Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is it a sin to borrow money?


If you are a Christian who has gone through Financial Peace University, a Crown Financial study, or other Bible-based financial workshop, then you already know that debt is not a good idea. At some point in the money discussion, all of these various Christian personal finance studies focus on the problem of debt in our culture and the need to get out of debt as quickly as possible.

What Does the Bible Say About Borrowing?

As part of these financial studies, a number of different Bible verses are cited regarding taking on personal debt. According to these Scriptures, borrowing money is pretty much a grey area; there is no verse that specifically says "thou shalt not borrow money." Although the Bible doesn't have a lot to say on the topic of borrowing, what it does say focuses on the following points:
  • Debt is bondage. Proverbs 22:7 says, "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender." For those of us that have been in debt at some point in our lives, we know this to be true. You toss and turn at night wondering how in the world you're going to be able to pay the bills. You avoid taking phone calls out of the fear that it may be a debt collector on the other end of the line. When you have become entangled in debt, you have no peace.
  • Debt is a curse. On numerous occasions in the Old Testament, God told the nation of Israel that if they were obedient to Him, then they would be blessed with abundance. If they were disobedient to his commands, then they would suffer lack. Sin in the life of God's children has consequences. Deuteronomy 15:4-6a states, "However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the Lord your God and are careful to follow all these commands I am giving you today. For the Lord your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none." Also in Deuteronomy 28:47-48 we read, "Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you." We can see this principle of financial blessing or curse being lived out even in modern day America. During an extended period of time of prosperity, many Christians made extremely poor financial decisions. They were also been disobedient in the area of giving back to the Lord, and now many believers are paying the price during this recession for not following God's instructions in their finances.
  • Debt assumes that we will be able to pay it off at a later date. When we take on debt, we assume that we will make enough money at some point in time to pay off that debt. We think that we will get a raise or bonus at work. We think our business plan is really going to bring in the clients to help us pay off our debt. We really start to think that we are smart enough to overcome our own stupidity for going into debt in the first place. In my own personal experience, I quickly discovered that business plans don't always work out the way you think they will, and then I was stuck trying to figure out how to pay down $25,000 worth of debt. James 4:13-15 addresses this very issue: "Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'" Never presume upon God's will regarding debt when He clearly states in His Word that it's a bad idea to begin with.
  • Debt denies God the opportunity to provide. In His Word, God has promised that He will provide for the needs of His children. In Matthew 6:25-26 Jesus told His followers, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" God wants us as believers to have faith in Him and trust that He can and will provide for our needs and even some of our wants. Unfortunately, many Christians turn to Visa or MasterCard to bail them out when they should be on their knees asking the Lord to provide for them during a time of financial difficulty.

My Take

Clearly from God's Word, we can see that debt is not encouraged and is thought of as unwise. Debt is a "grey area" in the life of a believer, and there is no specific verse that says that debt is a sin. I'm going to go out on a limb here and take a slightly different approach regarding the question of whether or not debt is a sin.

First, in today's culture, I see a lot of people who cannot control themselves. Addictions of all types have ravaged the homes of Christians and non-Christians alike. Spending, shopping, gambling, and debt have all become common manifestations of the addictive personality as much as chemical dependency has. Christians who have become enslaved to these forms of financial dependency have set money up as a "god" in their lives. They are worshiping a false god. This is clearly a sin according to the Bible.

Second, a lot of Christians not only have self-control issues with materialism and money, but they also have a lack of faith in God with their finances. They want to compartmentalize money in their lives and say, "God, You can everything in my life, except my money. It's mine, and I can handle it just fine on my own, including debt." God wants us to love Him and serve Him with everything we have, including our money. If we are withholding this area of money from God, then I would consider this sin as well.

So, is it a sin to borrow money? The short answer - it depends on the person and the circumstances. Some people can control themselves in the area of money and debt. Many people can't. For those who lack self-control, they should seek out professional help. "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age" (Titus 2:11-12).

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