William Shakespeare said, “Neither a borrower or lender be, for loan oft loses both itself and friend…” If this sounds familiar this quote was later “borrowed” by Benjamin Franklin in his poor Richards almanac. If we are going to consider whether Christians should borrow money, we don’t typically consult Shakespeare for such insight. It is also probably not a good idea to get our advice from our “unchurched” banker or our “broke” finance professor. So where do we go for wisdom on this topic.
When ever I want to know what a believer should do I turn to scripture.
I spent most of a Sunday afternoon last week looking and I didn’t find anything in scripture that instructs a believer to borrow money.
I thought, well, maybe they didn’t have borrowing in Biblical times? Let’s look at what I found to answer that question.
Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender.” This word slave is, well, slavery or bondage. The principle here is for the individual to avoid borrowing. I think we would agree that the church should not be in bondage to anyone except Christ, so the church should avoid borrowing too.
Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding except the continued debt to love one another.” My old King James says, “owe no man anything”. I think that is pretty clear.
Deuteronomy 15:6 “For the Lord God will bless you as he as promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.” Yes this is addressed to the nation of Israel but so was the 10 commandments and the church takes those very seriously so we should too.
Proverbs 17:18 “A man lacking in judgment strikes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbor.” A more modern version says “It is stupid to guarantee someone else’s loan.”
Proverbs 6:1-5 is a similar passage but more emphatic. “My son if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have struck hands in a pledge for another. If you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor! Allow no sleep to your eyes no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.” This says get out of debt with gazelle intensity. (We use this animal metaphor in FPU a lot.)
Numbers 30:2 God says vows are to be taken seriously. I conclude debt is not God’s way. He strongly discourages debt, from any scripture I could find on the topic
Our incomes are the biggest tools that we have to give, save and support our families. Scripture instructs us to spend less than we make, creating margin for giving and saving. It is out of this margin that we can support the Lord’s work and invest for the future. If we have committed all of our incomes to payments, we are doing what is known as living paycheck to paycheck. According to a study recently completed by Bankrate.com 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and 27% have no savings at all and could not handle a $500 emergency.
Debt means we are spending more than he has provided for us. Debt means we haven’t done the planning that he requires of us as managers of his money. It means we have given up the contentment and patience he desires for us. Debt short circuits his plan for us.
Debt is a trap that can side track our education, careers, calling and marriages. We often don’t know we are getting into the trap until it is to late. That is why believers should get training like FPU, where we teach how to get out of the trap and stay out for good.
We talk about debt a lot because it is so pervasive in our culture and believers are not immune to the problems that debt causes.
Getting out of debt is part of The Journey to Financial Peace.
Brian and Lisa Petersen, lead the Financial Peace University course at Autumn Ridge Church. Concepts like the one discussed in this article are taught in FPU. Brian and Lisa welcome your questions on “Why Do We Teach So Much About Debt”. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.