One of my favourite television programmes is Can't Pay? We'll Take it Away. The cameras follow around several teams of High Court Enforcement Officers, who are basically senior debt collectors with authority from the court to repossess goods, houses and cars. Sometimes the viewer feels overwhelming sympathy for the debtor. Fees, interest and charges have increased the balance owing and they face the prospect of losing their personal possessions. They have such low income that they can't repay their debts which sometimes results in eviction from their homes.
On other occasions, one feels real sympathy for the creditor. One woman had to give up work as she was recovering from cancer. She had purchased a small house with her savings that she rented out, the income from which was to tide her over until such time as she recovered. The tenant, however, had refused to pay any rent for five months and had wrecked the property. As if that poor woman didn't have enough to worry about.
Some debtors are foolish, lacking the wisdom to understand that bills must be paid and that we should live within our means. Others are greedy; accruing luxury good they don't need with money they haven't got. Not bothering to wait and save, they want life's nice things now, not later.
Others are victims of circumstances: loss of employment, a messy divorce, a business with insufficient cash flow or custom. The same can be said of the people owed the money. Some are foolish for lending, others are plain greedy, still others are made victims.
A very commendable charity that seeks to release people from the bondage of debt and offering financial education to people is Christians Against Poverty. You can read more about it here: www.capuk.org
I was mindful of that phrase 'neither a lender nor a borrower be', a pearl that I believed came from the Bible. It sounds remarkably Solomonic, but you'll never find it in a concordance. Of course if it's not biblical, it's more than likely to be Shakespearian. Polonius, a character in Hamlet, says it in Act 1, scene 3, when giving advice to Laertes: “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry". True though this may be, borrowing is often essential for the poorest to keep wolves from the door. Jesus in fact instructs His followers to lend without expecting it back. His people store their enormous wealth in heaven; any money they possess here on earth is just loose change with which to do what good they can. There are people who owe me money from years ago that I know will never be recovered.
Remember, if you lend somebody £100 and you never see them again, it was the best hundred quid you ever spent.