Christianity and money: what the Bible says about debt
Debt has been an inseparable part of humanity's existence since the dawn of time—so much so that the topic is addressed in one of religion's seminal texts: the Bible.
In fact, the Old and New Testaments are filled with empowering insights into handling debt. And this wisdom remains just as relevant today as when it was first recorded.
Whether you're wrestling with credit card balances or personal loans, or seeking guidance on financial stewardship, Bible verses about debt offer prudent counsel.
So, what does God say about debt?
First and foremost, scriptures about debt don't explicitly say being in debt is a sin or amoral. Life is unpredictable, and sometimes you may need to borrow money to achieve your goals or simply get by.
Acquiring an education, owning a home, and establishing a business often involves entering various forms of debt, which for many, is an inescapable necessity.
The Bible's teachings about debt reflect an understanding that it is part of life.
The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), for example, includes the detail of a Samaritan who takes an injured man to an inn and pays his expenses, further promising to pay the inn owner any additional expenses incurred when he returns.
Similarly, the scriptures below about debt emphasize a responsible approach to managing money. They warn about the dangers of debt and the importance of doing what you can to become debt-free.
Develop financial foresight
"The wise store up choice food and olive oil, but fools gulp theirs down." - Proverbs 21:20.
During Biblical times, olive oil was a valuable commodity, symbolizing affluence and success. While this text refers to resources, we can apply the lesson to sound financial management.
These words encourage:
This Bible verse about debt is a gentle reminder to steer clear of impulsive financial decisions with negative consequences, such as falling into preventable debt.
Debt has serious consequences
"The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender." - Proverbs 22:7.
Borrowing money establishes a bond of indebtedness with your creditors, diminishing freedom and self-reliance. For example, if you acquire a personal loan from a bank, you relinquish the authority to determine when and how it will be repaid because they set the terms.
This Bible verse about debt warns against the downside of being in debt. It suggests you should only take on debt as a last resort after you have exhausted all other options.
If you must borrow, understand the risks
"For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?" – Luke 14:28
Luke 14:28 is part of Jesus's teachings in the New Testament. It encourages thoughtful planning and budgeting before making financial commitments.
For example, let's say you wish to take out a loan. The interest rate on a loan is the percentage of the loan amount you have to pay back in addition to the principal. It is the cost of borrowing money.
So, if you borrow $10,000 at an interest rate of 5%, you have to pay $500 in interest each year. This means the cost of borrowing money is $500 each year, or 5% of the loan amount.
When you borrow funds with a higher interest rate, you have to pay back more money in addition to the original amount owed. Then there is also the repayment term to consider.
A longer repayment period results in reduced monthly payments but usually comes with higher total interest charges.
On top of that, you will also have to pay a one-time charge to process the loan application (origination fee), not to mention late payment fees if you default.
Ultimately, borrowing money can be an excellent solution to finance major purchases; just make sure you understand the fine print.
Prioritize paying debt
“The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.” - Psalm 37:21.
What the Bible says about debt is that we have an ethical obligation to repay what we owe. Psalm 37:21 contrasts wicked behavior with the righteousness of generosity and fulfilling commitments.
This scripture about debt inspires us to engage in financial interactions with honesty and responsibility, which means being accountable and respectful of financial commitments.
Don’t pay someone else’s debts
"Do not be one of those who shakes hands in a pledge, one of those who is surety for debts." - Proverbs 22:26.
Although this Bible verse about debt uses the term "surety" instead of "co-sign," it strongly advises against taking on another person's debt.
For example, if a bank doubts a borrower's ability to repay a loan, it will often request a third party (cosigner) with a solid financial track record to become part of the agreement as a backup for the borrower.
While co-signing may be a kind gesture, it also exposes you to risk if the borrower defaults. So, you should only ever co-sign if you are fully prepared to repay the debt in full.
Be financially accountable
Galatians 6:5 is a segment within a letter composed by the apostle Paul, directed toward the Christian community in Galatia. This scripture touches upon diverse facets of Christian existence, including accountability.
It reads, "For each one should carry their own load," denoting personal responsibilities. Within this context, Paul underscores the significance of honoring obligations.
In Christianity, taking individual action puts faith into practice. We see this in the story of Nehemiah, a man who prayed for guidance and strength before restoring the ruined walls of Jerusalem.
Through his leadership, the walls were rebuilt in 52 days - a remarkable feat for those times - and the city of Jerusalem was physically and spiritually fortified.
Take action to get out of debt
Overall, these ancient Bible verses about debt emphasize responsible and ethical financial behavior. Debt doesn’t have to be an ongoing way of life; rather, it represents a temporary obstacle to overcome.
If you find yourself grappling with debt, reaching out to a Christian financial advisor or debt counselor can be beneficial. They will assist you in devising a strategy to overcome debt and provide tailored guidance based on your faith and situation.