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  • Britton Carter

The Bible Doesn't Mention Student Loans

Earlier today, the United States Supreme Court rejected President Biden’s executive order forgiving student loan debt. Some people are thrilled. Others are incensed. Welcome to the highly polarized world of American politics.

Both sides present compelling cases for their respective positions. Many cheering the decision argue that individuals who take out a loan should pay it back, rather than handing off that responsibility to American taxpayers. Conversely, many deriding the decision argue that the cost of American higher education is ridiculous, that the burden of paying astronomical student loans delays a graduate’s ability to buy a home and reach other financial milestones, and that alleviating the national strain of student loan debt will spur the economy.

However, as the American public has debated this issue over the past few months and years, I have occasionally stumbled across arguments for one side or the other that appeal to Scripture. Some argue that the Bible says to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17) and to pay your debts. Others argue that Christians should favor student debt forgiveness in light of the insurmountable debt our Father in heaven has forgiven us.

I’m going to cautiously wade into the heated debate with one simple request: please stop misappropriating Scripture for your political conversations.

I’ve read the Bible a few times, and it turns out that student loan forgiveness references are surprisingly sparse. The same goes for many of our Republican-vs-Democrat issues. The Bible is less definitive on this issue than we sometimes act; its gray area is greater than we occasionally allow. In many cases—as in this case—we have the flexibility to weigh the wisdom of a particular policy decision without removing a Bible verse from its context and slamming it on the table as a trump card in a political debate.

That isn’t to say that the Bible is silent on this issue. For example, the book of Proverbs—a collection of wise sayings—is littered with instructions to pay one’s debts, to avoid debts, and to treat others fairly when lending money. And the Bible does talk about forgiving others as God has forgiven us, although such references don’t have in mind the forgiveness of loans. The problem is not that the Bible is silent—it’s that many policy issues, such as student loan forgiveness, are issues of wisdom for which the Bible provides room for disagreement.

We can’t act like the Bible is black-and-white on issues where it’s gray. We have to make room in our discussions—and our churches—for substantive disagreement on wisdom issues. We should happily worship alongside brothers and sisters who think and vote opposite of us on a variety of political matters. They aren’t sinning by disagreeing; they simply see the issues differently.

Where the Bible is clear, we must be clear. Even if we incur ridicule and disdain, we must stand firm on the Word of God. But where the Bible is less definitive, we don’t need to invoke out-of-context verses to insinuate that God is on our side in the argument. In such cases, let’s debate the merits and wisdom of a policy, and let’s remember that each side can disagree and still worship together on equal standing in the kingdom of God.

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