"Many of the spirits [people who recruited indentured servants] haunted the London slums and those of Bristol and other seaports. It was not difficult to find hungry and thirsty victims who, over a dinner and much liquor, would sign anything before them. The spirit would then hustle his prey to his headquarters to be added to a waiting company of others, safely kept where they could not escape until a ship was ready for them. An easier way was to pick up a sleeping drunk from the gutter and put him aboard a vessel for America, where, with no indenture, he could be sold to his own disadvantage and with the American planter's gain. Children were valuable and could be enticed with candy to come along with a spirit. Sometimes they and older people too, were seized by force."
Indentured servitude was the practice that populated colonial America. An indentured servant is an employee under contract to work for an employer for an amount of time to pay off a passage to a new country, a home, land or other debt. Workers would indebt themselves to a ship captain or a future employer for passage on packed “coffin ships” to the new world.
Technically, the person was only selling his labor. In practice, indentured servants were basically slaves, with few legal rights. Conditions of work were often hot grueling farm labor. After a tortuous journey to a new land, workers were met with cruel overseers driving for more production. After a contract was completed many masters craftily devised methods to extend a servant’s contract, none were ethical, most illegal.
Fast forward to 2007, the housing market is in a slump and the financial markets are worried. People throughout the country purchased homes in recent years that in reality they could not afford. This is indicative of bad debt habits throughout the country. Over 40% of Americans spend more money than they earn, according to Federal Reserve statistics.
The book of Proverbs in the Bible, written 3000 years ago, speaks clearly to our problem today: The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. (22:7)
What is our position in indebtedness? The nice dinner, the flat screen television, the beautiful dress, all purchased on the credit card hold us in servitude. Many people should salute their furniture, appliances, cars, wardrobe, their toys, and their lifestyle each morning as they leave for work, say “yes sir” and promise to do a good job. We work a portion of our day to repay debt; our position is one of an indentured servant.
How did we get in this position? First, if you are charging groceries or monthly bills, you have a problem that needs immediate attention. There is also the problem of consumer debt; “people buying things they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t like”. We are trying to keep up with the Jones’ and they are swimming in debt. Our attitude, about material possessions, is the culprit.
Statistics show that most people either spend more than or at least everything that they earn and are not saving for the future in anyway. We should recognize that many big lifestyles are a financed house of cards.
Debt causes servitude and it is usually voluntary. Certainly there are times when debt is forced on us, as in a medical emergency or prolonged illness. At other times debt can be wisely used, for example when starting a business.
What can we do about our indentured servitude? The first step to getting out of debt is to stop getting into debt. Simply stop charging “stuff”. For most this is a much needed lifestyle change, however it is worth it. The second step is to plan to repay your existing debt, Biblically this is a must.
The Bible gives clear warning about indebtedness. However, it seems that most of us learn the hard way, I know that I did. The good news is that debt can be repaid. It is a freeing experience and well worth the hard work to accomplish. The Bible is full of stories of indebtedness being repaid, none better than Jesus’ offer to pay a sin debt for all of us.
July 17, 2007
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The opinions voiced in this article are for general information only. They are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual and do not constitute an endorsement by APW Capital.
Posted on Tue, July 17, 2007
by Chris McAlpin