Living Debt-Free: A Biblical Pattern
America’s culture is awash in debt. From trillion-dollar government deficits to mounting credit-card loans, every aspect of society seems to be in over its head. Debt is ingrained in the American way of thinking – it is expected that you will go in debt for a college degree, a nice home, and a nice car.
I am convinced that the Bible speaks to this issue in our society. Today I want to walk you through the Biblical texts to show that living debt-free is a Biblical pattern. To do this, I want to provide seven Biblical evidences against debt.
#1 – To Live in Debt is to Live in Servitude
While there are a few instances of Biblical characters who lived in debt, they are always portrayed in the character of servants.
Solomon said “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). This verse makes is plain: to choose debt is to choose servitude. Who would willingly make a choice like that?
What is most confusing about our society is that we claim to love freedom and liberty, but hardly hesitate to bind ourselves with the shackles of debt.
#2 – Christians are Commanded to Avoid Debt
Paul gives Christians a very simple, straightforward commandment to avoid debt. He says, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8).
God has already given us a duty that will occupy our full time and attention, without adding the stress of loans and interest rates: loving God and loving our neighbor.
#3 – Debt Prevents Us from Seeking the Kingdom of God Whole-heartedly
Living without debt frees you up to serve the Lord. You are not to be anxious about what you will eat or drink or wear; rather, Jesus says, “…seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
How is the debtor able to do this, when he or she is constantly thinking about how to pay off the next round of bills?
Think of this – none of the twelve disciples would ever have followed Jesus if they had taken out loans on their houses and fishing boats. Jesus would have said, ‘Come, follow me’ …but they would need to stay behind to finish making payments before they could leave the boat and the nets and follow Him.
#4 – Covetousness – a Major Cause of Debt – is Described as a Sin
There are very few in our society who go into debt because they are forced to, unable to pay for their most basic needs. Many people willingly go into debt for a very regrettable reason – because they want more than they can afford. The Bible speaks to this matter straightforwardly:
Jesus said to his disciples, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
The apostle Paul gave a similar warning: “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who…is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5).
#5 – Stewardship Demands that Christians Avoid Debt
While many people go into debt because they want more than they can afford, there are others who go into debt because they are simply undisciplined in their use of money. However, when you realize that you are a steward of God’s possessions, you realize that debt is often a matter of poor stewardship.
Jesus spoke to this issue when he said, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12)
#6 – Debt Prevents Generosity
As a steward of God’s possessions, you are called to serve God with your money. Throughout the New Testament, the concept of giving is a centerpiece of Jesus’ call to discipleship. Many of his followers were commanded to give their all to the poor; many others voluntarily gave to his cause. Without a doubt, the Christian life is one of giving.
Yet how do we give – in particular, how do we give generously – when we are saddled with debt, and when any extra income needs to go toward paying off loans and interest?
#7 – The Bible Draws No Distinction Between Good and Bad Debt
Good debt verses bad debt – some have tried to make a distinction between the two. I don’t really see this distinction. It seems to be a hazy argument that doesn’t really deal with the Biblical passages.
Before the Great Recession and the housing bubble burst, having debt on a house was considered ‘good debt’ because the value of the house was rising. Was it really good debt? No. Now we can see that it was just a coincidence in our culture. While it appeared to be ‘good debt,’ it was just as much a type of servitude as any other debt. All the previous principles that I mentioned above apply to ‘good debt’ as much as to ‘bad debt.’
You may be at that point in your life where you are thinking, ‘what next?’ Maybe the ‘next’ is not some lofty spiritual mind-shift or adventurous missions trip. Maybe the ‘next step’ in your spiritual life is to become serious about your stewardship by determining to get out of debt.
Next week I hope to delve into this topic further as I describe Living Debt-Free: A Practical Roadmap.