With prices of utility bills and food and drink rising, I know I’m not alone in struggling to pay my bills at the moment. I’m in the worst position I’ve ever been in financially — at the end of my overdraft and having to sell whatever I can to afford even the most basic groceries.
I still regard myself as living with abundance. I can turn on a tap whenever I need a drink, and fortunately I have an emergency food supply which means I will survive (God willing) until I can afford to do some shopping again. We must always be thankful for the way God provides for us each and every day. He gives abundantly to whoever He will and sparingly to whoever He will. Such are the ways of God; the Almighty; the controller of all.
Being at the end of my overdraft got me thinking about debt and borrowing. In both the Bible and the Qur’an, usury is denounced. Usury is “the action or practice of lending money at unreasonably high rates of interest” (Oxford Languages). There are companies I have seen charging upwards of 300% interest on loan repayments, which is surely the very definition of extortionate. I am no expert when it comes to the intricacies of the financial system, but anyone can see that such rates serve to take advantage of people in need.
I went through the process of applying for several loans in recent weeks with the motivation that I would be able to fund the growth of my author business and get out of my overdraft at the same time. I had problems with my loan applications due to the credit checks that lenders carry out. Even though when I ran a check myself I found that my credit score was classed as ‘pretty good’, I was still refused a loan by one lender despite the interest rate being very high (which is the lender’s security when offering loans which they consider to be higher risk). The lender’s credit check had seemingly produced a score of ‘not good enough’.
Increasingly, loan applications are rejected on the basis of a credit check alone. Not only loan applications, but also some purchases of products. I recently discovered that credit checks are part of the online checkout process of at least one leading broadband provider here in the UK. Fail the credit check and you are not entitled to broadband at the best rates, it would seem.
Surely, the practice of running automated credit checks is a great evil. They do not take into account the nuances of personal circumstances and they discriminate against people in an unkind and unfair way. In reality, there is no reason to believe that someone who has struggled financially in the past will necessarily do so again, which is presumably the assumption made by those who run these credit checks. In reality, the past does not determine the future: God determines the unfolding of all events and there are always infinite possibilities available to God. One’s life can always unfold in any number of different ways in any given moment and automated credit checks do not allow for this reality.
Also, the reasons why you are given your particular credit rating are kept hidden, so you may well feel mystified as to how the credit checker arrived at their decision. And the automation of credit checks creates an unfair power balance between lender (or retailer) and applicant — if the credit check is negative, this essentially silences the applicant without giving them any obvious way to dispute the decision, putting them at the absolute mercy of the lender and the website/software that carry out the check.
I suppose it’s no secret that love of money has corrupted the world. The whole idea of profiting from the misery of others is truly a terrible evil and is one of the reasons why I think the world is more corrupt now than it was in the days of Noah. I have experienced this first-hand in the mental health system, where drugs are used to control human emotions that are perfectly natural, with pharmaceutical companies profiting while patients suffer terrible effects of medication that they are persuaded or sometimes forced to take.
It’s interesting to consider whether money is in itself evil. I’m mindful that money has been part of the makeup of human societies for a long time, and its function within society is exemplified in both the Bible and the Qur’an. We have the Parable of the Talents in the Bible (Matthew 25:14-30) which would appear to normalise the existence of a monetary system, and I’m mindful of Matthew 22:21 — “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” — which does the same. I don’t think Jesus ever denounced money itself, though he did drive the money changers out of the temple (see Matthew 21:12-17) so was clearly against money corrupting the things of God. In the Qur’an, regulations about bride gifts and inheritance laws are detailed, charitable giving is mentioned repeatedly, as is going in search of ‘God’s bounty’, all of which have financial implications. I don’t recall anything in the Qur’an that denounces money itself.
While I’m not aware of any instructions in the Bible or the Qur’an which denounce the existence of a monetary system entirely, the Bible does say that you cannot worship both God and money (Matthew 6:24), and greed is considered sinful (see, for example, Luke 16:19-31). I have a sense that the world is out of control at the moment, and love of money — leading to corruption in both business and healthcare — is perhaps the root of the problem.
Of course, God is not surprised. God is in control of all things, always. The rule of Satan on Earth is part of the grand story that God is unfolding on our planet and of which we are all a part. We may well be living in the End Times, and Jesus may well be returning to Earth soon. God only knows. According to the emphatic teaching of the Qur’an, God will judge every human being on a Day that will measure a thousand years in our reckoning (Surah 32:5), though God chooses to keep the timing of that Day secret. Those who have corrupted the financial system will have to justify their actions, which they will find are laid out in a clear record.
I’m glad that God stopped me from pursuing a recent loan application after I prayed about whether or not I should proceed. Being in greater debt would have caused me additional stress, and while I’m always happy to take on stress for purposes that make the Lord glad, I would never want to do so if such an undertaking would be feeding into a system that is corrupt. In the short-term, I am struggling even to afford to eat, but I don’t mind at all, as long as my thoughts, words, and actions are pleasing to God.
May God be merciful to all. Amen.
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