In rapid fire succession, over the past week, I have received the following notice from numerous credit card issuers:
"We are sending you this notice to let you know that we will be making some changes to your credit card account in response to market conditions and to maintain profitability on your account."
With that wonderful introduction each of these notices proceeded to inform me of a hike in the interest rate of between 3 and 6% on the card with an "opt out" clause if I choose to close the account and pay it off at the current rate. This whole thing makes my blood boil and causes me to have zero confidence that those who run these institutions have a clue how to do their job.
If I were a deadbeat who never paid his bills I could easily understand a financial institution taking these actions. But, to the contrary, we have NEVER been late on a payment and we have ALWAYS paid 3 to 4 times the minimum payment. What is the reward for being a good customer? To first have our credit lines frozen (which happened two months ago) and now to slap dramatic interest rates on them. Already the final step has started which is the closing of accounts for no reason other than FEAR.
What has happened to us has happened to millions upon millions of other "good" customers across this land. Through no fault of our own, we are being penalized for the mistakes made by these banks in loaning money to people they should not have loaned it to and are now being hit with a tidal wave of defaults on mortgages and other loans. The "changing market conditions" are of their own doing and not mine.
These places are violating the rules God set forth in His Word regarding usury in order to "maintain profitability on my account". Where was there concern about this when they dangled offers of zero percent interest in front of me? What profit did they expect to gain from loaning money at no interest to someone? What these institutions are saying by their actions is plain and clear. They no longer want my business because they have already decided that I am going to default on my obligations. How do they know this? Are they using crystal balls or what?
The current default rates on credit cards are absurd. The rates are approaching 30% for someone who misses ONE payment. Those of us who got sucker punched into running up balances when rates were 5 or 6% suddenly are now facing everyday rates of 12-15% and the prospect of 30% rates if for some reason one payment is late.
In times past (even a year or so ago), everyone would simply take out a home equity loan to pay off these bills and that would be the end of it. But, due to the value of everyone's home suddenly dropping by 30% or more, that option is no longer available. Most people's investments and retirement accounts have lost well over 50% in the past year so they are no longer available to use to pay off credit card bills. What has happened, if this were a chess game is-check mate. The banks win.
In 2005 Congress passed and the President signed into law a bill which made it very difficult to declare bankruptcy and still keep one's home. Prior to this bill, people could declare chapter 7 bankruptcy and at least still have a place to live. Although still legally possible, it is very difficult to do now. Thus, the very thing God set up in His Word as the way for someone hopelessly in debt to find relief-bankruptcy, has been so twisted around that it really isn't an option for many homeowners.
Why were there 3.1 million households in the United States who submitted foreclosure filings in 2008? Mainly because of the 2005 bankruptcy law change. 1 in 54 United States households filed for foreclosure on their homes in 2008. That is an absolutely astounding statistic. Of these, 861,664 homes were actually foreclosed upon. The truly amazing statistic is that there were only 640,000 new homes built in the United States last year. There were more than 200,000 more homes lost in foreclosure than were built last year.
Even as I write this the United States House of Representatives is gloating over their passage of a bill that is supposed to pump close to 900 billion dollars into the United States economy and somehow miraculously save thousands of homeowners from losing their homes. Anyone believing this propaganda needs to get in touch with me for I have some oceanfront property in Montana to sell you.
Just today the Federal Reserve voted to keep the rate they charge banks to borrow money at nearly zero percent. How is it that the lower the Fed rate goes, the higher rates go on credit card debt and other unsecured debt? I have heard recently that many people's student loans have interest rates over 25%. How on earth are people supposed to pay back debt when the usury is this high? The answer is that they never will pay it back. At best, they will spend years paying interest only on their debts.
There you have the dirty secret let out for all to see. In this cleverly devised scheme, all that has happened is that this country has been taken to its knees by taskmasters more cruel than those in Egypt during Moses' time. Those who call the shots at the highest levels of finance have made sure that the common person will become nothing but a slave to the debt it is impossible for them to ever repay. In time, they will have no choice but to turn over their home as the only means to repay their debts.
There are many ugly sins flushing America down the drain, far too many to chronicle in this post. But, if one studies the Old Testament, it is clearly apparent that God's tolerance toward those who saddle His people with excessive usury is limited and His wrath is great. Most people who get hopelessly in debt end up that way because of medical bills, loss of employment, a spouse leaving or dying or a whole host of other legitimate reasons. Most people do not just charge everything never intending to pay for it.
Yet, the laws that were passed in 2005 assumed everyone who ever tried to declare bankruptcy was abusing the system and was just trying to run away from paying their obligations. Statistics have shown just the opposite was and is true. The sad reality is that the law passed just four years ago has ended up throwing nearly one million families out on the street as their homes have been taken from them to pay debts they many times incurred only through disasters they could do nothing about.
It is high time for believers to cease judging those who are in financial straits and HELP THEM. There is not a subject which arouses the scorn of goody two shoed Christians faster than hearing of a believer daring to declare bankruptcy. "How dare they run away from their obligations" is the refrain heard in churches all across this land and has been for years. Those who have fallen upon hard times financially have been treated as outcasts, aliens and the worst of sinners.
God set up bankruptcy as a means to wipe clean the slate every seven years. Read Leviticus 25:39 along with Deuteronomy 15:1, 2, 7-10, 12 and 13. Despite there clearly being Biblical basis for bankruptcy on occasions, the vast majority of Christians still look upon any believer who has actually gone through the process as the scum of the earth. Why and how such a judgmental and condescending attitude has been allowed to flourish within the church is where the sin actually lies.
If the church were doing its job and taking care of its own, then perhaps so many believers would not have to go to the world and either declare bankruptcy or end up homeless and living on the streets and in shelters. Unless the church wakes up and starts making a deliberate effort to help its members who are in financial trouble via interest free loans, food drives, garage sales and round the clock prayer vigils-it is not doing its job.
God is not pleased with what is happening financially. He will not allow this to go on indefinitely. His anger and wrath toward those who are despitefully abusing the poor will soon spill over in judgment upon those responsible. Read your Bible and look at the depth of compassion God holds for those who are poorest in this life. It is high time the church looks at God's example and manifests the same kind of compassion towards its members instead of helping them pack their belongings to go live on the streets.
Obviously this post is not going anywhere, so before it gets buried and never seen again, let me at least say that I know most Christians do not want to hear about this kind of stuff. Most Christians get terribly uncomfortable hearing about situations that either do not involve them or they feel are brought on by sin in another. As always seems to come up in these types of situations, the question comes down to whether we are going to sit back and point fingers at those who stumble and fall or get off our rear ends and reach out to help them get back up.
I could write a book on just the experiences I have been involved in regarding heartless and hard Christians and what they have done to destroy another believer's faith through their judgmental attitude and holier than thou arrogance. I have personally had to sit for hours counseling people who were ready to commit suicide due to the rejection they received at their church after falling into some sin. I have had to perform funerals for believers who DID commit suicide because they were treated like dirt in their church for having stumbled.
I have watched groups of Christians absolutely come unglued as they refused to acknowledge something like depression being a legitimate disease. I once watched a pastor tell the usher to lock the church door so as to not allow a family of a different color into the church. This was not in the 60's, it was three years ago.
Christians have a very difficult time knowing how to deal with others who are "different" whether through actions or looks. This to me is incredible. There should be no issue. We should reach out and help each other. We are told to bear one another's burdens not reject them.
Please remember if 1 in 54 households are in some stage of foreclosure on their home, odds favor that a great number of these people are Christian brothers and sisters and many may attend your assembly. Other than losing a child or spouse, there is no more traumatic experience in this life than losing your home. Please, if you know someone in this situation reach out and help instead of judging them and rejecting them.
Anyway, I tried to bring up a very difficult and "touchy" subject here and it really doesn't surprise me to see it not have any legs. At least it is here for someone doing a search and perhaps they will receive the benefits this strong message was designed to give to all.
This is a topic near and dear to my heart. Last year, during chemo I was surprised by a card from a friend with a check in it. Her note struck me as it said "If we all gave a few dollars to a friend in need what a different world would be." She felt that often times we are actually quicker to give to strangers than we are friends.
People slipped money in our hands, brought us meals thus saving us money spent on food. Our mechanic reduced a bill drastically last summer taking a loss himself because he figured we had enough to deal with.
We were hit by some of the stuff you mentioned. Like you, we'd never been late and had paid more than the minimums even through cancer treatment. That didn't matter. I was told that "I might lose my job this year.". When I mentioned that I happened to be a public school teacher with decent seniority and the funds had already been allocated for my position making me less likely to come into work one day and be told I was being laid-off effective immediately (unless federal laws regarding child education are repealed), but of course they presumed to assume I've already lost my job! Unbelievable!
As I've researched this matter, it seems that we were all living under the assumption that as long as we met our obligations as agreed, interest rates wouldn't be raised and credit lines wouldn't be decreased. This was a reasonable assumption as this was how agreements seemed to work in the "real" world. The little clause we didn't pay much attention to was "reserve the right to change this agreement at any time." What's been happening is legal although that doesn't necessarily make it right.
What many businesses fail to realize is they exist because of customers...and we have long memories. Very long memories. I know of one company which I will probably never do business with again once they are paid off. They treated a very good customer poorly and my doing business with them once the debt is paid is completely optional. While I don't believe in holding grudges, I do believe in prudence and if a company treats you poorly and you can take your business elsewhere, by all means do so!
I am very thankful God is our provider and we need to remember that often He provides for others through us as well!
Everyone has their soapbox, and mine seems to be this: show EVERYONE the love of Christ. Yeah, especially people who have screwed up, especially those who haven't, especially those who are hurting or in danger, especially those who don't see any problem. Everyone. Amen, brother.
I would say that from my own observations the financial straights we as a nation and as individuals are in, is a result of our own choices and could have been avoided. We have bought what we could not afford, we never learned to discipline our own lust and harness it.
Having said that I believe you are spot on...minus semantic details. I find that the more I study God's commands across the scriptures, the more I find freedom. And the less people study them, the more legalistic they become. As you point out every seven years creditors were to release their holdings. Not just if asked, it was automatic. At 50 years, you gave back a person's ancestral home. At 7 years you released your slaves unless they didn't want to be released. Think about that, no one could be in debt for more than 6 years! You couldn't kick a man out of a means of shelter, or repossess his means of work. I mean even if you made him poor it would be your responsibility to use a good portion of your tithe to support him and help him get back on his feet!
I find that God makes a very short list of unforgivable sins, while Christians make a very long list. Holding people accountable is good, but then forgiving them is better...and if we're not going to forgive lets at least recognize what is a sin and what isn't and stopped adding to the word of God.
PS> One more thought just occurred to me. Last year was the seventh year in the seven year cycle, and there wasn't much forgiveness of debt going on...now our economy is in the tank. Coincidence?
Thank you for the interesting comments. Thanks "jsclark5768" for simply laying out what the Bible says about the seven years and the fifty years. Is is an interesting thought about the lack of forgiveness of debt and what is going on now financially in this country.
B2Y I hear you -I've been in this situation not because of anything I did but because of circumstances -sudden health decline that caused a loss of jobs for both me and my husband and left us unable to pays those bills.
Yes we tried to find other jobs, but they are far and few between here and employers don't want people with heart problems or that need oxygen 24/7.
No one ever offered any help not so much as even a few groceries. But God has sustained us and continues to do so in other ways. Praise His Holy Name!
Oh America -how long will you turn your back on the poor and needy of your own land
How long will our leaders pour out our wealth on foolish things and deny the poor and needy
Why in such a wealthy country do our poor and elderly have no where to go
Oh Lord -how long will you tolerate the America that has turned her back on you
Yes Brother I hear your Heart
I truly enjoyed reading your post and i couldn't agree with you more. I hope you don't mind if I share a few things with you.
My husband is a self-employed carpenter and we found ourselves out of work last December thru February. The only income we had was a meager unemployment check (which took one month to get funded) and then some rental income, which allowed us to "rob Peter to pay Paul" as the saying goes. It was quite a challenge each month to decide which bills would get paid late (they were all on a rotation) but usually the deciding factor was how large the late fees would be... I despise paying late fees.
Fortunately, I had just come to faith in Jesus Christ, so I prayed, turned my troubles over to the Lord and started making phone calls to creditors to make payments arrangements. Some creditors were wonderful, such as Lowes, who cancelled our account but set us up with a 0% interest repayment plan over 3 years. They have my loyalty for life. Sears was OK... we actually had to be unemployed for a certain amount of time before they helped us, but eventually they set us up with a 9% interest repayment plan (and they closed our account). The banks were worthless to work with... these same banks who got billions of bail out money had no interest in helping us. We have most of our mortgages (investment properties) and all of our checking and other accounts with this particular bank. I called to ask if we could pay them the interest on the accounts, but nothing more, until we got back on our feet. I thought this was a good plan, since the bank would get their money... but they wouldn't have anything to do with it. Believe you me... as soon as these accounts are paid off (within 10 years I hope) I will never do business with them ever again.
The crazy thing about this period of time was how all of my tenants paid their rent on time and only one of them asked to pay in 2 installments (he was unemployed too). Traditionally, about 1/4 of my tenants will pay late, and some don't pay until the END of the month, which really screws things up. Even my 2 low income tenants were able to pay IN FULL and ON TIME during these difficult months for us. They did not know that we were unemployed and how we truly depended on their rent being paid... until after the fact.
Once my husband started picking up work around mid February, I wrote to one of my low income tenants who owed me quite a large sum of money for water (I kept the water on in my name and she was supposed to pay me each month for the bill). I told her how much I appreciated her paying her rent during our difficult times, and I forgave her of the debt she owed me. It felt wonderful to do that for her. My other low income tenant has now fallen on hard times and has asked for patience while she gets unemployment or some other form of assistance, which I gladly agreed to.
I surely don't enjoy this financial struggle, but I'm trusting that God will provide what we need, when we need it. And in turn, I'm doing what I can for my tenants, my family, and my neighbors. It's been a mixed blessing, for sure.