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CHARACTER ON CREDIT?

March 30, 2010

We are all aware that our economy is under extreme burden.  Banker bailouts, ponzi schemes, credit scandals.  But what happens when good people find themselves unable to manage their finances after a loss of employment or medical emergency?  What happens to the credit rating of those who, by no fault of their own, see their once good “credit score” drop with a thud because of their unfortunate circumstances? 

Unfortunately, businesses seldom stop to consider the circumstances or the persons themselves when doing “credit checks” for new hires.  Even churches today rate a man’s character on his credit score.  This should not be.  What then becomes of the one who has been judged by the world’s standards?  He is disqualified from teaching the Word of God because he has been demoted in the eyes of search committees by worldly standards – certainly not God’s standards.  Sometimes, 1st Timothy 3:5 – 6 is used to justify disqualifying a pastor whose credit score doesn’t meet the standards of the world:

“He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?),…” (1 Timothy 3:4-5 NASB)

But does this apply to those, who like faithful Job, lost all he had but still gave glory to God?  I think not.  These verses speak about managing the FAMILY well.  If Job had lived in our time, his extreme misfortunes would have caused a trip to the hospital and then an exorbitant bill for services that he could not pay after losing all he had.  Sure, his credit rating would be a serious problem for those who judge by worldly standards, but in the eyes of His God, who put him in that position for His glory, it would not be an issue.

If God doesn’t count our inability to pay as a character fault, why do we?  Pastoral committees should not be as the world, but see people as God sees them.  What are we to do for a brother in need?  What about a pastor who has fallen onto hard times? 

My husband and I love the Lord and both of us have been serving Him faithfully as teachers, preachers, and everything in between.  Our congregation loves him as their pastor, but we would never pass the test on the credit score and it doesn’t matter to them.  They see who we are and our circumstances and judge righteously – not as the world does based upon our credit rating.

Our Testimony:

After Gary’s former wife passed away of cancer, he was stuck with juggling a mountain of bills with his income cut in half.  Later when we met he head already gone through his savings trying to stay afloat, and I was just beginning to build my own credit history back up after devastating medical bills.  I was laid off from my job and after my unemployment ran out, was fully expecting to be able to work in my new state of Arizona.  Unfortunately, just as I arrived, the economy here took a nose dive and after many efforts, I could not find employment.  My husband juggled the bills until he couldn’t make it any longer.  He held two jobs – one as pastor for a minimal sum and one supporting job.  Still, it was difficult.  Through no fault of our own, we fell behind in a car payment and his car was repossessed.  There literally was nothing he could do, and at this point we were living paycheck to paycheck and many prayers.  We were in the position that many are in today.  Then, the unthinkable happened.  My husband lost his supporting job and our fate was sealed.  We lost it all.  Our house was in foreclosure and we were living on $600 a month from his church salary and a small pension annuity for another $144 a month.  We also had to apply for food stamps for the first time in both of our lives just to survive – again, no fault of our own.  Until these unfortunate events, my husband’s credit score was very good. 

My credit problems began with a broken ankle and no insurance. To add to that, more medical bills were piled to that when I need my right eye enucleated because of malignant melanoma (that was over 15 years ago and I’m cancer free) and my non-believing husband left me to care for three children alone.  I watched helplessly as the bills piled up with absolutely no way to pay them.  Did I want to pay them?  Of course!  Do I love the Lord?  Yes, I do.

There are similar stories all over the world now.  One small step of misfortune for many families and they fall off the precipice they’ve been standing on for years.  The foreclosure rate has never been higher.  The number of good people plunging to the depth of the credit rating cesspool has increased dramatically.  The question is, how should we judge them – by the world’s standards or by God’s standards?

We as Christians are told not to be like the world.  We are to judge righteously.  Should we disqualify a man of God who loves the Lord and whose only mark against him is his poverty and the unfortunate circumstances that led to the “mark of bad credit?”  Are we like the world that judges the character of a man based upon the world’s idea of worth – monetary solvency and a good credit score?  Does a good credit score have anything to do with the character of a Christian who has experienced these trials?

There are those who never experience hardship, but the man of God is not destined for a life of smooth waters.  Sometimes, debt is not procured through reckless spending, although even a pastor can fall into the trap of owning credit cards!  I know that I have watched my husband make every effort to pay something on all his bills even when it left us with literally nothing.  He never defrauded anyone.

Whether accurate or not, the credit score system has the power to keep a person in bondage to his debtors by exempting him from employment.  Rating a person’s character by the numbers on a credit score is unbiblical; however, the world sees it as just because it is based upon the dictates of the god of Mammon.  Yes, this rating system can affect ones entire future and it might not even be based upon fact!

From Secret History of the Credit Card by Malgorzata Wozniacka and Snigdha Sen:

“The credit score system has been around for 45 years and is credited with making lending less discriminatory and credit more widely available. But while the meticulous collecting and sharing of consumers’ credit histories has dramatically improved the efficiency of U.S. credit markets, critics say the credit bureau’s information — affecting everything from who insures you to who hires you — may contain substantive errors and is increasingly being used and shared among companies without consumers’ knowledge.”[1]

With the world in economic turmoil, there will be many brothers and sisters in Christ that will fall between the cracks. The church should not spiritually fall into the cracks as well by judging by the world’s standards.  Our judgment must contain the elements of mercy and truth.  Ask – what are the circumstances of a low credit score?  As Christians, we must make sure that we are not disqualifying a man of God’s choice based upon the value placed upon him by Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax.  God’s kingdom is not based upon the dictates of the god of Mammon, but upon righteousness and truth.

Credit reporting was born more than 100 ago… “However, it wasn’t until 2001 that consumers gained direct access to their credit scores. Earlier that year, Consumer Reports had documented the problem of credit scores being off limits to consumers in an article entitled “New Assault on Your Credit Rating.” The article, combined with growing pressures from lending institutions wanting to disclose scores to consumers, finally opened credit score information to individuals. An updated version of the FCRA, signed into law by President George W. Bush in December 2003, requires CRAs to provide consumers a copy of their credit score at a “fair and reasonable” fee. Consumers can obtain their FICO credit score, for a fee, at myfico.com.”

Reference:


[1]  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/credit/more/scores.html

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 16, 2014 3:00 pm

    Thank you!

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