What does the Bible say about loans and debt?
Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” –Proverbs 22:7
Unsolicited calls, irritating sms’es – disturbing you from something urgent you are engaged it; and many of those communications offering you easy loans and unimaginable credit should you need it…
Somebody (his name is 1 Peter 5:8) somewhere is working overtime to draw you to himself, and he is using every trick in his dirty book to get you to give in.
You are tempted. You need the house/car/trip abroad, whatever. If you can somehow get the money (at that minute your feeling is so intense), you are very sure you can pay it back. The ‘voice’ continues to tell you not to worry, you are young, and you will pay the emi-s rigorously.
The question is this – what does the Bible say about borrowing and emi-s, is there any light Scripture throws on what is wisdom in these situations in today’s precarious times?
There is nothing in all creation that Scripture does not throw light on.
Here, unadulterated, are some thoughts (along with verses that substantiate the thoughts) about whether Christians should borrow money or not.
- First and foremost, consider this – nowhere in the Bible has God executed a blessing on a human through a loan. He gave and gave generously to those who trusted Him, believed in His Son, and obeyed His commands. How generous are you? How much do you give of yourself and what you have to others without hope of getting something out of your giving? His commands include the instruction that you yourself should be generous if you expect to receive from Him. Listen to Him, in His words: “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” –Luke 6:38
- Secondly, the Bible does not forbid debt, but discourages it. Everywhere debt is mentioned on its pages, it is discussed in negative light. Not because God is a killjoy, but because a debt makes you a slave (servant if you prefer the gentler word) to someone – (be it bank, business, family member, friend) – other than God. We are called to be servants to God alone, and believe us, He is a kind and compassionate master. Not so the other instruments you may have borrowed from; if you are unable to repay, even one installment, you are read the riot act. A friendship gets broken, a family can break up – all kinds of devils are let loose in the situation. That’s why the Bible frowns at debt. God wants us to live in love and freedom.
- Third – borrow only if you have a guaranteed way to pay it back. Please don’t say, ‘I have my job, I am earning well.’ Imagine the worst. A job can disappear with one flimsy pink slip of paper. Then what?
You may take a loan from the bank to buy a car for your business – take it in such a way that if you can’t pay for some reason, the lender can take back the car and you will be free from your debt without too much heartburn. If you don’t, and you are signing surety, you are having the audacity to presume the future. There’s a 50-50 chance it might; but what if it’s the depressing 50% that happens? An illness or accident or whatever makes you unable to repay, then you are left “in debt” (horrific word!). But if you borrow it against some jewelry or other possession of yours – if Christians would observe this one caution associated with borrowing – the most you could lose is the security you pledged against the loan. Same applies to your co-signing a loan for your best friend or family member – do not do it unless you are willing and able to pay the whole amount for the person. Read Proverbs 17:18. “It’s poor judgment to guarantee another person’s debt or put up security for a friend.”
- Avoid Long-terms debts. Those who are persuading you to take the loan and pay back in 20 or 25 years make it sound like the simplest thing in the world. But they are subtly putting a noose around your neck. Take for instance a newly married couple taking a 25-year loan to buy a house in a fancy locality. The husband is very doubtful, but the wife coaxes him and he agrees against his better judgment because he wants to make her happy. Even if they can repay it, a shadow has come upon the brilliance of the marital glow. Then, if one or the other loses the job, calamity storms in through the door. They stop praying together, they no longer communicate – a few years down the line, the marriage breaks up. They will come up with all kinds of bitter complaints – mental cruelty, lack of communication, insensitivity. Balderdash! The long-term loan walked into their new house with them, and gradually built the wall that separated them from one another. Bad financial mismanagement does irreparable long-term harm to a marriage. The longest term of debt God’s people took on in the Bible was for seven years. During the year of remission, the seventh year, the Jews were instructed to release their brothers from any indebtedness.
“At the end of every seventh year you must cancel the debts of everyone who owes you money. 2 This is how it must be done. Everyone must cancel the loans they have made to their fellow Israelites. They must not demand payment from their neighbors or relatives, for the Lord’s time of release has arrived.” Deuteronomy 15:1-2.
If you have taken a debt for a longer time, pay attention and do everything you can to pay it off in 7 years; use the Biblical model as the maximum length of time you’d borrow from anyone.
On the other hand, if you who are reading this, have not yet borrowed, then don’t do it! The best way not to have to borrow is to read God’s Word (the NLTCE gives it in utterly simple and poignant vocabulary) regularly, believe in it, AND obey it. Deuteronomy 28:1 is clear: “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.” Then adds, in verse 12: “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.”
My God bless the reading of this word and meditation unto your heart and life.
by the NLTCE Team