If you are in debt, you might be looking for guidance on what to do. You may even wonder if the Bible has any suggestions.
What does the Bible say about debt? Perhaps more importantly, what can we learn about debt from the Bible?
Whether or not you define yourself as Christian, the Bible holds valuable insight about debt that can make your life much easier.
What Is Debt?
In short, debt is an obligation. It’s an obligation the debtor owes to the creditor or lender.
Here are a few things that are considered debt:
- Credit card balances
- Car loans
- Mortgage loans
- Student loans
Even if you’ve borrowed a tool from your neighbor, you are obligated to return it in the same or better shape than it was in when you borrowed it. You are also obligated to return it promptly.
Essentially, you are indebted to your neighbor until you return the borrowed tool.
Similarly, you might consider yourself to be indebted to someone if they did you a favor and you want to repay them.
However, the most common (and risky) types of debts are those in which money is owed to another person or institution.
What Does the Bible Say About Borrowing?
The Bible has a few different things to say about debt. Some are good, and some are bad.
Some Debt is Bad
Here are some Bible verses that address the bad side of debt:
- “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.” – Proverbs 22:7
- “Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge or puts security up for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you.” – Proverbs 22:26-27
- “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” – Romans 13:8
- “The wicked borrow and do not repay; but the righteous give generously;” – Psalms 37:21
- “Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer; but whoever refuses to shake hands in pledge is safe.” – Proverbs 11:15
- “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest.” – Exodus 22:25
- “The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of His bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all of the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.” – Deuteronomy 28:12
- “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” – Matthew 6:24
The above verses all speak against borrowing. However, sometimes borrowing is required.
Some Debt is Good
In the story of the widow and the prophet Elisha, a widow cried out to Elisha and God because she owed money. Her creditors were going to come and take her sons as bond for her late husband’s debts.
In 2 Kings 4:3, Elisha instructed her to borrow vessels from her neighbors, saying, “Go outside and borrow many vessels from your neighbors, and not a few.”
After she and her sons gathered the vessels, Elisha prayed, and the vessels were filled with olive oil. She was then able to sell the oil and pay off the debts, freeing herself and her sons from the bondage of debt.
However, had she not borrowed the vessels, she would have had nothing to store the oil in. So, it is true that sometimes we may need to borrow something from someone.
It’s clear from these verses and others mentioned in the Bible that God has specific desires regarding how He wants His people to manage money.
But what are some of those desires from a modern-day, current-language standpoint?
Debts Should Be Paid Back
The Bible makes it clear that debts should always be paid back. Remember that Romans 13:8 says, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”
This doesn’t mean that God won’t love or forgive you if you don’t pay back your debts. However, Christians are called to honor God and to mimic Him and His behavior.
God is a God of His word, and Christians are called to do their best to be people of their word as well. Part of what that means is meeting the requirements of the contracts they have signed.
Almost all debt obligations are accompanied by some type of written or verbal contract.
Sometimes It’s Necessary to Borrow
The Bible also shows us that it is sometimes necessary to borrow. The widow in the story of 2 Kings had to borrow vessels from her neighbors.
If she hadn’t, Elisha wouldn’t have had anything to put the oil in so that the widow could sell it and pay her debts.
Only you can determine whether or not God is calling you to borrow money. For example, God may call you to borrow money to purchase a home.
Although many have done it, purchasing a home by paying cash and saving money to put a down payment on a house is a huge hurdle. You should always begin the house hunting process by determining how much house you can afford.
Whatever the reason, deciding to borrow money should be a well-thought-out decision. It’s a decision that should be preceded by an abundance of prayer.
In the event that you feel God is calling you to borrow money, work diligently to pay it back as quickly as you can.
Debt Leads to Loss of Freedom
No matter why you incur debt, it always leads to a loss of freedom. How? Because you are obligated to meet a certain monthly debt payment or payments.
Additionally, you’re obligated to earn money to pay those debts. Even if the money you use to pay your debts comes from an inheritance or some other free source, you’re still utilizing money that could be used for other things toward paying off debts.
Remember that Proverbs 10:22 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.”
When you learn to live debt free, you have fewer financial obligations that force you to give away a part of your earnings every month.
Another thing to keep in mind about debt is that it does affect your relationship with God.
How Does Debt Affect Your Relationship With God?
Debt affects your relationship with God in a couple of different ways.
It Speculates on the Future
First, going into debt speculates on the future. It presumes that you will always have money to pay off debt, which can be a risky assumption.
This can affect your relationship with God because only God knows the future. James 4:13-16 makes it clear that people should not to be too eager to plan for the future:
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.
Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ But now, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”
No one knows what tomorrow will bring and what the Lord will call you to do. Therefore, borrowing money affects your relationship with God because it forces you to focus on debt instead of your relationship with God.
It Doesn’t Allow God to Give You What You Need
Second, going into debt doesn’t allow God to give you what you need. Given the chance, God is an amazing provider.
Matthew 6:31-33 says, “Therefore, do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles (unbelievers) seek.
For your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Luke 12:24 states, “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?”
Finally, 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
Consider choosing to trust in God for the things you need. Give Him a chance to fulfill your needs instead of trusting in debt. What you learn and experience may surprise you.
God loves you regardless of whether or not you carry debt. However, because He loves you, He wants you to live a life free of burdensome debt.
Consider working toward that end and making it a point to learn to trust God for your needs.