Friday, December 17, 2021

"I have neither lent nor borrow" (Jeremiah 15:10)

Jeremiah's pronouncement that he had neither lent nor borrow is probably the most enigmatic verse in the whole Bible. The business of lending and borrowing has many attendants problems. As a lender, people could run away from their loans and lenders suffer loss. Some have to act tough to recover their money or lose a friend. If one borrows, one becomes a slave to the lender because one is never free until the last cent is repaid. Further, a borrower could be despised if he or she borrows out of need or for survival and many people look down on those who borrow from them. No wonder Jeremiah tried to keep away from both sides of the equation, neither lending nor borrowing. How come Jeremiah is cursed by everyone as the passage makes clear? I am going to offer a few solutions to this quagmire.

First, refraining from lending or borrowing which is what 99.9% of the society does, one is seen to be strange or live outside the norms of ordinary human behaviour. If everyone is doing it, and you don't do it, you find yourself an alien and outside the circle of friends and peers. Just like when everyone drinks or smokes, but you do neither, people will find it odd. Second, not lending might seem stingy since when a friend or relative is in need, there are times that one must lend to those in need. Perhaps, Jeremiah's lament is that it is better just to give rather than to lend. Third, a borrower is indebted to the lender even when a debt is repaid if it is a person-to-person loan. Just as my brother lent me money to buy a house and though I had fully repaid him, I still feel indebted to him in some ways and when he was appointed Judicial Commissioner, I was pretty sure it was the way of my God to repay him somewhat for "he who blesses you will be blessed". I also owed the bank on a mortgage but when I fully settled, there was no longer any indebtedness since banks or money lenders lend on interest and it is a business transaction. But today I can testify like Jeremiah that I neither lend nor borrow. My car loan has been fully settled days ago. It would have been earlier if not for the moratorium due to the lockdown. I don't plan to borrow any more money. If there is a need, I will start selling whatever few possessions I have. Even cars are disposable assets and worse comes to worse, one can always rely on Grab or taxis. But God is good for Jesus says, "Don't worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will take care of itself" and "your Heavenly Father knows your needs even before you pray and ask" (Matt 6).

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