Six years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers signalled the beginning of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the UK’s bank balance is still heavily in the red. Although the economy is growing, public sector net borrowing came to £11.6 billion in August, adding to our already staggering total of £1.3 trillion national debt. It will be some years before the national debt stops increasing, let alone starts to shrink. Labour have just put forward a ‘10-year plan’ to get the UK back on its feet; it remains to be seen whether this is optimistic or not.
Given the state of our national piggybank, perhaps it’s not surprising that our personal finances aren’t in much better shape, either. We owe a total of £1.45 trillion – £55,000 for every household. Credit card debt is around £2,200 per household. This year has seen a consistent rise in demand for unsecured loans.
Nationally and individually, we have a love-hate relationship with debt. We can’t do without it, but it comes with a high price attached – and not just in the interest payments we make every month. Debt and interest fundamentally affect the most important aspects of our day-to-day lives: where we live; who works, where we work and for how long; how much time we have to spend with our families as a result; the stresses we face from various different planned and unplanned expenses; the opportunities we can afford now and later in life.
Since the Jubilee Centre’s earliest days, a major strand of our work has been around debt and interest, because the Bible points to a very different type of society than our debt-centric one. It’s a society in which debt is limited and interest is banned – something unthinkable to us today – because unlimited debt entrenches inequality and destroys relationships. It fragments families, undermining the roots they have in shared property in a community. Leviticus 25, one of the Bible’s less popular texts, details the economic foundations of the society God wants: a radically different vision.
As part of our continuing aim to communicate how we can apply our faith meaningfully, we are creating a new series of ‘Thinking Biblically About…’ booklets. These are short, accessible guides that are intended to give readers the tools they need to explore key areas of life from a biblical perspective. The first one, ‘Debt and Interest’ is now printed and ready to send out!
Do keep an eye out for this booklet and others in the series, which we will be making available via the website in due course.