Are there consequences for borrowing money?
Scripture’s message on borrowing money is quite clear: Do not do it. God calls Christians to keep out of debt altogether. “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another . . .” (Romans 13:8).
Borrowing constitutes a judgment of God.
In the Old Testament, borrowing was evidence that the people of Israel were facing God’s judgment. “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee . . . . He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail” (Deuteronomy 28:15, 44).
Borrowing results in bondage to creditors.
The very nature of going into debt is entanglement. Hebrew words for borrow mean “to twine . . . to unite . . . to borrow (as a form of obligation)” (lâvâh), and figuratively “to entangle” (âbat). Scripture warns, “ . . . The borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7).
God intends for Christians to avoid earthly entanglements in order to serve Him freely, without reservation and without distraction. “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (II Timothy 2:4).
Borrowing presumes upon the future.
Borrowing is based on the assumption that future conditions will allow us to repay the debt. God warns against such presumption: “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). “Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow . . .” (James 4:13–14).
Borrowing creates an illusion of independence.
Borrowing money allows us to make decisions that are independent of God’s provision of funds. Borrowing may encourage an individual to feel that he is his own authority and that he does not need to wait for wise counsel or sufficient funds. Such an attitude is condemned by God.
“Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?” (Lamentations 3:37). “. . . For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:14–17).
Borrowing evades self-examination.
God always has a good reason for withholding funds. It is a signal to reevaluate our decisions and to put our faith in Him. If we automatically borrow money when there is a financial need, we evade the opportunity for self-examination and often proceed depending on our own wisdom and efforts.
Borrowing pressures family members.
Borrowing puts pressure on those who depend on our leadership and provision, especially family members. Unexpected events can transfer the burden of debt directly to them.
The anguish of this situation is illustrated in the plight of a widow who lived during the time of Israel’s prophet, Elisha. The widow’s husband had been deeply in debt. When he died, his creditors demanded payment from his wife. She forfeited everything she had, but the proceeds were not sufficient to pay off the debt, and her creditors demanded that her sons become their bondservants. The woman sought counsel from Elisha, and God moved supernaturally to provide for the payment of her debt. (See II Kings 4:1–7.)
Borrowing interferes with God’s provision.
God wants to demonstrate His supernatural power as He provides for our needs. In this way, He exposes the false confidence people place in their own wisdom, abilities, and riches. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him . . .” (II Chronicles 16:9).
Borrowing demonstrates discontentment with necessities.
We need only a few basic things to survive: food, clothing, and shelter. Yet, most of us have expectations of additional provisions, and often borrowing is regarded as a means to purchase items that are not necessities. God warns us of the danger of coveting the power to buy whatever our hearts desire.
“Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Timothy 6:6–10).
Borrowing removes barriers to harmful items.
There are many things we think would be beneficial to our lives, but God knows if they would be harmful to us or not. In His mercy and wisdom, He may limit our funds so that we cannot afford to purchase things that would be harmful or destructive. When God does not provide funds for something we want, Satan tempts us to get the money in other ways.
Borrowing devours resources through high interest payments.
Most people who borrow money do not comprehend the final price tag of going into debt, because they think only in terms of monthly payments. They typically think of the interest as a small amount, but in the end, interest payments pile up. The final cost of the loan is often several times greater than the initial price of the item.
God calls us to be good stewards of money and to be faithful in managing small amounts as well as large amounts. “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon [wealth], who will commit to your trust the true riches?” (Luke 16:10–11).
Borrowing stifles resourcefulness.
Having loans available on demand tempts us to reject the option of thinking of creative solutions to meet financial needs. Only when you make a firm and final decision that you will not borrow money are you mentally, emotionally, and spiritually free to be truly resourceful.
Jesus gave two illustrations of men who wanted to buy expensive items. Although neither man had enough money to make the purchases, neither man borrowed any money. Instead, the men sold what they had. With the money from the sale, they bought what they wanted. (See Matthew 13:44–46.)
Borrowing promotes impulse buying.
Buyers are often encouraged to make impulsive decisions based on the desires of the moment. Easy access to loans facilitates hurried purchases that bypass prayerful evaluation and wise counsel. We should carefully consider our management of the funds God provides and wait until we know we are finding a good buy before making a purchase.
Borrowing often instigates overspending.
Credit card users tend to buy more than those who pay with cash, and they tend to pay more for the items they buy. Overspending is destructive because of the bondage debt brings. Overspending also stimulates pressures and conflicts that damage relationships, especially within the family.
Borrowing weakens personal faith.
God has promised to provide for the needs of His children. (See Matthew 6:25–34.) When Christians borrow, it suggests that God is not taking care of their needs and that they have to make up the difference with a loan. If we do not have money for something, it may be that God is saying “wait” or “no.” It is far better to wait for God to provide rather than to borrow money to make the purchase. God’s provision confirms His direction for us and demonstrates His faithfulness to us.
Borrowing excludes help from others.
God uses the needs in the life of one Christian and the abundance in the life of another Christian to bring them together in fellowship. The one with abundance is given grace to help those in need, and the one who receives is filled with joy and gratefulness because of God’s provision through the giver.
Interdependence played a key role in the early Church. “Now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack” (II Corinthians 8:14–15).
This material is adapted from pages 78–81 of the Men’s Manual, Volume II.