Children of debt
There are 2.5 million children living in families which are unable to keep up debt repayments. Mo Baldwin discovers how they are affected and reflects on the theology of debt
There was once a young man with many brothers and a colourful coat. His brothers were jealous and plotted to get rid of him. Luckily, he was saved from death and taken to Egypt, where eventually his brothers ended up with him. They had children and grandchildren, and the family became the Israelites. Life got difficult, until the Israelites asked the Egyptians to take over their land, and in return, they would be their slaves. Their children, and their grandchildren, were then slaves.
When another man came and told them they could be free, they were sceptical. They knew nothing different; they had grown up as slaves; mistreatment was the norm. They had inherited the debt of their forefathers and continued to pay the price as debt slaves. They were led out of Egypt with a promise of freedom. (You can, of course, read a fuller version of this story in Genesis and Exodus.)
In Exodus 22:25 we read a direct teaching on putting people into debt: “If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them.” In Exodus, we read the story of a people who went from landowners to slaves because of an economic downturn. They became debt slaves, working to pay off a debt owed by a previous generation….
Mo Baldwin is communications manager for The Children’s Society’s church partnerships team. She is one of the editors of Who Bears the Burden?: Christian theology and the impact of debt on children, a collection of theological papers published by The Children’s Society and available to download from www.childrenssociety.org.uk/debttheology
The Debt Trap: Exposing the impact of problem debt on children is a report published by The Children’s Society. You can read the whole document and add your voice to the campaign at www.childrenssociety.org.uk/debt
This is an extract from the September 2014 edition of Reform.