Do you find yourself depending on the world’s wisdom or God’s wisdom when it comes to financial advice? God’s Word is true, timeless, universal, transcendent and completely practical. Unfortunately, all too often, we depend upon the finite wisdom of the world for our financial counsel. This is especially true with the constant barrage of worldly advice urging us to use debt to “get ahead”. Christians need to carefully study what the Bible has to say about debt. Though God’s word is certainly not a financial textbook, it does offer clear guidelines that we can apply to our financial situations. Let’s take a look at four key scriptural principles regarding debt and borrowing as we seek the wisdom from above.
1. All Debts Must Be Repaid –
“The wicked borrows and does not repay,” (Psalm 37:21; NKJ). The conclusion from this verse is obvious: if you borrow money, you have no alternative but to repay all amounts borrowed. If you do not, by definition, you are what the Bible calls “wicked”.
2. Surety is Foolish –
In reading Proverbs 6:1-5 and 11:15, I would not go so far as to call surety – guaranteeing another’s loan – a sin, but it is explicitly warned against. Even if surety is not a sin, with such a strong scriptural warning it makes absolutely no sense to be in a surety agreement. My counsel about guaranteeing another’s loan is that if you do it, you need to be ready, willing and able to step in and pay it off if the other person cannot. To take it a step further, I would set aside the money in a separate account and expect to have to repay that debt. If you are unwilling to go that far, you should not guarantee the loan because co-signing for a loan is the same as entering into the debt yourself.
3. Debt Always Presumes Upon the Future –
If you borrow money and you believe borrowed money should always be repaid, you are implicitly presuming upon the future unless you have a guaranteed way to repay the loan. If you think you may have the ability to repay but in fact you do not because your circumstances change, you will have presumed upon the future. When borrowing, you need to ask yourself what assumptions and presumptions you are making about the future (see James 4:13-15). If you assume, for example, that your health will remain in good condition, your job will continue to provide income, the asset borrowed against will continue to go up in value, or the business you own will continue to generate profit, you may very well find yourself in bondage if these assumptions do not work out. The Bible does not say it is wrong to borrow money, but it does say it is wrong to presume upon the future.
4. Borrowing May Deny God an Opportunity –
Without question, God is interested in increasing our faith. Also without question, God will meet every need we have. Therefore, I believe that in many cases, borrowing money denies God the opportunity to either meet our needs or to show Himself faithful, thereby increasing our faith. It is easy to get confused about the difference between a need (food, shelter, clothing, medical care) and a desire (vacations, Culture, houses, cars). Desires involve the emotions and are very strong. Because they are so strong, they are easily misinterpreted as needs. And when what we have misinterpreted as a need (e.g. the “need” for a vacation) is blocked by a lack of funds, it is not hard to justify borrowing.
From a Biblical perspective, we are free to borrow money, but we must bear the consequences. In other words, God is not obligated to bail us out of difficulties resulting from foolish decisions. Most often the problem is not with borrowing to meet needs, but with borrowing unwisely and contrary to scriptural warnings. The bottom line is this: Never put a lender in the place of God by depending upon the lender to meet your needs, and never play God by determining that the only way to meet your needs is to borrow. It is very easy to get caught up in an entitlement mentality. We often buy into the message of this world that we deserve to have whatever we want, whenever we want it, regardless of whether or not we have the funds to pay for it. Access to credit accentuates this problem, since our next purchase is as simple as adding another monthly payment. The good News is that God has a great deal to say about our lives, including our finances. We just need to take the time to study His Word and heed His counsel. Take the time to ask the Lord before you make your next significant purchase; I can promise that you will be glad that you did.
Rob West is the Training and Communications Director for Kingdom Advisors, a non-profit Life that exists to equip and disciple Christian financial advisors to integrate their faith and profession. Please send questions and comments to [email protected].
The information in this article is for information purposes only and does not constitute advice. You should not rely on any information in this article to make (or refrain from making) any decision or take (or refrain from taking) any action.