A Biblical understanding of debt part one
If you talk to a modern economist he will tell you that if you have good credit you should leverage your money. That is you should use your good credit; borrow a bunch of money. Invest in something that is appreciating in value and you will end up rich. The idea is that you can do your investing using someone else’s money. In that way you can accelerate your rate of return. There is no way that you are going to get rich just by working and saving money.
The Government takes a similar approach. The theory is, when the economy slows down we should borrow money, invest in sectors of the economy that will grow. In practice the government will invest in anything as long as it spends money. The measure of success in our economy is the exchange of money. That means that any time money changes hands for any reason then the economy is growing. The belief is that once the economy has some momentum it will continue to grow.
That is the way the economist, bankers and politicians see it, they work with other people’s money. How do the successful business owners view it? I am talking about the small to medium business owners; the ones that the economists say drive the economy and create the most jobs. Well in the book The Millionaire Mind the author studied a great number of millionaires to see how they think and behave. One of the key factors that they agreed on was, don’t borrow money. They tended to not have any personal debt, and most of them did not have any debt in their business.
So we have a difference here between theory and practice. Those that are writing the theory say one thing but those that are actually running the businesses are doing something totally different.
What does God say about borrowing money?
Money is only borrowed by the poor, never the rich.
7 “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.
Money is only borrowed for survival. When a person runs short on funds they sell their belongings, then when there is nothing reasonable left to sell, then they borrow for basic needs only.
Debt is associated with the disadvantaged and discontented.
1 Samuel 22:2
And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him.
Debt is always viewed as a form of bondage.
The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower is servant to the lender.
Abusive lending practices which take advantage of the poor will be severely punished by God
“Lending” to those who cannot repay will be blessed by God.
He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, And He will pay back what he has given.
The ability of a nation to loan money to other nations is an indication of God’s blessing. It is the direct result of being a nation that honors God and follows His laws.
For the LORD your God will bless you just as He promised you; you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow; you shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you.
Being in debt as a nation is an indication of God’s judgment. It is a direct result of not honoring God and rebelling against His commandments.
43 “The alien who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower. 44 He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail.45 “Moreover all these curses shall come upon you and pursue and overtake you, until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you.
There are many more passages that deal with the specifics of lending, borrowing, holding collateral and charging interest but the one I listed above do a good job of summarizing the Bibles attitude toward debt. Debt is always viewed as a negative. It is even used in the “Lord’s Prayer” as the equivalent of sin.
“… and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”
Personal debt and national debt have become a big topic in the media, but we tend to view it in fairly positive terms. When it comes to personal debt we are concern with questions like, “How is my credit rating”. As if one of being able to borrow is a good thing. Or we ask, “How much available credit do I have on my credit card”, or “How much debt can I carry before I am in financial trouble.”
The questions we ask as a nation aren’t much different. We ask, “Should we raise the debt ceiling?” “How much debt should we carry compared to the Gross Domestic Product?” “Will America be able to maintain its positive credit rating?” “Should we borrow more money to stimulate the economy?”
We have it all wrong. Debt is bad. Not just a little bag it is real bad. We need to view it as such and seek to eliminate it. Deuteronomy chapters 27 and 28 explain how this is done. It is not by stimulating the economy. It is not by taxing the rich. It is not even by cutting spending. I am sure that these are all tools that can be used but they will not work until we deal with the root problem. We must turn to God, acknowledge His as Lord and humbly follow His laws. Who knows He may choose to forgive us our debts.