Many Christians and people of faith feel guilty about not being able to pay their debts. Is it righteously or morally wrong to file for Bankruptcy, knowing it would mean not being able to adhere to the original terms of agreement with creditors?
Bonnie Hooley is a Licensed Insolvency Trustee and a person of faith. In this podcast she shares her experiences working with people who have concerns about managing their debt with their religious beliefs. Is it morally wrong to file for Bankruptcy?
This podcast explores some of the issues including:
- How will I be seen in the eyes of my community
- Which verses in the Bible refer to not paying your debt
- What should people of faith do when they are struggling financially
- Can I bring someone from my church to the consultation for support
- Why Bankruptcy is the wrong choice if you goal is not to pay your creditors
Licensed Insolvency Trustees are not going to judge you. knowing that debt can happen to anyone at any time. They have access to all the debt relief options and can assist you with everything from budgeting to Bankruptcy.
Read the Transcript
Wayne Kay 0:04
Welcome to the Debt Matters podcast where we help Canadians find solutions to their debt with Licensed Insolvency Trustees from across Canada. I’m Wayne Kay. Today we’re going to talk about reconciling your debt overload with faith. It’s going to be a very interesting discussion.
Joining me, I’ve got Bonnie Hooley with LCTaylor, Licensed Insolvency Trustee in Winnipeg, Manitoba and an office in Kitchener, Ontario. Bonnie, thanks very much for being here today.
Bonnie Hooley 0:31
Thanks for inviting me, Wayne. I think it’s going to be an interesting topic to talk about.
Wayne Kay 0:35
I’m interested in learning this because we do know that people of faith, have some strong convictions, and you say that it even goes over into debt. Tell me more about that.
Bonnie Hooley 0:51
Alright, so first of all, we often meet people who are just horrified by the fact that they’re in over their heads. And because they’re Christians, or they have other faiths, they believe that they can’t file an assignment in Bankruptcy, because it goes against their beliefs. So we have to talk to them and let them know that what they’re doing is not incompatible with their Christian faith or with the Bible, and that there are guidelines in the Bible for these situations.
I picked this topic, because it’s sort of an unusual topic that you don’t hear much about, but it is something that is out there. And I don’t know if it’s just a Manitoba thing, because we have a lot of religious communities in Manitoba. I’ve personally experienced people coming in with their pastors, their board members, and saying, what do we do? Because Bankruptcy is not a good thing for us. So what that does is it sort of leaves people of faith in a trap. Because if you can’t pay your debts, what do you do, because this is going to be morally wrong.
The reality is, if you can afford to pay your debts, and you choose not to pay your debts, yes, that’s extremely wrong. That would be against anybody’s moral beliefs, I would hope, but definitely against your Christian faith. If you’re in over your head, then filing an assignment in Bankruptcy or filing a proposal under the Bankruptcy Act, is not necessarily the wrong thing to do. You’re not an immoral person because you can’t afford to pay your debts.
Wayne Kay 2:32
You mentioned that a lot. And a lot of times clergy will come in, or members of that faith community will come in. So obviously, the person is aware, and they’ve talked about it. I guess they’re looking for answers about what they should do. Because debt can happen to anybody because of, as you know, so many different reasons.
Bonnie Hooley 2:56
Yes, there’s sometimes a preconception that you are in debt, because you have been intentionally ripping people off. But that’s not what the Bankruptcy Act is designed for. It’s designed for honest and unfortunate debtors.
Sometimes you lose your job or your partner is on maternity leave, the income drops and the expenses go up. And in any family, sometimes there’s even a relationship breakup. And so, all kinds of things, income tax debt that you didn’t properly plan for, all kinds of debt can hit you. And no matter how well you try to prepare for the rainy day, sometimes it’s going to knock you on the side and you’re going to be in over your head.
The verse that people cling to that makes them think they know they can’t file Bankruptcy, is the Romans 13:8 verse: Owe no man anything, but to love one another. For he that love with one another have fulfilled the law.
And so also they’ll quote Proverbs 3:27, Withhold not debts or good from them to whom it’s due. But they don’t quote the rest of the verse, it says, the piece that’s missing is: When it is in the power of your hand to do so.
What do you mean, there might be times that I can’t pay back my debt? And yes, that’s the part of the verse that people don’t like to quote. There’s a whole concept right back in what we call Old Testament days. So it would have been, for Christians, fairly new in the faith in Leviticus 25, when God was outlining the rules for the Jews and how they should live. The laws and a lot of those laws like the 10 commandments, we still follow today and it’s actually written in many of the physical laws that the countries run.
But in Leviticus 25 it actually talks about years of Jubilee. There were seven years of Jubilee and then there were 50 years of Jubilee. And part of that year of Jubilee was returning things back and actually erasing debt. Because right back, way back then, it was recognized that sometimes people are going to be in over their head. And you have to give them a chance to erase the debt, get back on their feet and wipe the slate clean.
So the Bankruptcy and Insolvency act is basically giving that year of Jubilee option, where they’re allowing you to wipe the slate clean and get back on your feet. And so it’s not like it’s an easy road. There’s things you have to do, there’s money that you will have to pay, but it’s going to be based on what is reasonable in light of your circumstances.
Wayne Kay 5:49
And these days, with what we’ve seen economically in the last little while, when the inflation and rent and housing and everything else, gas prices, everything that has gone up. Canadians are actually suffering a lot right now. They say, I can’t remember what the stats were, but the number of people that were almost not able to afford living month to month is staggering.
Bonnie Hooley 6:15
And that is so true. Because prior to the pandemic and the financial devastation that the world is going through. There were lots of articles about how many people are one paycheque away from insolvency. And so I think many of those people are now no longer a paycheque away. I think that they’re going, what do we do now we can’t pay our debts.
And so for Christians, sometimes it’s a bit of a moral dilemma, because they don’t see Bankruptcy as an option because they think it’s incompatible with their faith. But that’s why I wanted this podcast – was to let people know that it isn’t incompatible with their faith. The Bible always focuses on the solutions, not the problems.
The whole concept of Christianity is forgiveness of sins. You know, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors forgive us our trespasses. So God wipes the slate clean, and doesn’t hold it against us. And having ways of erasing our debt, human errors, there has to be options out there for Christians and non Christians who can’t pay their debts.
Wayne Kay 7:29
I was going to say, and I wish there was something in there that would really tackle the, What would people think? What would other people think? Because that is what holds so many people back there, I’m Christian, I’m in debt, I’m having these tough times. Well, I can’t go and declare that I’m having a tough time in anything otherwise, what would people think?
Bonnie Hooley 7:52
Yes, that’s true. I’m really kind of glad you brought that up. Because a true person of faith is supposed to not worry about what others think of them, but what their Creator thinks of them. And so if this is okay with your Creator, then it shouldn’t matter whether or not your friends and neighbors would shun you. The reality is that your friends and neighbors, if they’re true people of faith, Luke 6:35, tells them that they’re supposed to love their enemies, do good to those that hate them, and they’re supposed to land expecting nothing in return.
So that means that I should expect people not to pay me back. And yet I’m going to be offended when someone is not paying their debts back, again, incompatible with their faith. So we need to concentrate on what our Lord thinks of us. And we have to be comfortable with that. If you can pay your debts, then you should be paying them, but there’s times when you’d struggle.
This would be my recommendation as to what people of faith should do. If they are struggling with debt, first of all, pray, pray for wisdom. Is there a solution? Is there a door you’re going to open? Is there a windfall coming? Is there a great job that’s going to solve my problems? Pray for wisdom.
Then second is to seek Godly counsel. Now, Godly counsel doesn’t necessarily mean always going to the pastor, you need to seek Godly counsel in the area that specializes in financial situations. So at LCTaylor and Company we have people of faith such as myself, who are going to be able to give Godly counsel but also give professional information about your financial situation.
I have had pastors, board members, that sort of thing who know that’s what I believe. They know that’s what I’m doing. I’m not going to recommend that somebody file an assignment or take a proposal when there’s better options out there. Because for everybody, people of faith or without faith, Bankruptcy and proposals are your last resort. But they are a viable option when it’s important.
Wayne Kay 10:15
I’m shocked that this is actually a faith topic. But now that you’ve educated me in it, I completely understand. But that hits everybody. Going back to that, and I think that was really important, what you said about, that you want to get counsel from the right place. You can’t just go to your pastor, because maybe they’re not an expert, when it comes to insolvencies, and what to do and what the options are.
You don’t need to feel any more shame, you’re already feeling it before you ever reach out to talk to somebody because you’re just in this situation. And as we’ve said, all throughout this whole podcast series, it happens to so many people beyond their control, just something happens. And all of a sudden, you’re in some bad financial debt.
Bonnie Hooley 11:10
Right. We can all browbeat ourselves, with the what ifs. If I hadn’t done this, if I hadn’t done that, then I wouldn’t be in this situation. But, hindsight is wonderful. But we’re humans, we’re going to make mistakes. And we’re going to sometimes, when we’re vulnerable, get hit with the financial blow, the inflation, all the stuff that’s happening right now, is going to hit a lot of people.
And as you say, people have faith or not have faith. They all feel bad when you can’t pay your debts. And nobody’s taught what to do if you can’t pay your debts. When is it taught? Well, what you do is you seek counsel. You seek someone who knows what their what you can do, because there’s options out there.
Wayne Kay 11:52
Yes, do you actually have people that come in with a whole bunch of people? It’s not just the debtor?
Bonnie Hooley 12:01
Yes, I’ve had people come in with, let’s say they went to their pastor for counsel, and their pastor was wise enough to know that, I don’t know about finances, but I should know. So they’ll come in with them. They’re there to make sure they’re getting Godly counsel, and that they’re getting good, sound financial advice, as well.
I’ve had board members bring people in, I’ve had pastors or ministers with their board members. I’ve actually had counselors too, that will sometimes, if you’re in programs where you’re supposed to correct your behaviors like addictions programs, that sort of thing. That’s their counsel. So they’ll come in with them. And that’s no problem if you want to bring other people here too, to get second opinions. So you have someone to bounce stuff off and discuss what we discussed.
Wayne Kay 12:50
That’s great. Wow, I didn’t realize that. I think that is wonderful. Because how many times when you walk in, you’re nervous. You don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. Are you going to make me file a Bankruptcy as soon as I walk through the door? No, we know that now. But the person who has never done this before – gone through it before. They don’t know when they have that fear. So it’s wonderful that they have somebody that can be another set of ears. And then as you said, discuss after.
Bonnie Hooley 13:18
Great. Well, yes.
Wayne Kay 13:19
What a great discussion. I’m glad you were on to talk about this. Anything else? Oh, here’s one thing I wanted to say before I wrap this up. I was thinking about how wonderful for the person who’s gone through this – that they can share with other Christians and people of faith how they got through it.
Bonnie Hooley 13:40
Exactly, because they know how hard it is to come forward. They know the emotional and spiritual struggles they went through. So talking to others about it would help other people.
Wayne Kay 13:53
And I love learning from other people who’ve already gone through it and came through the other side, because it’s almost like there’s more hope. Okay, final words of wisdom for us?
Bonnie Hooley 14:06
I guess the final words of wisdom is that if you’re struggling, don’t struggle alone. If you’re a person of faith, pray for wisdom and people of faith, not people of faith. Always, always, always seek wise counsel, for getting solutions when you’re in trouble of any kind. And if you’re in financial trouble, people like LCTaylor and Company can help you with that.
Bonnie, thank you very much for all this great information.
And thanks for having me on again.
Always a pleasure. My guest today Bonnie Hooley with LCTaylor, Licensed Insolvency Trustee in Winnipeg and Kenora. If you want to get a free consultation, or have questions, you can reach LCTaylor by going to LCTaylor.com.
And that is it for today’s Debt Matters podcast. Make sure you subscribe wherever you get your favorite podcast from and of course, for more information, you can always check out our website debtmatters.ca Thanks for listening
About Bonnie Hooley
Bonnie Hooley has worked in the insolvency field for over 40 years. She attained her Licensed Insolvency Trustee license in 1999 and is the Past President of the Manitoba Association of Insolvency and Restructuring Professionals (MAIRP). Over the years, she has served on various boards within her community.