If you read any of my blog posts, you’ll discover that it’s no secret that I don’t like debt. Furthermore, I don’t say any debt is “good” debt. But where does this conviction about debt come from? It comes from a combination of personal experiences and from what I believe the Bible says about debt. So, what does the Bible say about debt?
I’m going to tread a little carefully here. Why? Because the Bible does not say debt is sinful. Even though I don’t like debt, I can’t make Scripture say something it doesn’t. However, debt doesn’t appear to have much favor in Scripture. Let’s take a look at what the Bible says, as well as what it doesn’t say, about debt.
What the Bible Does NOT Say About Debt
The goal here is to find out what the Bible really says about debt. Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to first examine what the Bible does NOT say about debt.
The Bible Never Says Borrowing Money is Sinful
Nowhere, not in all 66 books, does the Bible ever mention going into debt as a sinful act. It does speak of the dangers of going into debt (which we will discuss), but it never condemns anyone for borrowing money.
The Bible Never Says Lending Money is Sinful
Just as it is not a sin to borrow money, it’s also not a sin to lend money. In fact, you could even make the case that it’s perfectly fine to lend to someone. Matthew 5:42 says, “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” However, it is noteworthy that lending to someone you know can change the relationship. Often, the relationship changes for the worse.
The Bible Never Says it is Wise to Borrow Money
Good luck finding a place in Scripture that says borrowing money is wise. Here’s a hint: you won’t find it. God never commands anyone to take on debt, nor is taking on debt an advisable action. God also never praises anyone for using debt “wisely.”
The Bible Never Says Debt is Good
“And on the ninth day, God said, ‘Let there be mortgages and bankers to lend money to all!’ And God declared it to be good,” said no Bible translation ever. You’ll have quite the time finding Scripture that supports the idea of debt being good. On the contrary, the Bible gives several solemn warnings about debt.
What the Bible DOES Say About Debt
As you’re about to see, the Bible gives some very real warnings about debt. Spoiler alert: debt can be very dangerous.
The Borrower is Slave to the Lender
Perhaps one of the most famous verses about debt is Proverbs 22:7: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” If you borrow money from someone, you owe them. Furthermore, they own you in some way. Personally, I prefer not to be a slave.
Not Repaying Your Debt is Wrong
Even if getting into debt isn’t sinful, it is sinful to not repay your debts. Psalm 37:21 says, “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.” If you borrow money, you have a moral obligation to pay it back.
It’s Stupid to Offer Surety for Someone Else’s Loan
Okay, you read this one and thought, “What the heck is surety?” Surety is an old term that means you guarantee someone else’s loan. These days, we call it co-signing a loan. When you do this, you guarantee to pay the loan if the other person doesn’t. Proverbs 17:18, Proverbs 22:26, and Proverbs 11:15 all speak into this. In other words, it’s stupid. Don’t do it. After all, the reason they want a co-signer for the loan is because they don’t expect your friend/child/hobo off the street to repay it!
Counting the Cost of Debt
Americans currently have more than $14 trillion in consumer debt. Granted, about $9 trillion of that number is mortgage debt. But that still leaves more than $5 trillion in student loans, credit cards, and auto loans. And guess what? It’s killing us.
We’ve grown addicted to our idols and to our “have it now” culture. We look for the instant gratification rather than taking the slow route of true wealth building. In doing so, we ignore Jesus’ words in Luke 14:28: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”
Granted, the context of the verse is about the cost of following Christ. However, the principle remains. We’ve lost the art of counting the cost. Instead of saving up money to buy a car, we take out a loan. Likewise, instead of budgeting for repairs, Christmas gifts, and bi-yearly insurance, we charge it to the credit card. In the same vein, we take out student loans instead of working, applying for scholarships, or going to community college.
You get the picture. Many people under financial duress are poor stewards of their resources. It may not be a sin to take out debt, but the Bible makes it clear that it’s better to find another way.
A Challenge for You
Do you need a new car soon? Perhaps you have some bills coming due. Or maybe your furnace needs to be replaced soon. In that case, I have a challenge for you. Budget for those expenses and save up for them. And not only for those big-ticket expenses. I’m talking about making a monthly budget for yourself. You can even make a budget if you have an irregular income or even in the middle of a crisis.
Doing a monthly budget is the basics of the basics. I love doing a budget because it gives me the power to tell my money what to do and where to go. Once you have that in place, start saving up for a beginner emergency fund of about $1,000. Then start knocking out your debt using the debt snowball method.
There are a lot of financial plans out there, but I recommend checking out Dave Ramsey’s 7 Baby Step plan. This is the plan I use, and I can’t recommend it enough.
And of course, if you need help, consider working with a financial coach!