What Does The Bible Say About Borrowing Money

Debt vs. Saving: Which is The Bible’s Preference?

When considering whether it is OK to borrow money, many will naturally turn to the Bible for advice. Biblical teachings vary depending on which version of the Bible you read and many of the translations aren’t wholly coherent when it comes to issues of debt and money. Banks and lenders have assumed a role that has been traditionally met with some approval by the church in some contexts.
The Bible speaks plainly on the issue of debt. One prominent verse, Proverbs 22:7, reads: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Taking this at face value, it wouldn’t be an irrational conclusion to make that the Bible does in fact teach us that taking on debt and slavery are to be avoided.
But is this a blanket ban on borrowing? It would seem not, as Proverbs 6:6-11 includes verse 6: “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” This speaks of a more responsible, prudent approach to borrowing. In addition, Jesus taught about the jubilee year, in which all debts were released every 50 years – thus giving a sense that certain debts existed and should at least be considered as proper.
Dr. David Jones, a professor of financial ethics at Harvard University, examines the jubilee year. He notes that while this idea is echoed in the Hebrew scriptures, it is rather hard to envision in practice and was never adopted by anyone. He says that it appears more to be a rhetorical device than something real.
Another area in which the Bible doesn’t provide much guidance outlines rules on what one should do after taking on a loan, who should provide it and who should benefit. One should look to appropriate and responsible sources for guidance in this regard.
In any case, the Bible doesn’t explicitly condemn debt – but it does, however, state that one should always plan and think responsibly when it comes to money matters, whether this is borrowing money or saving it.

Are Loans a Necessity or a Luxury?

When people ask ‘What does the Bible say about borrowing money?’ a pertinent question to ask in response is ‘Do you really need to borrow money in the first place?’ That is to say, it’s important to remember that taking on a loan is not only a matter of faith, but also of necessity.
The Bible does, however, warn against borrowing for extravagance or vanity. Proverbs 21:17, for example, reads: “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” When taken in the context of debt, this passage could be interpreted as warning that individuals not go into debt for something which is not absolutely necessary.
Similarly, Proverbs 22:7: “The borrower is the slave of the lender” similarly emphasizes the importance of considering the necessity of taking on debt. The passage can be seen as a reminder that while it is possible to borrow, the lender holds all the power – and so one needs to be wise and judicious in the loans they do choose to take on.
On the other hand, it is also important to note that the Bible does take into account that taking on loans is a necessity for many, especially those at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum. For example, Deuteronomy 15:8 stipulates that “When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbor, do not enter his house to collect what he gives you as a pledge; let him bring it to you.” This passage implies that loans were accepted and allowed.
In conclusion, it is important to be judicious when considering taking on debt. It may be necessary for some, but only take on loans for essential items and not for vanity.

The Principle of Biblically Responsible Debts

When considering taking on debt, the Bible does provide some useful advice. One should always look to borrow responsibly, clearly understanding the terms and conditions of the loan.
The Bible teaches us about what we could call the “principle of biblically responsible debt.” This is the idea that one should think critically and strategically when taking on a loan, acting in a wise and controlled manner. One should not be impulsive or careless; rather, one should think of the dangers associated with debt and plan to use the loan in a beneficial manner.
Dr. Jones also highlights a nuance behind the Hebrew scriptures which is contained in Exodus 22:25-27. It reads: “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”
This passage, when read in the context of debt, implies that the intention of taking on a loan is benevolent in nature. That is to say: if you do take on a loan, do so charitably and with the view of helping your neighbour.

The Ideal of Not Indebtedness

It should be stated that the most responsible financial principle according to the Bible is to be debt-free. The Bible contains a number of verses that directly address the idea of avoiding debt, such as Proverbs 22:26: “Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or put up security for debts” and Proverbs 28:8 “Whoever increases his wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.”
By avoiding debt, one can be in a better position to live a debt-free life and use their resources to help others. As Dr. Jones notes, “The Bible counsels a lifestyle of avoiding debt and living within one’s means.” In any case, avoiding debt should be the preferred option for anyone looking to live in accordance with Biblical teachings on money and wealth.

Consequences of Debt

Finally, the Bible also warns of potential consequences of taking on debt. Proverbs 22:7, for example, implies that borrowers become slaves of the lender. This should be taken as a stern warning to all those considering taking on debt – that one needs to be aware of the consequences that could befall them if they fail to repay the loan.
Similarly, Proverbs 17:18 cautions “One who makes a rash promise is like a single atom of iron hitting another; it causes sparks to fly in all directions.” That is to say, making rash promises or provisions when it comes to debt could cause serious consequences that could reverberate for a long time.

The Role of Banks and Lenders

The Bible does not give a clear answer on how lenders might go about lending responsibly. It does, however, teach us the importance of knowing one’s rights and responsibilities when making any financial transaction – either as a lender or borrower. That is to say, it is incumbent upon all to be aware of the terms and conditions they accept when taking out a loan, to be aware of the consequences of not adhering to these and to make sure that any financial institution is trustworthy and honest.
For their part, banks and lending institutions have a different set of responsibilities when it comes to responding to the needs of their customers. They should be aware of regulations, act responsibly and ensure their clients are protected from those that may take advantage of the vulnerable or seeking to make a fast buck.

Borrowing for Good Causes

Bible also mentions different instances of loans for good causes. Jesus and his disciples took generous loans from wealthier followers, though that was presumably to benefit the poor and outcasts and not for their own enrichment. Similarly, Nehemiah gave loans so that individuals could feed their families and advance their societies.
At the same time, it is important to stress that banks and lending institutions should work together to ensure that the most vulnerable are not taken advantage of and the process of taking out a loan is fair and transparent. In any case, if debt is to be taken on, it should be taken on with a view to helping instead of enriching oneself.

The Spirit of Wealth Management

The Bible has no clear, easy rules on borrowing money. This is why it is so important to consider one’s options carefully and think strategically when it comes to taking on debt. The Bible speaks not only to the idea of debt, but also to the spirit of wealth management, which should be approached in a cautious but generous manner.
Ultimately, the Bible encourages us to be judicious with our money and to use it responsibly. This is a lesson that applies not only to matters of debt, but to wealth management as a whole. To that end, it is important to understand the finer points of financial responsibility from both the spiritual and financial perspectives.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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