If you review everything that the Bible has to say on debt, it is clear that God discourages debt and warns of the dangers of debt [Proverbs 22:7].
It is not a sin to borrow money, but it is a sin to borrow and not repay. Psalms 37:21 states, “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.” The implication is that the righteous person not only repays all debts, but goes “the second mile” and gives generously.
What kind of a “light into a world of darkness” is a Christian who does not repay his debts on time? Jesus said: “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matt 5:16) Clearly, it is God’s will that all Christians pay their debts on time.
Having seen the finances of over 2000 people since 1982, I am aware that most individuals and couples will have to borrow some money at some point, particularly for the purchase of a home.
Before borrowing any money, I recommend that you do the following.
1. Develop a budget, to ensure that you can afford the loan payments. [Luke 14:28-30]
2. Present the need to God in prayer and give God a chance [Psalms 37:7] to provide the cash or an alternative at lower cost. Often Christians buy things on credit without even giving God a chance to meet the need in a manner that is glorifying to him [Ps 107:8,9].
3. In prayer, ask God if it is really a need. God has promised to meet our needs [Matthew 6:31-33], not necessarily our wants and desires.
4. Most importantly, spend quality time with the Lord in prayer, seeking God’s wisdom [James 1:5] and God’s specific direction-i.e. does he want you to borrow the money or not? God has promised to direct us: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you” [Psalms 32:8].
In summary, as shown in the diagram below, God’s perspective on debt is very different than the world’s perspective. The mindset of most people is to “buy now and pay later” or “smart people use other people’s money”. On the other hand, God’s desire is for us to use minimal debt or no debt [Deuteronomy 28:1-14], by saving for future needs, rather than borrowing [Proverbs 21:20]. God has promised that He alone will meet our needs. “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 4:19].
Debt Or No Debt Debt
God promised his people, that if they fully obeyed him, then He would bless them so that they would be lenders and not borrowers.
“If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today…The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.” [Deuteronomy 28:1, 12]
On the other hand, if God’s people did not obey Him, then they would be borrowers.
However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you….the alien who lives among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower. He will lend to you, but you will not lend to him.” (Deuteronomy 28:1, 12, & 43, 44 emphasis added).
Unfortunately today, most Christians violate God’s financial principles and as a result, accumulate debt. Sometimes it is an ungodly attitude such as envy, lack of contentment, greed or selfishness that causes them to spend more than the income that God has entrusted to them. Or, they “live paycheque to paycheque” [Proverbs 21:20] with no budget [Luke 14:28-30], and make financial decisions based upon their “gut feel” or personal desires, without asking for God’s wisdom [James 1:5] and God’s specific direction [Psalms 32:8].
Please remember, God has promised to meet our needs [Matthew 6:28-33], but not necessarily our wants and desires. If you want to be obedient to God, there is no substitute for being content with God’s provision. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Heb 13:5)
All of us, like the apostle Paul, must learn to be content with God’s provision and the only way to accomplish this, is to have a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:11-13)
In summary, God always blesses obedience when we utilize the money that He has entrusted to us [Matthew 25:14-30] according to His principles and His Will. To ensure that you are using God’s money God’s way, it is absolutely necessary that you regularly spend quality time studying what God’s Word says on finances. With 2350 references in the Bible to money and material things, there is “lots to learn”.
In this regard, I would encourage you to obtain some of the excellent materials from Crown Financial Ministries Canada – crowncanada.ca. In addition, if you would like a copy of my workbook called “Debt Reduction God’s Way”, then send an e-mail to me [firstname.lastname@example.org] and I will e-mail it to you at no charge.
Perhaps God’s greatest “financial promise” to believers, is that He will meet our needs, as we put Him first. Jesus said:
“So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” [Matthew 6:31-33 emphasis added].
God has promised to meet our needs and God does not need the bank, credit cards or a personal line of credit, in order to accomplish this. The apostle Paul confirmed this: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 4:19].
Nowhere in the Bible did God ever direct anyone to borrow money in order for God to meet their needs. Because God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and present everywhere, when God decides to provide, He does so utilizing His own resources. King David testified: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Ps 37:25).
There are many examples of God’s miraculous provision in the Bible. Here are a few:
1. God provided the Israelites with manna for 40 years in the desert [Exodus 16:35].
2. Jesus fed 4000 families with seven loaves and a few fish [Matthew 5:35-38].
3. God provided for Elijah’s needs via the ravens during a severe drought [1 Kings 17:2-6].
4. Working through Elijah, God provided for the needs of a widow and her son [1 Kings 17:13-16].
5. God provided for the Israelites by making Joseph the PM of Egypt [Genesis 41:41 & 45:7].
6. On many occasions, Christ met needs by healing the sick [e.g. Matthew 4:24, 8:16].
7. God created oil by filling many jars so a widow could pay her debts (2 Kings 4:1-7).
In light of the above, is it not reasonable to trust God [not a lender], to meet our needs? Of course it is! Since 1982, I have had the privilege of counselling well over 1,000 people who had a lot of debt -in many cases more than they could personally pay back. However, when they started to manage money God’s way, God would bless them for their obedience via “mini miracles” of provision and unique wisdom. Obedience always brings blessing [Deut 28:1-14].
God has promised to meet our needs, but not necessarily our wants and desires. Often, what we believe to be needs are really wants and desires. For example, an individual earning $40,000 per year is in the top 5% of all income earners in the world! We are very wealthy but we don’t realize it. And so often, we believe that our needs are not being met when in fact they are. In Matthew 6:31-33, cited above, Jesus said that needs included food, drink and clothing. Similarly, in 1 Timothy 6:6-8 Paul said:
“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it, but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
In summary, God does not need a lender of any kind, in order to accomplish His Will [Isaiah 46:9-11]. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords [Rev 19:16]. Unfortunately, Christians often borrow money without: (1) consulting God [1 Kings 22:5] or (2) asking God to provide [Matthew 7:7, 8 & John 15:7] and (3) waiting for His provision [Psalms 37:7]. God admonishes us, not to worry, but rather put Him first and He will meet our needs [Luke 12:27-31].
Offers for unsolicited credit cards, personal lines of credit, increased mortgages and retailer’s incentives to buy now and pay in one or two years, all create tremendous temptation to spend more than you are earning, and thus accumulate debt. However, God has promised:
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Cor 10:13)
Different people struggle with different “spending temptations”. The practical solution is to identify the area(s) that you struggle with and avoid all circumstances that could lead you to give in to that temptation. Here are some examples:
-some people need to stay away from the shopping mall to avoid unnecessary spending.
-“the tool guys” need to avoid the hardware store, “the car guys” must “boycott” the automobile dealerships, and the the “gadget/techy guys” need to avoid the electronics/computer stores.
-those who have overspent often with credit cards, should perform “plastic surgery” on their credit cards by cutting them up.
-similarly, if you have a history of buying unnecessary things on your line of credit, then ask the bank to reduce or eliminate that line of credit.
Since God is in control [Psalms 103:19] and since God has promised to meet our needs [Matthew 6:28-33], is it not reasonable to assume that we should live within the income that God has provided to us? However, many people do not live within God’s provision and as a result, they spend more than they earn and accumulate debt.
Here are some additional recommendations to avoid the temptation to borrow and buy.
1. In prayer, ask God to enable you to learn to be content with His provision [Phil 4:11-13]. Contentment is the antidote to worldly attitudes such as selfishness, envy and greed.
2. Allow God to change the way you think about money and material things by renewing your mind: “do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”. [Romans 12:2]
3. How do you renew your mind? God provides the answer in Joshua 1:8: “Do not let this book of the Law depart from your mouth, meditate on it day and night and be careful to do everything written in it, then you will be prosperous and successful”.
4. Study God’s Word on finances in your daily quiet times. Why? -“For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb 4:12-13).
5. Obtain biblically -based financial advice from a Christian who knows God’s financial principles and personally applies them [1 Corinthians 2:14,15, Psalms 1:1-3].
6. Before you borrow any money, prayerfully seek the counsel of the Lord [1 Kings 22:5] for His wisdom [James 1:5] and His specific direction [Psalms 32:8] to determine if it’s God’s will.
7. Develop and implement a budget to ensure that you are spending less than you earn each month. Use the surplus to pay down debt and save for future needs. For a copy of my free Excel-based budgeting system, send an e-mail to email@example.com
As God directs, may I encourage you to implement the ideas above and trust God [Prov 3:5 & 6] to enable you to avoid the temptations of debt [1 Corinthians 10:13].
When you borrow money, you are presuming that you will have sufficient income in the future to service the debt. Since we do not know the future [Proverbs 27:1], there is a risk that we will be unable to make the loan payments and experience financial difficulties. God warns us:
“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.” [James 4:13-15 emphasis added].
Since only God knows the future (1 Kings 7, Isaiah 46:10), it is critical that you spend quality time with the Lord in prayer, listening to God’s voice (John 10:27) in order to determine if it is God’s will for you to borrow money. God has promised to direct us [Psalms 32:8].
If you are contemplating borrowing some money, then I recommend that you work through the 7 questions below before making a decision to borrow.
1. Have you developed a budget beforehand, to ensure that you can afford the loan payments? [Luke 14:28-30]. For a free copy of my Excel-based budgeting system, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Do you understand your responsibility to repay the entire loan? (Psalm 37:21) What kind of a “light into a world of darkness” is a Christian who does not repay his debts or does not pay his debts on time? [Matthew 5:16] Clearly this nullifies their testimony.
3. Have you prayed and given God a chance [Psalms 37:7] to provide the cash or an alternative at a lower cost, in a manner that is glorifying to Him? In Deuteronomy 28, God promised his people, that if they fully obeyed Him, they would not have to borrow.
4. Have you considered that God may not want you to have it? “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt 16:24). See also Hebrews 13:5.
5. Is the item that you plan to purchase a necessity? Can you do without it? God has promised to meet our needs [Matthew 6:31-33], not our wants and desires.
6. If you are married, have you (husband and wife) prayed sincerely for God’s direction [willing to accept a yes or no answer], and if so, do both of you have God’s peace that He wants you to borrow the money (John 14:26-27).
7. Most importantly, have you spent sufficient time in prayer, seeking God’s specific will before borrowing? In Jeremiah 29:11-14, God makes it clear that he does have a plan for you!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
It is at the planning stage that God will usually direct us [Psalms 32:8], if we take the time to seek His will and listen to his voice [John 10:27] in respect of any major financial decision. Receiving God’s specific direction before you make any major financial decision, will enable you to avoid a lot of financial problems later.
In my view, if you can sincerely say yes to all 7 questions above, then I believe it is God’s will for you to borrow the money. However, as demonstrated in my financial moments on saving, you would be wise to pay off the loan ASAP, in order to minimize your interest costs.