The Bible’s Three Big Lessons on Debt

The Bible has a lot to say about money, and for good reason. Money, we find, has a uniquely powerful way of exposing our hearts and displaying our priorities. Ultimately, we see that it comes down to a matter of loyalty: “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” (Matthew 6:24). As Christians, we must love God rather than money, for “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10).

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As the Bible teaches about money, it warns about debt. In fact, it offers three big lessons on debt.

Be very cautious about going into debt. Our culture offers a nearly unlimited array of opportunities to go into debt. Many people are burdened by student loans, car loans, and mortgages. They carry credit card debt and hold two or three cards from electronics or furniture stores. Before they know it they are up to their ears in obligations. The Bible warns us to be very, very cautious about taking on debt. “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?” (Proverbs 22:26-27). Debt introduces financial risk. Sometimes this risk is wise, as with a reasonable mortgage payment, a wise business start-up loan, or a credit card balance that can be fully paid each month. But more often than not, it is not.

Debt is a heavy burden. Those who fall into debt carry a heavy burden. What begins as a financial burden, can soon become an unbearable emotional and even relational burden. So many people lie awake at night regretting the money they spent too freely and wondering how they will ever settle. So many couples grow cold and distant and even divorce because of the weight of their poor financial decisions. If only they had kept in mind Solomon’s words: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). When someone hands you money, they take your autonomy and reduce your freedom. You are now bound to them in what is almost a master-slave relationship that will not be resolved until the debt has been paid in full.

You must pay your debts. As Christians, we must be true to our word, which means debts must be repaid. Debts are obligations and we cannot walk away from them. In fact, we must do our absolute best to pay them back according to the exact terms we established. “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives” (Psalm 37:21). To refuse to settle our debts is downright wicked, a gross abdication of Christian character.

Debt is not always wrong, but in most cases it is inadvisable. It is the better part of wisdom to avoid debt whenever possible, to enter it with only the utmost caution, and to discharge it at the earliest opportunity.

The three headings in this article were adapted from Art Rainer’s book The Money Challenge.