Welcome to our Wednesday “Ask Beau” post. The purpose of this weekly feature is to provide you, our readers, with biblical responses to questions you have about practical issues that you face.
As always, you may submit questions for future “Ask Beau” posts by contacting us at email@example.com, or by leaving a comment on this post.
Before I dive into this question, let me thank you, faithful reader of thefrontieratgrace.com, for your patience. It’s been several days since our last post, and I’ve missed you—electronically speaking.
I don’t know that I’ve ever heard someone say that debt is evil, but in evangelical circles it seems that some have reawakened to the problems that debt can create. No doubt this has been spurred in part by the gigantic debt loads we face in America, both on the personal and governmental levels, and the very obvious consequences for such debt loads. Dave Ramsey says that “debt is dumb and cash is king.” Others join him in strong opposition to borrowing. But does the Bible actually forbid borrowing?
First of all, we should note that the Bible addresses the question of debt more often from the perspective of the lender or the guarantor than from the perspective of the borrower. A number of Old Testament passages forbid the Israelites from charging interest when lending money to their fellow Israelites (e.g., Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:36,37; Deuteronomy 23:19,20; Nehemiah 5:7,10). Furthermore, the proverbs “typically discourage lending rather than borrowing.”*
It is not accurate to say that the Bible forbids borrowing, but it is fair to say that the Bible is cautious about the debtor/creditor relationship. In addition to the many passages that speak negatively about guaranteeing someone else’s loan (Proverbs 6:1–5; 11:15; 17:18; 20:16; 22:26; 27:13), one proverb in particular stands out as a caution against borrowing: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender” (Proverbs 22:7 ESV). When I look at this data, it is hard for me not to conclude that the Bible urges a much more cautious outlook toward debt than my training in commerce led me to adopt.
Other biblical passages are relevant here, such as the commendation of gradual, organic growth that we find in Proverbs 13:11, and the many scriptural calls to contentment (e.g., Luke 3:14; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 4:11; 1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5). When you approach life from this perspective, debt becomes less “necessary.”
What are your thoughts on the issue of debt?
*Tremper Longman III, Proverbs, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 405.