Yesterday an interesting discussion started in the comments section of a mortgage company review on this site. A regular reader was asking the question of whether or not it was OK for a Christian to take on debt of any kind, or whether debt should avoided at all costs as being biblically a bad idea.
There was a bit of back and forth, and I think we agreed on some points, but not on others. So today I decided to open the topic up for further discussion.
Here's how the question was framed by Matt from DiscipleshipGuy.com:
Before I get to my comment I want to say that I currently have a house that we use to live in that we have outgrown and since have turned it into a rental due to not being able to sell it. So we currently rent.
That being said, I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about our next step, would we try to buy again, and if so, would we finance. This isn’t always an easy thing to think about, many of us, if we had to do 100% down (as Dave Ramsey recommends), wouldn’t be able to buy for a long time – at least not what we want to buy. That being said, since this site is Bible Money Matters, is there anyway that we as Christians, can justify getting a mortgage? I know that culturally that we do it, but we aren’t to be a part of the world. Is there any Biblical position that allows for getting a mortgage or loan of any kind?
I am not trying to attack you or anything, I like you and your sites. But, sometimes I think about all of the Christian financial blogs out there, giving advice on living frugally, Biblically, and being good stewards, and I wonder if sometimes we miss the mark and just give good advice rather than Biblical advice. Basically my question for us to think about is this: is it Biblical to get a mortgage or to even recommend a mortgage (or loan of any kind)?
…there are several verses that lend to the idea of not borrowing. I definitely never see borrowing encouraged in the Bible. My overall point is this: As Christians, we see mortgage as an acceptable way of life, but is it a Biblical way of life? I am not saying for sure where I fall on this issue, but it is something I am debating right now. After all, if we are a slave to the lender, then we cannot serve God as he requires.
So what do you think? Is it biblical to take on a mortgage, or to recommend a mortgage or a loan of any kind?
Is Debt Considered Sinful?
The first question that I think we should consider is whether or not going into debt can be considered a sin. From the verses that I've read I don't think that we can say that it is. There are several verses that talk about debt and repaying debt, and in none of them that I can find anything that being in debt is a sin, or that it is sinful to be in debt.
Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love on another.. Romans 13:8
The wicked borrows and does not repay, But the righteous shows mercy and gives. Psalm 37:21
The verses that I've found do talk about the fact that the wicked don't repay, or that it is sinful to allow debts to remain outstanding without repayment. But none of them say that it is sinful to take on debt in the first place.
Also, if borrowing was considered sinful, then lending would also be frowned upon as sinful as well wouldn't it? But look to the words of Jesus himself:
Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. Matthew 5:42
But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.
I do think that some verses caution against lending in cases where doing so can cause hardship for borrowers, or where outrageous interest is being charged, but I can't find anything saying that we should never lend or borrow.
Are We Cautioned Against Going Into Debt?
Even if it isn't sin to go into debt, are we cautioned in the bible about the pitfalls of taking on debt? I think we are:
The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave. Proverbs 22:7
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Matthew 6:24
The bible in numerous instances cautions us about the dangers of debt. It tells us about how being a borrower puts you in a power relationship with the lender, and you become slave to that debt and lender. It tells us that by taking on debt, those debts can quickly become our master and it can cloud our relationship with God, and quickly overtake our relationship with Him. We need to be wary of debt because it restricts our freedom.
Is It OK For A Christian To Have Debt?
Here's where it gets a bit tricky – the question of whether or not it is ever OK for a Christian to take on debt. While I think not using debt is preferable if possible, in some cases I think it's OK to take on debt. You just need to be sure that the debt isn't restricting your service to God in any way, and that it isn't debt in order to facilitate sin in any way. It has to fit into your financial plan and be reasonable and not for foolish purposes. Paul from ProvidentPlan.com, in his own post about debt and sin, put it like this:
None of this means that debt does not have its proper place in our finances. But foolish debt – to buy things we can’t really afford – is not going to glorify God. Christians should only be going into debt when they are reasonably sure they can repay the loan and they are not using the debt for foolish or sinful purposes.
To me they key is that we shouldn't allow ourselves to go into debt to the degree that it interferes with our service to God, and to the degree that becomes overpowering. We should only use debt when absolutely necessary, and only when we can easily afford it.
At this point I want to open it up for discussion. What are your thoughts about going into debt as a Christian? Is it ever acceptable for a Christian, and if not, why not? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.