January 15, 2008 may someday be remembered as one of the black days in our history. With financial losses mounting and a crisis looming, two of the largest banks in the United States, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch, went hat-in-hand to foreign governments for bailout money. The governments of Singapore, Kuwait, and South Korea provided $21 billion in loans to the financially teetering behemoths in New York.
Consider this alarming fact: these huge amounts of money to save America's largest financial institutions came not from private investment banks but from "Sovereign Wealth Funds"—huge pools of private and government money controlled by the governments of those nations.
Borrowing from foreign governments almost always comes with a political price. One might describe it in street language as: "Do as we tell you or we won't loan you any more money."
A wise man named Solomon wrote these words many years ago: "The borrower is servant to the lender" (Proverbs 22:7 Proverbs 22:7The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
American King James Version×). If his words are still true, are we as a nation gradually becoming the servant of foreign governments? Are there indications that these nations we have borrowed from—South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Singapore, and others—are influencing the foreign policy decisions of the United States?
Consider the recent Annapolis Peace Conference. To many observers the fact that representatives from Syria—branded by the US State Department as the world's second leading sponsor of terrorism—were invited to attend was shocking enough. To make matters worse, the United States—the host of the conference—acceded to the demands of the Saudis that the Israeli representatives not be allowed to use the same door to enter the room as everyone else. The Arab nation representatives entered through the main entrance; the Israeli's were humiliated by having to use the service entrance. (See Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, November 30, 2007 & subsequent articles).
When we borrow money from nations that have historically supported our enemies and worked against our national interest, they apparently can tell us what doors we can use at a conference we host on our soil. What else might they be demanding that the average American is unaware of?
Economist.com wrote on January 17th, "The motives of the sovereign moneymen could be sinister: stifling competition; protecting national champions; engaging, even, in geopolitical troublemaking." Obviously many observers of the financial markets are concerned.
Twenty-five years ago the United States was the world's greatest creditor nation. We are now the world's greatest debtor to other nations, some of them unfriendly towards us.
How did it come to this?
The simple answer is "GREED!" Our national leaders seem to lack the will to spend only the money that we have, so they continue to borrow huge amounts every year. Many families and individuals in recent years have decided to follow the example of our government and live way beyond their means. Personal debt on every level has skyrocketed to levels not thought possible just a few years ago. Individuals borrow to purchase ever-more-expensive vehicles, houses, and vacations.
A significant portion of this house of cards was based on the rapidly inflating values of real estate. As real estate values are declining nationwide, many are finding that they are upside down—actually owing more on their properties than they are worth.
Perhaps the most egregious aspect of this financial orgy that we have concocted during the past decade has been in what is known as sub-prime mortgages. These are high interest loans given to borrowers who can't afford them. No rational bank or loan officer should have been involved in doing business this way. But there were big commissions to be made.
As so often is the case, the lure of money—greed—ruled supreme over doing what was in the best interest of everyone concerned. The Bible warns that "The love of money is a root of all kinds ofevil, for which some have … in their greediness … pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
During 2008 and 2009 the penalties for these ill-advised loans will heavily cost our financial institutions and eventually consumers and taxpayers.
Years ago an older man wrote to his younger helper, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction" (1 Timothy 6:9 1 Timothy 6:9But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
American King James Version×, New International Version). The current financial crisis once again proves that he was right—we have been borrowing away our freedom.
Amazing as it may seem, the Bible contains some very sound advice on how to handle one's finances. Let me suggest that you examine that advice. Simply request or download our free publication: Managing Your Finances.