Is Debt a Sin?

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What does the Bible say about debt?  Debt is a huge problem in American homes and government, it's destroying our financial system and it is the reason for the recession we're in right now.  This problem is spreading and hurting other nations worldwide.  With that being said, don't you think the Bible would have something to say on the subject?

Amazingly enough, the Bible talks about money more than Hell, baptism, and church attendence COMBINED.  Money is an important subject in the Bible, and God certainly has some things to say about debt.

All I can say is this, I wish I would have known these principles ten years ago.

1. Not all debt is a sin.

Ps. 112:5, "A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion."

Here we see a good man who lends money.  If all debt is a sin, then God wouldn't talk about this man being good and lending money out.  If debt was a sin, then this man would be actually aiding and abetting sin!  So from this we can see that not all debt is sin.

2. It is a sin to borrow and not pay again.

Ps. 37:21, "The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth."

This is particularly touchy, considering many Christians have done just that in the last few years.  I'm not insensitive to the fact that many good people have lost their jobs and in turn lost their homes.  It's a tragic thing. 

It doesn't change the word of God though.  If you've found yourself in a situation to where there's nothing you can do about it and you're not going to be able to pay your lender back, recognize it's a sin and confess it to God.  God is good, and nothing changes who He is no matter what our circumstances are in life.

3. It is a sin to co-sign a loan.

Pr. 17:18, "A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend."

"Surety" means collateral. In this verse, a man is going into a debt agreement using his friend, because it's the only way he can.  Think about it, banks LOVE to loan money.  That's all they every want to do, it's like Christmas and birthdays for them.  For some mysterious reason though, they won't loan money to your friend or relative! That is, however, unless you put down your good name as collateral.  God says we can't do that, it's a sin to co-sign a loan.

4. Unsecured debt is a sin, but secured debt is not.

Prov. 22:26-27, "Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts. "27": If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee?"

Having debt that is secured, such as a home loan or a car loan, is not a sin because the loan is tied to something that you can (theoretically) sell and pay off the loan with. Credit card debt is sin though, because it is unsecured debt. The debt is not tied to anything; the only "surety" (collateral) is YOU and YOUR GOOD NAME. It is a sin to borrow with no collateral. In this verse, the collateral is the actual good name of the person, not an object.

5. Being late on bills is a sin.

Rom. 13:8, "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law."

There is a difference between a contract, and "owing" someone something. When an employer hires someone, they enter into a contract with that employee. At the end of the pay period, they are required to fulfill their contract and pay their employee. Before then, they do not "owe" the employee in the Biblical definition of it, the owing begins if they break the contract and are late in paying.

This is the only logical definition of the word owe in the Bible, any other definition would mean we are sinning by having a monthly light bill, water bill, or rent bill because we have an obligation to pay. Having an obligation to pay and owing are two different things. Owing is breaking the obligation, by being late or by walking out on the agreement.

6. While secured debt is not a sin, it can be and in many cases it is a hindrance and a snare.

Pr. 22:7, "The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender."

God's perfect will is for us to go cash and carry. There is an allowance made for secured debt, but even then you put yourself under a burden. Secured debt must be entered into with much prayer, not lightly as our culture would tell you.


JTR said...

Great article. This kind of advice is ignored today, which leads families in dire financial problems...and I believe cuts into our missions giving. Americans have so much, and yet give so little. We need to cut way back, appreciate what we have, and live simply so that others may simply live. I know in my own life, we bought a house that was way more than we needed, and none of our Christian friends or relatives gave any of this advice - insteead they all seemed impressed and happy with our "success" to be able to afford such luxuries. Five years later, and over a year on the market but unsold, and I am deeply regretting not following the advice the Bible gave all along!

Anonymous said...

I hear where you're coming from, and sadly it's becoming pretty common. A lot of good people who meant well are losing their homes, and I think many of them would have never gotten into the situation if they only knew what the Bible said on the subject.

Grammy Blick said...

We also need to remember that everything we have is from God and is to be used for His glory. I wrote a much longer answer, but other words won't make people listen any more than God's word. We need to heed.