I have been thinking about debt for several weeks now because of a series of events unfolding in my life. Good things, not bad things. But they have caused me to think. It has driven me back to some things I have studied in the past in regards to debt, particularly what the Bible has to say about it. Yesterday, I mentioned two principles concerning debt. First, debt is not prohibited, but is always discussed negatively. Second, debt should only be considered for essential physical needs. Now, let me finish that conversation by giving three more principles that I have learned from the Bible concerning debt.
Third, Debt Is A Form Of Bondage. More often than not, the reason in the OT for slavery was because a person was a debtor. If they had taken an interest free loan from their fellow Israelite and then was unable to pay it back, they would become their slave (Nehemiah 5:3-5; 2 Kings 4:1-2,7).
"The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender's slave." (Proverbs 22:7)
That is so true. Have you ever felt that? Do you feel that? Have you ever been handcuffed from doing what you might want to do because of a decision that you made several years ago to take that loan on that bigger house or that nicer car? You just couldn't resist those new appliances at six months-no payments-not interest. But now you are in slavery.
I want to cautiously think about this before I enter into any sort of debt. It doesn't mean I will not take a loan for my house or car, but I want to count the cost of being a slave to my own signature. I ask myself this question: "Is the money I will be obligated to repay and the bondage it will create, worth the value I'll receive by getting the money or possessions now?"
Fourth, Debt Is Always To Be Paid Back. Debt is not to remain outstanding. This was always taken more seriously in the Scriptures than it is in our culture today.
"The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives." (Psalm 37:21)
I will put this as simply as I can. Every person who takes a loan from anyone has an obligation to pay it back. What that Psalm says is that the person who is not cautious in what he borrows and is either unwilling or unable to pay it back is the wicked person. I know that sounds harsh, but that is what the Bible says. Do not borrow money that you are not willing to pay back. It is the characteristic of the upright man that when he borrows, he pays it back in a conscientious way.
This means we should have a plan of repayment. If you have a debt, stick with it. Even if it takes you the rest of your life, stick to repaying what you have taken.
"It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay." (Ecclesiastes 5:5)
I have known people who have filed for bankruptcy because it was their last resort. But then they did everything in their power to pay, over time, the loans they owed.
Fifth, Debt Is Not To Be Considered Long-Term. The longest term of debt the people in the Bible would have taken would have been seven years. That's right, seven years. In contrast to that, we have 30-year mortgages or even in Japan, I have heard of a 90-year mortgage. What would life be like if you were only in debt for seven years? Deuteronomy 15:1-2 & Nehemiah 10:31 speak of a release of debts every seven years, primarily as a relief to the poor.
I am reading through the Proverbs every day this month. Just the other day, I was reading through chapter six with my kids and it speaks of the urgency of getting out of debt. There should be a sense of delivering ourselves from the snares of creditors.
"My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor, have given a pledge for a stranger, if you have been snared with the words of your mouth, have been caught with the words of your mouth, do this then, my son, and deliver yourself; Since you have come into the hand of your neighbor, go humble yourself, and importune your neighbor. Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids; deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hunter's hand and like a bird from the hand of the fowler." (Proverbs 6:1-5)
This is urgency. This is serious. He is telling us to get out of it as fast as you can. As my wife and I enter into debt, we are setting up a plan to pay it off as fast as we can. While debt might not be sinful, it is meant to be temporary and paid back.
Tomorrow, I will post a few plans I have used or read about in regards to debt reduction. You might just find one of them useful.