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April 3, 2020
The Bible's teaching on debt summarized according to a list of key teachings.
March 19, 2019
Debt is one of the most discouraging things on this earth.
Christians don’t understand it very well.
The world doesn’t understand it very well.
Last year, credit card debt grew by almost $100 Billion.
Many financial analysts believe that the growth of credit card debt predicts the next recession.
In these unstable times, what are Christians to make of debt?
How are we supposed to think about debt biblically?
Use this list of bible verses about debt to proactively think about:
The Bible talks a lot about debt.
Here, we have organized what the Bible says about debt into a list of Bible verses that can be summarized as 10 teachings—or 10 maxims to live your life by, if you will.
1. Debt is a form of slavery
2. Debt prevents rest
3. Debt is a procrastinator's way of spending money
4. Debt is a metaphor for sin
5. Debt compromises your ability to provide
6. Debt compromises your ability to be generous
7. God forbids credit card companies in Israel
8. Debt conflicts with a hard working mindset
9. Gratitude can keep us from debt
10. Faith can keep us from debt
Let's get started!
Debt compromises income stream.
The sooner you can get out of it, the better.
Every cent you owe to a lender, plus interest, handicaps both your ability to survive now and your ability to save for the future.
The Bible presents this truth to us clearly.
2 Kings 4:7
"She came and told the man of God, and he said, 'Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.’"
"One who lacks sense gives a pledge and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor."
"The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender."
"Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you?"
There were also those who said, 'We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine.’ And there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king's tax on our fields and our vineyards. Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children are as their children. Yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards.”
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."
"Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."
The Sabbath is a very important concept to God.
He instituted it for himself when he created the world.
And he institutes it for humans who work.
Debt removes our ability to rest.
When we are in debt, we are forced to work extra hours, take a second job or side hustle, and spend more emotional energy on getting out of debt.
This makes it harder for Christians to rest at all.
Without debt, rest comes a little easier.
Sabbath becomes much easier to practice with a clear mind and heart.
“At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord's release has been proclaimed."
"Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin."
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths."
"When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow."
Procrastinators always borrow against their future selves for immediate gratification.
This is how debt works.
The book of Proverbs calls this foolishness.
And it is a mindset that will ultimately bring destruction.
"A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man."
"The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty."
"Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it."
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much."
God uses debts and pledges as metaphors for sin.
In particular, he uses the metaphor of the cloak as a pledge as an explicit disobedience to his commands.
It is wrong to use your cloak as a pledge because it was your basic means of surviving in the world, and it compromised your human dignity. Yet today, people are willing to take out second mortgages, which is essentially a compromise of their right to shelter, for a new kitchen counter.
God sees debt as a problem that needs to be fixed, not as an opportunity to be taken advantage of.
Much like the choice to sin, the choice to go into debt plays a short game at the expense of the long game.
"They lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge, and in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined."
"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.”
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"By canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross."
You have responsibilities in this life.
Family. Church. Rent.
Every cent you owe in debt, plus interest, decreases your ability to secure these provisions.
The older you get, the more you are responsible to provide.
Yet, debt borrows against our older selves to buy things we often don’t need in the here and now.
This sets us up for failure in life.
"The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives."
"A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.”
"The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it."
"Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor."
"Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed."
1 Timothy 5:8
"But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
According to Bible verses about money, God calls us to be generous.
But after we have spent our money on the essentials, provided for those under our care, paid our taxes, and saved for the future, how could we possibly be generous?
The sooner you are able to get out of debt, the sooner you are free to give.
It will be more satisfying to give grandchildren something essential in 30 years than it will be to give ourselves something non-essential now.
"Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce."
"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it."
"Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need."
"Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."
1 Corinthians 16:2
"On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.”
1 John 3:17
"But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?"
God does permit money lending.
But what we know today as the modern practices of credit card companies were ethically forbidden by God.
All throughout the Pentateuch, God gives explicit commands to people about the lending and the Sabbath which makes one point very clear:
You are not allowed to take peoples’ basic needs because of their debt.
Income is all that one has in America.
It is similar to the ancient “cloak.”
In the Ancient Near East, the "cloak" was a person's basic resource for shelter from the elements.
The cloak was the most fundamental way of guarding against death through exposure.
This is why God warns borrowers from using their cloaks as collateral ini a loan.
This is also why God tells lenders that it is unethical to keep a borrower's cloak from them, even if they haven't paid off their debts.
Monthly income is the modern day "cloak" from homelessness.
Yet, credit companies regularly lay claim to it.
“If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. If ever you take your neighbor's cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate."
“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit."
"And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the Lord's release has been proclaimed."
"For the Lord your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you."
"You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest, that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are entering to take possession of it."
Psalm 15:1-2, 5
“O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart …
Who does not put his money out at interest
and does not bribe against the innocent.”
"It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice."
"Take a man's garment when he has put up security for a stranger, and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for an adulteress."
Debt is more than a number.
It is a way of thinking.
People who work hard don’t want to go into debt.
There’s a famous scene in the movie Cinderella Man where Russel Crowe’s character needs to receive welfare. Later in his life, after becoming a successful boxer, he returns to the welfare office and hands them back his welfare money. The officer says: “Sir, you don’t need to pay this back.” And he says: “I do.”
It’s not a sin to borrow money.
But the mindset that values hard work seeks as often as possible not to take out debt.
This is what the Scriptures about work let us know.
“If a man borrows anything of his neighbor, and it is injured or dies, the owner not being with it, he shall make full restitution."
"Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest."
"A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich."
"Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm, but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure."
"Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it."
"In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty."
"A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold."
"If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?"
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”
1 Timothy 6:17-19
"As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life."
We often go into debt because of envy.
We want to keep up with the Joneses.
We want to steal from our future earning potential so that we can get an immediate benefit of maintaining meaningless status symbols that have no real value.
When we are thankful for what we already have, we can be satisfied enough not to sacrifice our financial stability for a present satisfaction that won’t last.
"It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay."
"He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity."
"But the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful."
"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?"
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
1 Timothy 6:6-8
"Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content."
1 Timothy 6:10
"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs."
"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.’"
God often provides for us the worldview in which debt is a poor choice.
When we trust in God, he often quells our frantic need for security.
When we keep our eyes on him, it’s easy to take our eyes off of the shiny thing we think will make our lives better.
"The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow."
"Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness."
"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."
"And he said to them, 'Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’"
"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’"
Author: Paul Maxwell, Ph.D., is the Content Strategist at Tithe.ly. He lives in Fishers, IN with his beautiful wife and rowdy wheaten terrier.