Billy Graham comments on the propriety of consumer bankruptcy

The famous evangelist Billy Graham was recently asked in his local newspaper’s question-and answer forum whether it was morally wrong for a married couple to file a consumer bankruptcy case.

The couple wrote to Graham’s newspaper advice column saying they had gotten into a financial bind when they moved, couldn’t sell their old house, and got drained paying off two mortgages.

His answer? It’s not immoral, but he recommended that the couple involved seek God’s guidance before making the final decision.

This has caused a bit of a firestorm in the legal blogosphere, as some commentators have indicated that in their view bankruptcy is a green eyeshade financial consideration, and God need not enter the equation. Others draw a distinction between those people who have incurred debts with every intention to pay and then something occurs in life, and those people who rack up the credit card debt with no intention of ever paying the debt.

For the record, Graham himself wrote that ” I find nothing in the Bible that explicitly forbids bankruptcy, as it is provided for in our legal system (unless the motive is to cheat someone who has lent money to us). The Old Testament actually provided for the cancellation of debts every seven years among the ancient Israelites (see Deuteronomy 15:3). At the same time, let me urge you to explore every alternative you can. For example, have you considered renting your first house?

“The most important advice I can give you, however, is to seek God’s wisdom, and to trust this whole matter into His hands. He knows what is best, and He can be trusted.”

My own personal take on this is I see nothing controversial in this advice at all. If any given person is in the habit of praying for help on decisions large or small, why wouldn’t they also do so on an important decision like filing for bankruptcy?

On the other hand there is no religious or moral test for filing a bankruptcy case — the procedure is not only legal, but specifically put in place to deal with situations like the one that prompted the letter to Rev. Graham.

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By Doug Beaton

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