Is Forgiveness of Student Loans Biblical?

The Christian response to President Biden’s fulfillment of his promise to forgive between $10,000 and $20,000 per borrower in student loan debt for qualified households was to cite Old Testament concepts such as jubilee and New Testament stories about Jesus.

Shortly after the announcement, debt-related searches on increased 20 times above average. Four verses supporting and opposing loan forgiveness rose to the top of the search results. The first verse was Exodus 22:25, which states, “If you lend money to a needy member of my people among you, do not treat it as a business transaction; do not charge interest.” The next verse was Deuteronomy 23:19, which states, “Do not charge a fellow Israelite interest on money, food, or anything else that can earn interest.” The third verse was Psalm 37:21, which reads, “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give freely.” The fourth most popular verse was Ecclesiastes 5:5, which states, “It is better not to make a vow than to make one and break it.”

Increased searches included “paying debt,” “charging interest,” “forgiveness of debt,” “debt paid in full,” “usury,” and “paying your debts.” Three Christian thinkers discussed scriptural principles and how they inform our positions on debt forgiveness by the government.

Love as Christ has loved us

Matt Tebe, an Indianapolis-based Anglican priest and co-founder of Gravity Leadership, believes that the existence of Christians is predicated on debt forgiveness. Christ loved us so much that He died for our sins, and He desired for us to reciprocate that love. To love as Jesus does is to participate in God’s debt-eliminating kingdom economy.

In Luke 11:4 and Matthew 6:12, Jesus instructs us to pray for the forgiveness of our debts, just as we forgive those who owe us. These verses refer to social and economic obligations. Our modern, secular perspective frequently separates the material from the spiritual. The economic and social aspects of God’s kingdom are nonetheless spiritual.

How would it appear to take God’s condemnation of debt-inducing predatory lending and usury seriously? To return ancestors’ land and forgive debts as participation in God’s kingdom? In Mark 12:40 and Luke 6:24-26, the Bible attributes greater moral depravity to the rich who unjustly take from the poor and hoard their wealth than to the poor who are in debt. As Christians, we should commit to forgiving debt that benefits the poor rather than the wealthy, in the spirit of Jesus’ love for the neighbor.

Student loan forgiveness is comparable to jubilee

Paul Matzko, a Research Fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., believes that some will agree with President Biden’s decision and compare it to the biblical concept of jubilee. In ancient Israel, this celebration occurred every 50 years and was a year of debt forgiveness. It is debatable, however, whether a law that focused on land ownership in Israel to prevent residents from amassing wealth, power, or land should be implemented in contemporary America.

It’s even more questionable if a biblical concept of sabbath and jubilee that supplied the dispossessed and poor is an applicable comparison to student loan debt forgiveness, which redistributes wealth from non-college-educated taxpayers to privileged college-educated workers with higher earning potential. Matzko suggests that we should oppose the desire of Christian activists to sanctify our political beliefs. There is no specific biblical position on student loan debt forgiveness, but we should not look to special revelations for guidance.

Is student loan cancellation fair?

Economic justice and forgiveness, according to Asian American Christian Collaborative editorial director Joshua Wu, are biblical concepts. Referencing the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18, there is some debate among Christians as to whether student loan debt forgiveness is the best way to express these ideas.

With most economists expecting this policy to increase inflationary pressures, is the cost of this relief for some worth how it will affect others? Would the expected $300 million cost be better spent on other issues, like expanding the child tax credit to reduce childhood poverty? The complexity of public policy means it’s challenging to define biblical policies. Christians should avoid pursuing biblical proof texts to justify their policy likings. Instead, we should talk with others about our biblical convictions, look into cost-benefit analysis, and weigh the consequences as we hope for the common good and human flourishing.

Obedience to God’s law meant guaranteeing that institutions helped the poor instead of oppressing them because God is always the poor’s protector, defender, and liberator. This concept has numerous effects when it comes to debt. For example, the Hebrew Scriptures strongly ban taking interest on a loan. This would have been one of the most obvious ways to oppress the poor in an agrarian society. Farmers would look for loans in an agricultural community when their crops were failing and other mishaps that could mean the distinction between life and death. The ban on usury was prolonged into Christian times and is synonymous with unreasonably high-interest rates.

President Biden’s decision to forgive student loan debt has received criticism from two separate sides, both based on fairness. Some say that this action favors people who attended college over two-thirds of adults who didn’t, which has some validity. The second argument is that this decision is unfair to people who have already paid their debts. This argument says that you should pay what you owe.
On the concept of whether student loan debt forgiveness is biblical, the answer is yes. In the Bible, debt weighed down the poor, who needed relief more than others. The same could be said for those struggling to repay their student loans. Jesus wouldn’t want His children to be weighed down by debt, especially if it’s holding them back from long-term goals. Some would argue that forgiving student loan debt is unfair, but debt relief is a way to restore the universal destination of good among God’s children.

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Pastor James Costa earned his degree in Theology from the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. After graduation, he dedicated his career to serving as a pastor in Waco, Texas. Pastor James founded Faith Activist during the COVID-19 pandemic when he faced challenges in reaching people due to the lockdowns. He realized the potential of digital media to connect with people and spread the message of the gospel, leading him to create an online platform to help people grow in their faith and engage with other believers.