A Christian Approach to Borrowing
No, I don’t agree with the people who tell us that all forms of borrowing are wrong. And, yes, it troubles me that there are Christian teachers out there telling godly folks that they should never borrow or own a credit card.
This 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. 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). When we do this, we put our future into jeopardy.
For instance, millions of Americans are upside-down on their car loans. In other words, 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 real bad real fast. What happens in this scenario if you do 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 debt you owe, and maintain 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. 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—you can’t serve 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.
Consider This Before Going into Debt
1) What Are My Motives? 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.
Often there is an element of greed involved. Over and over again, the Lord 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. Frequently, 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. When I teach the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar, I like to ask the audience what they think is the most expensive thing they will ever own. Of course, I get all the usual answers:
“Nope,” I say.
“College for the kids?”
“No,” I tell them.
“Not even close.”
By now I usually have their attention. That’s when I write three letters on the overhead: E G O. You see there is nothing in the world more costly than an out-of-control ego. It makes us do stupid things that we end up paying for, for years to come. 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 more than $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:
“Now listen you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live or do this or that.’ As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16, NKJV).
As Christians we must pre-act so we aren’t forced to react. We need to “count the costs” before we launch into any venture that will commit our future earning power.
God Wants You to Experience Freedom
Know this above all else: God is on your side—He’s pulling for you. God’s ways work. Remember, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV).
God does want His people set free from every form of bondage, including financial bondage. Only then will we be at our best for others, ourselves, and the Kingdom work we’re here to do!
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