John Steward of Jesus
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(Farm) Debt Crisis

February 14, 1985

We will better understand the “farm crisis” if we call it what it is--a debt crisis.

This crisis is essentially no different from the hundreds of such crises which have occurred before, in times of "debt restructuring.” It is one more bust after one more boom.

Hundreds of times in history credit expansion has brought delusions of prosperity, followed every time by a bust that is painfully real. Hundreds of times the establishment economists and lenders have assured hesitant debtors that modern economic science would prevent a painful bust. Hundreds of times they have blamed the resulting bust on “unexpected economic changes” or “factors beyond our control.”

Sometimes they schedule well-publicized meetings to look for a “solution” to the “unexpected problem.”

If this were a farming crisis, all farmers would be in a state of crisis.

But the farmer who has no debts is not in a state of crisis today. He may not be living in luxury, but he is earning a living. He would be doing better if it were not for all the price distortions caused by the boom-bust cycle and by government intervention. Yet the essentials of land, labor, weather, and fertility permit him to be productive. God remains good.

I do not wish to minimize the agony of the victims. Because most of us have at times believed the lie of the credit siren, we must be understanding, sympathetic, forgiving, and supportive. Pleas that we be sensitive and helpful must be heard and answered. Otherwise the debtors will continue to believe that their only hope lies with the lenders who are abandoning them.

Nevertheless, we should not be fatalistic and blame the crisis on unforeseen factors beyond our control. Such fatalism destroys hope and leads to despair. Who would want to farm if success were so elusive, and failure so capricious?

If we realize that this crisis is only another example of what eventually happens to debtors after an expansion of credit which does not explode into even worse evils, perhaps some of our children will learn lessons which will permit them to farm with confidence in the future.

The essential lesson is summarized in Romans 13:8:
“Owe no man anything” (KJV), or,
“Let no debt remain outstanding”(NIV).