Predatory lending is headline news right now, as high-interest home loans fail and people struggle with snowballing credit-card debt.
The book "Maxed Out" by James Scurlock details some of these challenges and explains how society has made the journey from post-Depression financial caution to the modern credit crunch.
In his witty and engaging account, Mr. Scurlock discusses how easy it is to get loans today and how difficult it can be for the consumer to fully grasp the terms of the financial obligation. Essentially, he thinks of most lenders as predators and most borrowers as prey. He advocates modifications to our financial system.
Of course, it's important to deal with such problems head-on, and Scurlock's work does that effectively. But permanent changes of any sort, whether systemic or individual, require more than a mere policy change. To endure, they require a lasting shift of thought.
What makes people improve their patterns of behavior? What brings new balance to existing institutions? Only a sincere desire to align more closely to qualities such as honesty, balance, and discipline. Without that foundation, even the most well-intentioned alterations rarely succeed.
Honesty prompts us to take a deeper look at ourselves and our motivation. In my financial life, that includes taking a clearer look at what I'm spending money on and why. Do I need that new cellphone or car or whatever enough to borrow for it, or am I getting sidetracked from a reasonable spending plan?
I find the Bible offers practical insights into decisions like this.
Here's an idea I like from the book of Micah. It gives me a short checklist of what is truly valuable. "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (6:8)
Running through the list that includes justice, mercy, and humility, I can evaluate whether the purchase I'm contemplating will forward my individual expression of those characteristics.
Reasoning in that way helps me keep my focus on what matters most: God and my relationship to Him. This is what brings me peace and determines my happiness today and my success tomorrow.
In fact, it's God's power that enables us to turn things around and head in a better direction. As we listen to God, divine Love, more closely, we make wiser decisions in every area of our lives. We feel the healing touch of the Christ, Truth, bringing progress and opportunity. The institutions and organizations in which we participate are improved from the ground up, as we insist on seeing divine justice demonstrated in logical ways.
Mary Baker Eddy said of God, "And does not this heavenly Parent know and supply the differing needs of the individual mind even as the Scriptures declare He will?" ("Message to The Mother Church for 1901," p. 7).
It's good to remember that God does know and love each of us, and that within His universe there is ample room for variety and individuality. What I need here, today, might not be what someone else requires; but God, being infinite, will see that each of us is sustained and supported.
Praying from this point of view takes us beyond the concept of predator and prey. Instead, we can reflect the integrity and goodness of our Creator. With our lives based on a higher standard, we can make the changes we need for ourselves and we can stand up for what is best for others.
This sets us on the right path – the path leading out of the jungle of confusion and into the protection and guidance of God's love.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me.