Guests: Bruce Toews and Brant Berglin
Read for This Week’s Study: Deut. 28:1, 2, 12; Matt. 6:24; 1 John 2:15; Prov. 22:7; Prov. 6:1–5; Deut. 15:1–5.
This week we are going to talk about debt: what it is, what it does to and for us, what the Bible says about debt. We will also talk about how to get out of debt.
The foundational text is Proverbs 22:7 – “The rich rules over the poor, the borrower is servant to the lender.”
The issue of debt is a very big one today. Debt is everywhere in our world, particularly in the Western world where everything seems to run on credit. Today it is very easy to borrow money. In some cases, this is true even if you have bad credit! Individuals are in debt for many reasons, but so are companies and even countries. In fact, some of the debt totals for countries are astronomical, beyond calculation and imagination. The United States, an otherwise prosperous country, is up to its ears in debt to the tune of more than 30 trillion dollars, a sum so large it can hardly be imagined. And countries in the developing world are in debt, having been persuaded to take on debt that is lent on predatory terms. In cases like this, lenders have a moral issue to deal with in that they deliberately lend large sums knowing the borrowers will likely never be able to pay the monies back. But the issue of debt itself is massive. One can hardly imagine how the total debt in this world will ever be repaid.
So, what is debt? One definition is that debt is living today on money that you expect or hope to earn tomorrow. Being in debt means you are living beyond your means, all the while expecting that you will be able to pay for everything tomorrow, to include the cost of borrowing the money. This is usually a poor strategy because it is like giving away whatever percentage of your money it is that equals the interest rate you borrowed at. With credit cards, that can be as high as 30%.
It is worth asking what the main reasons are for people incurring debt. Some suggestions are these:
- Ignorance about debt. Many people borrow money that is offered to them not realizing the difficulties that debt brings with it.
- Greed or selfishness: the desire to have today what you cannot afford mostly because you want it. Here Paul’s counsel to Timothy is pertinent as it is found in 1 Tim. 6:6-9, where Paul talks about the fact that the love of money has caused many to encounter great hardships and some to lose their faith.
- Falling for get-rich schemes
- Personal difficulty or misfortune such as a health emergency or accident or loss of employment.
- Using debt as a strategy to improve your circumstances in the future, such as when paying for an education or purchasing a home or business.
- Co-signing a loan to enable someone else to get a loan that they probably cannot afford.
Some questions about debt:
- Are there some good reasons to incur debt?
- What are the major complications with being in debt?
- What are some of the dangers of being in debt?
- How can a person stay out of debt?
The Bible has quite a bit to say about debt, the most basic counsel being to stay out of it at all costs. For example, there is the counsel of Paul to the Roman Christians that they should “owe no one anything except to love one another.” And there is the advice given to the Thessalonians, found in 2 Thess. 4:11,12, to the effect that Christians should live quiet lives, work with their hands so that they can have a sufficiency in life enough that they are not dependent on others, and that they otherwise be good examples to those around them.
Now we turn to some discussion about how a person can get out of debt. It is almost always a struggle but it can be done!
- How can those who are in debt get out of it?
- Quit incurring more debt.
- Work extra jobs or hours.
- Go on an austerity plan reducing living to bare minimums.
- Ask for reduced terms?
- Ask for interest and penalties to be erased.
- Accept help offered from other people of good will.
It is quite interesting that the Bible in several places talks about borrowing limits of 7 years. For example, there is Deut. 15:1-5 that clearly states that debt cannot be held by a lender or incurred by a borrower for more than7 years. That is an interesting difference when compared with loans today that routinely run 30-40 years!
- What might be said about credit cards and their use?
- What effect might a well-designed budget have on debt?
There is one more little nuance to the issue of debt that should be mentioned that has to do with the lender. If you are the lender, how honest and fair and transparent have you been in the act of lending?
- What are the joys and benefits of being debt-free?
And, finally, an old saying to ponder ~ “Sometimes the only thing worse than not having something, is getting it!”