The Truth About Debt
What does the Bible say about debt?
*Disclaimer – the topic of debt is very broad and treating all of it would take a much higher word count. For purposes of this article, I am mostly referring to personal, consumer debt (credit cards, personal loans, store cards, brand new cars, etc.).
Many people are surprised to find that the Bible is very vocal on the topic of finances. Important Biblical figures like Abraham, Job, and Solomon and were very wealthy. Proverbs is full of nuggets of financial wisdom. Jesus himself spoke often of money in his teachings and parables. This is because Jesus intends for us to follow him in all areas of our lives-including in our finances. Debt has become a completely normal way of life for most people – especially here in America. How should Christians respond to debt? Well, here are three principles pulled from the scriptures that can help us to gain a Biblical view of debt and better determine how to answer that question.
1. Live on less than what you make – not more.
There is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; but a foolish man spendeth it up. Proverbs 21:20
Consumer debt can be simply defined as living on more than what you make. People go into debt because they have spent all their income on other things. Many would say that they “just don’t make enough money.” If that were true, then we would not find that people are in debt who make $40,000 a year as well as people who make $140,000 a year. The point here is that no matter the income, a wise man will learn to save part of what he makes and a foolish man will spend it all and even begin spending money he doesn’t have (otherwise known as going into debt). If the wise man happens to lose his job or if the economy goes south, he has treasure and oil stored up. In the same circumstances, the foolish man would have nothing because he spent all he had and will likely incur even more debt.
2. Debt is unwise.
Be not one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties [cosigner] for debts. If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee? Proverbs 22:26-27
I don’t think that anyone who finds themselves buried under a mountain of debt and high interest rates meant to go there. No one plans to have to file bankruptcy. They start out thinking that they can make their payments with no problem. Then medical emergencies, job loss, and unexpected bills show up seemingly all at once forcing them deeper and deeper into an interest rate trap. The best way to avoid that snare is to avoid taking on debt in the first place – for yourself or as a cosigner for someone else. It is simply unwise.
3. Debt is bondage.
The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. Proverbs 22:7
Any debt that a person takes on, whether it be consumer debt, a mortgage, or student loan debt, puts the borrower in a state of temporary bondage until the debt is paid back. This may not seem like such a big deal; however, it can seriously eclipse a person’s freedom. Debt may cause a person to become stuck for years in a job that they don’t like; they must stay there because they have payments to make. Debt causes people to file bankruptcy because of a lost job when the economy tanked. Debt ties the hands of someone who wants to give generously to help a brother in need. Perhaps the most tragic example is that debt often causes people to miss the will of God for their lives because they are so bogged down with payments that they are unable to go start that church or move to the mission field although they may feel strongly called to do so.
As Christians, our primary goal should be living a life in complete surrender to Jesus Christ. Just as we surrender our spiritual lives, we must surrender our practical lives as well. Using his word as our guide, we can begin to truly live out his purpose for us, free of earthly entanglements.
Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8