What the Bible Says about Money: Debt

I’m currently writing a series called “What the Bible Says about Money.”  The last post was about financial stewardship.  The Bible tells us that God is the owner of everything and we are responsible for managing wisely what has been entrusted to our care which includes money.  It’s a big responsibility we’ve been given, but we are expected to be wise financial stewards.

This week’s post is about what the Bible has to say about debt.  Famous financial author and guru, Dave Ramsey, says this about debt:

Debt is dumb. Most normal people are just plain broke because they are in debt up to their eyeballs with no hope of help. If you’re in debt, then you’re a slave because you do not have the freedom to use your money to help change your family tree.

So, what exactly is debt and why is debt dumb, as Dave Ramsey describes?  An article by Crown Financial Ministries describes debt as something that we owe to someone else.  Excessive debt is surety.  Surety is a situation of being in debt without a sure way to repay.

Is it a sin to be in debt?

You may be relieved to know that no where in the Bible does it say it is a sin to be in debt.  However, the Bible does encourage us to avoid debt.  Sadly, many people don’t find or listen to this guidance until they’ve acquired more debt than they can climb out of on their own.  At this point, counseling or other avenues for help are often sought after.

Yes, the guidance is clear in scripture.  The Money Map participant manual clearly paints the picture of this Biblical guidance by providing different Biblical translations of Romans 13:8.

Owe no man any thing (KJV).  Let no debt remain outstanding (NIV).  Pay all your debts (TLB).  Owe nothing to anyone (NASB).  Keep out of debt and own no man anything (Amplified).

Debt is slavery

If you’ve ever acquired any amount of debt, whether it was a car loan, or credit card balance you couldn’t pay off at the end of the month, you may have felt the burden.  This burden stems from owing money to someone else.  That payment is due each month whether you can pay it or not.

The Bible clearly tells us we are slaves to the lender when in debt.  That burden is the slavery of being obligated or in debt to another person.

Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender (Proverbs 22:7, TLB)

This is probably the most powerful debt related scripture in the Bible because it puts it into perspective quite well.  No one wants to be enslaved.  I assume it’s an awful and dreadful thing to be imprisoned.  If in debt, you’re not physically surrounded by prison walls or bars, but it might seem like it.

Debt limits Godly opportunities

I think the most important limiting factor of debt to understand is that it limits Godly opportunities in our lives.  God desires us to avoid debt so that he can do amazing things through us.

If there were ever an opportunity to go and take a new job for a God given purpose, or to help others, having excessive debt may stifle our ability to take action in these areas.  We are inflexible with too much debt.

God can do amazing things when it comes to providing.  Most often we are too quick to let our own will guide us and not God’s will for our lives.  We make the decision to take out the loan for the new car to replace the broken down clunker, but have we really given God the problem and allowed him the opportunity to provide in what are sometimes unbelievable ways?

Facing hard times

Sometimes debt is our fault, but sometimes it’s not.  Debt can be created when we purchase something in advance of having the money to pay for it (surety) which is often seen with excessive credit card use.

But what about debt we don’t ask for, or create by the mismanagement of credit cards?  What about the debt that is caused when a sick family member has to be checked into the hospital for treatment of a disease or illness?

I have great compassion for this type of debt.  Many families, even those with emergency savings, find themselves in such situations because the medical debt is too high to cover.

In either situation, the debt can be seen as a trial to overcome.  As a Money Map Coach I meet with many people who are facing one or both of these trials of debt.  In the first situation, the behavior that caused the debt has to be corrected.  And in the second situation, the person who has the unexpected debt must not blame themselves.

Getting out of debt

My pastor recently spoke about trials in life.  They are tests of our faith.  With the right attitude towards them, we can see them as growing opportunities.  I think this message from James is encouraging and uplifting.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1: 1-5, NIV).

Debt, as with all trials can be an opportunity for growth.  We can’t fool ourselves into thinking a trial is good.  It’s not.  Debt is not good.  But we can strengthen our faith and perhaps use our story to help others in the future by overcoming the trial.

I think the important thing to keep in mind is not to be discouraged about being in debt.  It would be easy to have a negative attitude.  Perhaps it would also be easy to blame someone else, or just the unfortunate situation.  But if looking at debt as a trial that can and will be overcome, there is a great opportunity on the other side.

What have you done, or are doing to overcome the trial of debt?  Your story may just help other readers.

Each of the posts from the Bible and Money series are based on principles discussed during Money Map Coaching sessions and the Money Map Coach participants’ guide.  You can learn more about Money Map Coaching at Crown Financial Ministries.  

About Jason Price

Jason Price is a family man saved by grace, passionate about faithful financial stewardship (1 Cor 4:2 NIV), soccer and the Pacific sun.

  • Ken

    I think debt is a trial that we create ourselves. We need to understand that contentment is the way out. We need to understand our part – behavior – in the equation. Good post.
    .-= Ken´s last blog ..Money Secrets? Spill the Beans =-.

  • Financial Bondage

    I was shocked to learn that God does allow borrowing. He just has some rules that go with it.

    1. credit/borrowing should never be normal for Gods people (that is, don’t over do it).

    2. credit/borrowing should never be long term

    3. never sign surety. that is, borrowing money without a certain way of paying back the debt.

    source: the word on finances, Larry Burkett
    .-= Financial Bondage´s last blog ..Buying a home =-.

    • Jason

      Financial Bondage, I think you covered it well. This surprises a lot of people.

  • Budgets are the New Black

    I appreciate this series! We are working on eradicating our debt once and for all. We don’t have a remarkable story of out-of-control spending… We have just moved a lot (military) and every time we paid off debt we’d move again and acquire some more. We are determined to stop that cycle a la Dave Ramsey, whom we discovered almost a year ago. Wish we’d known about him sooner! But there’s no better time to start than the present.

    I, too, believe that sometimes debt is unavoidable. I really feel for those with medical bills and other debt that they couldn’t control. I do wonder, what percentage of medical debt is because the person had no insurance at all? And what percentage of those uninsured could have had insurance but chose not to?

    I’ll be sharing this series with my facebook/twitter friends, fyi, unless you mind, just please let me know.
    .-= Budgets are the New Black´s last blog ..Good Read$ for the Weekend =-.

    • Jason

      Budgets are the New Black, I’m glad you’re enjoying the series. I don’t mind at all; please share it! :)

      Good thought on the medical insurance issue. That would be an interesting statistic to review.

      I too wish I had heard about Dave Ramsey as well as Crown Financial Ministries sooner. I agree that there is no time like the present. The past mistakes really don’t matter as long as we’re working hard to manage wise and avoid debt today!

      Thanks for your comments!

  • http://dollarsanddoctrine.com Rob @ dollars and doctrine

    Great Post. I have slated a post on my blog (dollarsanddoctrine.com) for Friday (22nd) about debt. It is titled: Ten Reasons to Live DEBT-FREE. I try to give some “lesser known” reasons why living free of debt is better (such as: It teaches you self-discipline). You all should check it out on Friday, I think you would enjoy it.
    Thanks for the post/series.
    .-= Rob @ dollars and doctrine´s last blog ..Book Corrections: Is Dollars and Doctrine Perfect? =-.

    • Jason

      Rob, sounds like a great post. I look forward to reading it and I love the idea behind it. Thanks for letting me know about it and for reading my current series!

  • http://dollarsanddoctrine.com Rob @ dollars and doctrine
  • Eric

    Great article! Debt is not a sin, but for most people what leads them into debt is a sin. Our disobedience with His blessings and distrust of His future provisions usually results in debt. I like what Stephen Discroll says, “Satan’s great achievement – convincing a sinless Adam and Eve, who had everything, that they needed more.”

    Keep up the good work,

    • http://www.onemoneydesign.com Jason Price

      Eric, thanks! That quote is a great illustration of how sin can overtake us. And you make a great point in that the debt is not a sin, but our disobedience which leads to debt. That’s is so true. Well said.

  • Sdzabel

    I’m a college student in fort Myers Florida, and I felt convicted by what I had been reading in my daily Proverbs devotional about debt, so I sold my car after having bought it a month ago with a car loan, and I have decided to start cycle commuting, until I have the money to pay for a car that I want out right. It sometimes stinks having to bike everywhere especially since I’m not used to it yet, but I’m excited for the new path God will lead me on thanks to this change, and I know that he will continue providing for me. I love God with every fiber of my being, and if this change gives me the added opportunity to serve him, then I am more than excited to start the journey.