:2:
“By the transgression of a land many are its princes, but by a man of understanding and knowledge, so it endures.”
This is a huge, further insight! There is a definite cause-and-effect relationship between the overall transgressions or conversely, righteousness, of a nation (14:34) and its leader(s) that God chooses to give it. (Keep in mind Psalm 75:7 states, “But God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another.” cf. Acts 17:26.) This is the nationally applied principle of sowing and reaping: Solomon says that when a nation as a whole (i.e., its culture) is set on transgressing God’s ways, that nation will end up with a leader, or often many divisive voices, with ungodly ideas who is woefully and increasingly lacking in God’s understanding and knowledge! Such is certainly the case in America today. Another plain and simple way of saying it is that:
A nation and its people get what they deserve.
God sees to that. It follows then that public servants are wise to incentivize a nation’s citizenry to be obedient to God. Make no mistake: a disobedient nation ends up with disobedient leaders who will make things worse, rather than in this case, solve its debt crisis.
VII. LEGISLATE GOVERNMENT SAVINGS
Proverbs 6:6–8 is clear about the wisdom of preparing for the future—and being a self-starter in that regard:
“Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer, and gathers her provision in the harvest.”
Like a wise individual or family, a responsible government should save resources for the future. My favorite insight into the above verse is that the ants save and invest habitually, without someone having to tell them! Most of us are familiar with the principles of compounding. Those who have the discipline to save and invest benefit from compounding— our money works for us, versus having to work for our money. Those who are foolish spend more than they earn, are constantly over budget, and borrow and pay interest to someone else! They are always struggling to makes ends meet. As blessed as the United States is in terms of income and wealth, we should possess huge savings to draw from on a rainy day rather than running huge deficits. How utterly foolish we have been as a nation in this regard.
To illustrate the discipline of compounding, if Congress set aside a hundred billion dollars a year and invested it with an average yield of seven percent, in forty years it would be worth $1.6 trillion!
Think of what would happen to our national economy if we simply set aside that amount every year for the future! By saving a very small fraction of the Treasury’s income every year for twenty years, in just one or two generations, taxes would be obsolete—all because as policymakers you took seriously Solomon’s advice to observe the ant. In such a world, think about how much more disposable income individuals, families, and churches would possess to help the poor!
Which of you will lead our nation into a great awakening in government funding?
Setting money aside for the future is something that is practiced in God’s other ordained institutions: wise couples, families, businesses, and ministries endow themselves, why not the government also? Only fools spend every dime and borrow to support beyond-their-means lifestyles. Wise people observe ants.
VIII. INCENTIVIZE GENEROSITY
The following are passages that reveal God’s compassionate heart to meet the needs of the poor—and how He expects us to assist in that regard. Closely examine the context of the passages that follow; they are not speaking about the institution of government meeting the needs of the poor; that is not what Solomon is instructing Israel’s next leader to do. Rather, these passages are addressing the generosity God demands of and from individuals—and as that relates to this week’s study, how such obedience leads to material blessing. It follows that when a nation is full of individuals, families, and churches who God is blessing, that the whole of the nation is blessed as well.
“He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9)
“He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.” (Proverbs 28:27)
“How blessed is he who considers the helpless; the Lord will deliver him in a day of trouble.” (Psalm 41:1)
“But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)
In fact, nowhere in Scripture does God command that His institution of government meet the needs of the poor. Rather, He tasks individuals, families, and churches with that responsibility.
IX. INCENTIVIZE, PENALIZE, AND MEMORIALIZE BUDGET STEWARDSHIP
Since getting out of debt requires consistent planning and execution over periods of time that are generally longer than election cycles, I think Solomon would say during his third cup of coffee that self-imposed laws that incentivize a balanced budget and the creation of policies—to the heightened degree of memorializing it with a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget—are good things. Such memorialization would transcend terms in office. Notice what he tells the future leader of Israel in Proverbs 21:5 in this regard:
“The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.”
I think this passage exegetically supports the point I just made. In fact, since this is such an important matter in our nation at this time, the keepers of the budget should tie their remuneration to the achievement of the aforementioned— both in an upside and downside sense. To illustrate: if Congress passed a balanced budget and policies that led to a seven percent increase in GDP, then every legislator should receive a seven percent bonus the following fiscal year. The reverse should be the case as well. Such would lead to better diligence in planning, policy enactment of the aforementioned, and subsequent national advantage.
All eight of these Solomonic advisements are steeped and based in Scripture. When Solomon led Israel with this kind of wisdom, they were part of the reason Israel was in her glory days.
Perhaps this is best summarized by the words of the Queen of Sheba when she visited Israel during Solomon’s reign. Notice 1 Kings 10:6–9 in this regard. (It’s not as if you are having coffee with someone who doesn’t know what he is talking about or lacks huge illustrations of what he preaches!)
“Then she said to the king, ‘It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. Nevertheless I did not believe the reports, until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. You exceed in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard. How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom. Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel; because the Lord loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.’”
Likened to the glory of Ancient Israel, America too can become a fiscally stable nation once again—if we enact biblical wisdom in order to tame our debt. This cannot and should not be equated with spiritual renewal; that is another subject. But such fiscal reforms will not inhibit that greater need. Here then in review are the eight pieces of advice Solomon would afford us if he visited the Hill today. Which ones will you work to enact?
A SUMMARY OF SOLOMON’S ADVICE ON TAMING THE DEBT
- Balance the annual budget
- Incentivize workers and job creators
- Incentivize population growth
- Incentivize gaining knowledge
- Incentivize obedience to God
- Legislate government savings
- Incentivize generosity
- Incentivize, penalize, and memorialize budget stewardship
Each of these eight biblically based principles, if enacted, will garner God’s blessing and help us to tame the beast we have created. May God give you the strength for the journey, the victory, and the personal and corporate blessing as a result. Amen!
Next week in part 7, we examine five biblical principles for tax policy. cm