The Bible is the most comprehensive guide on money that has ever been written. If anyone follows the instructions on money management written in scriptures, they will lead a happy and prosperous life. In this post, we are going to answer the question of what the Bible says about debt and borrowing.
So what does the Bible say about debt and borrowing? Contrary to what some preachers teach, the Bible does not forbid borrowing of money. However, we are encouraged to avoid debt as much as possible. I will get to that shortly but first, let’s look at some of the important things the bible says about debt and borrowing.
- It is not a sin to borrow
- A borrower is a slave to the lender
- Borrowing is not the best way to live
- Don’t borrow for self-gratification
- Pay your debts
It is not a sin to borrow money
Even though the Bible discourages believes from entering into debt, it does not necessarily mean that borrowing money is a sin. There are many examples of people who borrowed in the scriptures and some of them did it after being divinely instructed by God. The best example of this is found in the book of 2 Kings 4. It is a sad story of a preacher who was so much in debt that when he died, his creditors came to the widow and threatened to take her sons as slaves if the debts were not paid. When Elisha heard this story, the first thing he asked her was,
“…what do you have in your house?” 2 Kings 4:2, NLT
That is a rather strange question to ask someone that was as deep in debt as this widow. But it gives us some deep insight into how God can get you out of debt. In most cases, there is always something you overlook that might be the secret to your debt-free life. Maybe you can bake awesome cookies, or you are great at arranging closets, or you are a great writer – just pause and consider what you have in your house. That might be what you need to get out of debt.
When the widow discovered something she had in her house, the prophet gave her a command that most prosperity preachers overlook.
And Elisha said,
“Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors.
~2 Kings 4:3.
This is what I call divine instruction. In this case, the divine instruction to get out of debt was to “borrow as many empty jars as you can.” It is, therefore, safe to infer that borrowing is not actually sinning. The problem would be if you borrowed for the wrong reasons or if you squandered the money you borrowed on leisure. So if you find yourself between a rock and a hard place, do not be afraid to get into debt in order to use the debt to curve your way out of the quagmire. Such borrowing is not sinning.
A borrower is a slave to the lender
Even though we have established that borrowing is not sinning, do not use that as an excuse to go on a borrowing spree. Do not use that as an excuse to get yet another credit card. The scriptures admonish us that those who borrow are actually enslaving themselves to their lenders.
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.
~ Proverbs 22:7, NIV
Debt should only be used as a last resort and it should not be accepted as a way of life. Sadly, most people have accepted it as a way of life. A report published by Pew Research shows that 8 out of 10 Americans are in debt. Baby boomers are the most affected segment of the population because at least 47% of them have mortgage debt and even those that don’t have a mortgage still have financed their cars or have school loans. The problem with being in debt is that you cannot use your money the way you want to. Since most of your income is used to service the debt, you have no choice but to cut down on some (necessary) expenses and more often than not, it leads you into further debt.
The good news is that however deep in debt you might be, you can actually get out. I will give you some practical tips on how to get out debt later but let’s first finish looking at some of the other things the Bible says about debt and borrowing.
It is possible to be debt free
Debt has become so normalized that living debt-free seems almost hyperbolic. But a debt-free life is actually possible. This is where God promises his people a debt-free life in the scriptures. One of the most commonly quoted scriptures that confirms this truth can be found in Deuteronomy 28.
The LORD will send rain at the proper time
from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do.
You will lend to many nations,
but you will never need to borrow from them.
~ Deuteronomy 28:12, NLT
It is clear that when God took the Israelites from slavery into their promised land, he wanted them to live totally debt free. And God wants the same for his children today. It might sound impossible but if you think about it, there are many other things God promises us that sound almost impossible. A good scripture to remember would be ;
For with God nothing shall be impossible. Luke 1:37, KJV
God wouldn’t have promised them to be lenders and not borrowers if he didn’t think it was possible. The ministry of Jesus was debt free. They didn’t borrow money for their bills and upkeep. The ministry enjoyed supernatural provision. You can too!
Don’t borrow for self-gratification
Unfortunately, most of the debt we enter today is just for self-gratification. We take a car loan because we don’t want to drive an old car. We take a mortgage because all our other friends are living in posh neighborhoods. We use credit cards because we want to buy stuff we can’t afford today. Most debt is based on our innate selfishness. As we have seen, the Bible doesn’t forbid borrowing but borrowing should only be reserved for special circumstances.
In 2 Kings 4, the widow would have lost her sons to slavery if she hadn’t borrowed. That’s a good reason to borrow. Before entering any debt, ask yourself – can your life still go on uninterrupted without the debt you are about to incur? If the answer is yes, then do not enter the debt!
Any borrowing that is done for purposes of recurrent expenditure is bad debt. It reveals poor financial management. The only good debt is the one that is incurred for purposes of creating more wealth. And even still, such borrowing should never be allowed to blow out of proportion. For instance, if all your income goes to service your debt, then the debt can be classified as a bad debt – even if the money was used for investment. In the book of Lamentations, the Bible reveals one of the qualities most people that enter into debt lack – patience.
It is good that a man should both hope and
quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.
~ Lamentations 3:26, KJV
Most debt can actually be avoided if we learned to be patient. Our society has marinated us in the notion of instant gratification so much that we hate waiting for anything. Most people think, “Why wait till I have all the money when I can finance it and own it today?” and before you know it, you are so deep in debt that you do not even know how to get out. Just try exercising patience from today and it will help you to deal with the vicious cycle of debt.
Pay your debts
Another important thing the Scriptures says about debt and borrowing is to pay your debts. While it is true that God can cancel your debts, most Christians have taken that to mean that they can just borrow as much as they want and then believe God for debt cancellation. It doesn’t work that way – God only cancels debts from people who are doing all they can to pay back their debts. Worse still, anyone that borrows with no intention of paying back is labeled a wicked man.
The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously.
~ Psalm 37:21, KJV
Before getting into any debt, think about how you intend to pay back the amount borrowed and start paying it back as soon as possible. From my personal experience, I have discovered that debt repayment is a self-discipline issue. If you cut out some unnecessary expenses, you will afford to start paying off your debts. Even if the repayments are small and seemingly insignificant, just start a repayment schedule and stick to it. As the Lord continues to bless you, continue revising the repayment amounts upwards. Here is a thought – what if you used 10% of all the income you got to repay your debts? Think about it.
Steps to get out of debt quickly
As we have seen, debt enslaves you because it makes it impossible for you to use your money the way you want. Here are some practical steps that can help you to get out of debt quickly.
Most people think, “I am so much in debt I can’t afford to give.” That is the dumbest thing you can do. The more you get into debt, the more you should give because giving is the fastest way of increasing your income. I always encourage Christians that are struggling with debt to start by being faithful tithers. You do not give to God because you have too much money – you do it because you trust him for more money. The Bible says that when you give, more is added to you. If you stop giving, your income will not increase which means your debt will get even worse.
Give, and it will be given to you.
A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over,
will be poured into your lap.
For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
~ Luke 6:38, NIV
Just like is the case of giving, most people do not save money because they argue that they have too much debt, too many needs, and so little income. But saving is never about how much money you have – it is a discipline. If you cannot save when you have little money, you will still not be able to save when you have more than enough money. Apart from being a good giver, saving will also help you to get out of debt. My wife and I started to save 10% of our income and after a couple of months; we discovered that we had enough money to take care of unforeseen emergencies. Before we began saving, such rainy days would force us to borrow money but now, we know we have some money saved for rainy days. So in a way, saving will help you to avoid getting into even more debt.
Apart from having money for rainy days, the purpose of saving money is to have something to invest. One of the reasons I decided to start saving a percentage of our income is the way I would get awesome investment opportunities that would just pass me by because I didn’t have any money to invest. The thing about investment opportunities is they will always keep coming back your way. If you can start saving money today, the next time an opportunity to invest comes knocking, you will at least have come capital. Investments will grow your wealth and you can use the proceeds of the investment to take care of your debts. Do not worry about the opportunities that have passed you so far – just start saving because 24 months from today, another opportunity will come knocking.
Never underestimate the power of divine guidance. When the widow in 2 Kings 4 reached the end of a line, she ran to God for help. And through the prophet, God gave her a divine instruction that took her out of debt in one day. It is possible for God to totally destroy your debt in a single transaction. As you believe God to get out of debt, take time in prayer and fasting as you seek for some divine guidance. And when you get the divine instruction, remember the words of Mary in John 2 – whatever he tells you, do.
The same God that heals lepers, blind people, raises the dead and does all manner of miracles is the same God that can do a financial miracle. Remember, there is nothing that is impossible with God. I remember a sister testifying to me of how God had paid off her mortgage in a single day. Someone who didn’t even know she was in debt just called her from the blues and told her that God had instructed them to take care of her mortgage. Financial miracles still happen! You can believe God for a financial miracle too!