A Christian Approach to Borrowing Money
- Tuesday, September 20, 2005
I don’t agree with the people who tell us that all forms of borrowing are wrong. And it troubles me that there are Christian teachers out there telling godly folks that they should never borrow or own a credit card.
Teachings of this kind may sound good at first blush, but for me it’s a question of consistency: How can I tell you that it’s wrong to borrow — when I have a checking or a savings account at the bank? You see, the bank doesn’t want my money to protect my money. The bank wants my money so it can loan up to 85 percent of it back out to borrowing customers! So, how can I tell you that it’s a sin to borrow — when I’m the very guy who is funding the system?
I believe there’s a more balanced approach to godly borrowing. You see, most of us get into trouble when we start buying depreciating items on credit. A depreciating item is something we buy today that will be worth less tomorrow (i.e.: cars, vacations, furniture, etc.) When we do this we put our future into jeopardy. For instance, millions of Americans are upside-down on their cars loans. We’ve bought on payment plans that have allowed us to owe more than the car is worth. Sure, I know the culture tells us that this is normal — everybody’s doing it. But, when we do things like this I believe we are getting dangerously close to sin.
Why? Because when you owe $15,000 on a car that’s worth only $12,000 things can go really bad really fast. What happens in this scenario if you lose your job or you get sick and can’t work? How do you sell your car for $12,000 and pay off the $15,000 while maintaining your integrity and Christian witness?
While I don’t believe that all debt is evil or sinful, the Bible does teach that debt can be bondage, or slavery. Proverbs 22:7 tells us, “Just as the rich rules the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.” (NIV, emphasis mine)
Many Christians today would argue that they are in control of their money. And they may be right. But just remember that Jesus said you can’t serve two masters. You’ll either love one and hate the other, or you’ll hate one and love the other — in short, you can’t serve both God and money. While we might not want to admit it, when our lives are controlled by the payment book, debt has become the master.
Two things to consider before going into debt:
1) Why are we borrowing money? All too often we buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like. Folks -- this is dumb behavior. A lot of borrowing happens for all the wrong reasons.
One of those reasons is an age-old problem called greed. The Lord repeatedly warns us to avoid covetousness and greed. In Luke 12:14, 15, Jesus gets right to the point here, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (NIV)
A first cousin to greed is vanity. People go into debt trying to keep up with other people in the neighborhood (or, sadly, even at church) who have a more lavish lifestyle. This happens more than you think; our egos can be a major liability. How many people do you suppose are making payments on boats, expensive cars, prestigious private schools, second homes, and extravagant clothing because their “social position” or “circle of friends” expected it?
2) What Is My Ability to Repay? The problem with borrowed money is that it has to be repaid. Today’s instant gratification becomes tomorrow’s bondage. Recently, a friend of mine shared a fact that startled me. He told me that if an individual charges a $40.00 meal on his credit card and only pays the minimum amount each month — that meal will end up costing over $200.00!
It is so dangerous to presume on the future. Murphy’s Law always kicks in at the least expected (and, most inopportune) moment. Just when you think you’ll be ready to make that first payment — BOOM! The bottom falls out. Either the baby needs some new, exotic medicine, or the central heat goes out, or the transmission gives up the ghost, or...well, you get the point.
Again, the Scripture gives us helpful guidance in this area:
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