Thomas Gallatin / August 30, 2022

Jesus and Student Loans

Bad theology used in defense of bad policy serves only to exasperate and further divide the American public.

When Joe Biden announced his unconstitutional plan to unilaterally cancel up to $20,000 in student loans for individuals earning as much as $125,000 annually, he may have envisioned that he was simply following through on a campaign promise that would further energize the Democrat base in the run-up to the midterm elections. Well, Biden certainly energized folks, though the ones most energized appear to be not only those on the other side of the political aisle but also working Americans who paid off or never took on student loans in the first place.

In an effort to defend Biden’s student loan “forgiveness” plan against conservatives who rightly condemn it as wealth redistribution, some on the Left suggest that Christians should be fully supportive of the blatantly political move because — wait for it — Jesus was all about forgiveness. It’s the type of biblical illiteracy that also proclaims that Jesus favored socialism because greed is bad.

We’ll take one example of this mindset from a popular meme on social media: “If you’re a Christian and you’re mad about the possibility of student loan debt being canceled, let me remind you that your entire faith is built upon a debt you couldn’t pay that someone stepped in and paid for you.”

There are a lot of things to pick apart with this argument, but let’s go with the main point that hinges on the forgiveness of debt. Of course, the message of the Gospel is that all people are fallen sinners unable to meet the perfect and righteous standard required by a Holy God to merit eternity in Heaven. Thus, as the meme implies, the “someone” who stepped in to pay the debt of sin we are unable to pay was Jesus Christ, the only perfectly righteous God/man. And that payment for sin was His death on the cross.

God’s forgiving of penitent sinners is indeed central to the message of the Gospel. However, it comes at a cost — the death of Christ, who took on our sin and paid the penalty. Jesus made this sacrifice willingly and fully at his own expense. Therefore, when Christians are called to forgive as Christ forgave us, this means from an individual, personal, and self-sacrificial decision. Furthermore, forgiveness by nature is the choice to not hold the wrongs and evils we have experienced against those who perpetrated them against us.

Back to Biden. First, he is not Jesus. Biden is not forgiving sin debt that has been accumulated against himself personally, nor is he forgiving a monetary debt at his own expense. Second, Biden does not have the authority to universally forgive debt. Such a decision can be legally made only by Congress, a position Biden himself held up until five minutes ago. Third, Jesus never advocated breaking the law. What Biden has done is not only breaking U.S. law but also the Eighth Commandment’s prohibition on stealing. He has taken money that doesn’t belong to him and transferred it to those who knowingly agreed and contracted to take on student loans.

There is no such thing as a free lunch. Biden has saddled taxpayers with upwards of a trillion dollars in new national debt. While some 40 million people may not have to repay $10,000 to $20,000 of the loans they took out, that doesn’t mean no one pays. Rather than encourage responsibly paying off debt and living within one’s means, Biden has done just the opposite; he’s encouraged irresponsibility and license on the part of students and also the colleges and universities that will have no incentive to make school more affordable. Biden has guaranteed that college tuition will only increase because, after all, the American taxpayer will pay for it.

Scripture is quite clear about not showing favoritism to either the poor or the wealthy (James 2:1-13). Psalm 37:21 observes that “the wicked borrow and do not repay.” In Romans 13:7, the Apostle Paul instructs Christians to pay their debts, writing, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

The government’s job is to uphold righteous laws, not political agendas. Bailing out those who least deserve it on the backs of those who did nothing to be saddled with this added cost is not justice.

The situation is this: Students voluntarily took out school loans upon the clear arrangement that they would repay them in time. The whole rationale behind taking on debt to go to college is to invest in their own vocational future, and in so doing increase their monetary earning potential. Breaking this arrangement is not justice but is in fact the opposite of it.

Simply put, student loan debt was not Biden’s to forgive, nor is he the one who is paying it off. He has neither forgiven any debt nor has he had to suffer the loss of doing so. (Indeed, he aims to benefit from doing so.) The debt of sin that Jesus paid was injustice and unrighteousness against Himself. He was the offended party, but He also was the only one capable of forgiving it and paying the debt.

Good Christians stand for and advocate biblical justice. Theft is not justice. Loving our neighbor means looking out for their wellbeing, including being concerned about the theft of their property, perhaps especially when it comes via the hands of the powerful. Good Christians are right to oppose government injustice and not cheer on the power grab.

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