This article was originally published at intersectproject.org.
Debt and Christian living. In some circles, they are like oil and water. They simply do not go together. Debt almost rises to the level of sin.
For the sake of transparency, you need to know that I am a big advocate for pursuing debt-free living. The Bible teaches us that we are to give our first and best (Proverbs 3:9). Generosity is our priority. It is the foundation upon which real biblical financial health is found. And debt is a generosity killer. It often hinders our ability to give generously.
But what does the Bible really say about debt? As you dig through Scripture, you will come across three principles.
1. Be cautious about going into debt.
The Bible warns us about debt. Proverbs 22:26-27 says, “Don’t be one of those who enter agreements, who put up security for loans. If you have nothing with which to pay, even your bed will be taken from under you.” To put it plainly—be careful. Naivety, a miscalculation or an unforeseen financial event can put you in a really bad position.
Debt is not something to jump into carelessly. Be cautious about going into debt. If possible, avoid it altogether.
2. If you do go into debt, you will be burdened.
One of the most well-known verses on debt is Proverbs 22:7—”The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.” Anyone who has taken out debt can relate. The bill arrives, and even though you desire to use that money for other purposes, you cannot. For that money, you are a slave to the lender. You don’t have a choice. It is your burden to carry.
For some, the burden is more significant than others. Debt can frustrate. It can bring stress. It can give one a sense of hopelessness. The weight of debt is heavy and seems never-ending.
3. Even though you hate the burden, you must still pay your bills.
Debt is a burden. You are a slave to the lender. And you will want to avoid making your debt payments. But you must pay your bills.
There are, at least, two reasons the Bible says to pay your bills. First, the lender may come after you — “…even your bed will be taken from you” (Proverbs 22:27). There are real ramifications for missing payments. Second, you are considered “wicked.” Psalm 37:21 says, “The wicked person borrows and does not repay, but the righteous one is gracious and giving.” Wicked is not a word many want attached to their name. But this is exactly how God describes those who avoid paying their bills.
So, does the Bible say that debt, on its own, is a sin? No. But the Bible is not exactly the biggest advocate for debt either. We are to be wise when it comes to debt. Be cautious about going into debt. If you do go into debt, you will be burdened. And even though you hate the burden, you must still pay your bills.