It has come to my attention recently that, unbeknownst to most Bible translators and Hebrew scholars, there is actually an Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt borrow.
It must be a hidden commandment, right? How else would you account for something that so many modern Christians practice so religiously? For most of us, debt and borrowing are as deeply entrenched in our tradition as candlelight Christmas services. We buy cars on loans, prop up our middle-class lifestyles on credit cards and send our kids to college on Sallie Mae. Our God-fearing parents taught us to do this, and we’re passing the tradition along to the next generation.
Let’s face it: Christians love borrowing money like Texans love football — we simply can’t imagine life without it.
The problem is that God is not so fond of debt; in fact He hates it. Why? Because debt is one of the enemy’s chief ways of tying God’s people up in financial bondage. If you don’t believe me, check out Proverbs 22:7 — “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” (NIV)
I can hear your protests now. The Pessimist: “But everybody borrows money… there’s just no way to get through life without borrowing every now and then.” The Pragmatist: “There’s nothing wrong with using credit as a tool, as long as you’re responsible with it.” And my favorite, the Armchair Economist: “I have an excellent credit score and have never missed a payment. I’m a good customer, and my spending helps keep the economy afloat. How could that be wrong?”
Unfortunately, we’ve filled our heads with so much of the world’s financial “wisdom” that we’ve forgotten what God really says about debt and borrowing. The truth is that God didn’t create debt (never in His interaction with man has He ever asked us to repay Him for anything), and he has a long track record of moving heaven and earth to see that the debts we incur get wiped out. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did on the cross?
God’s heart has always longed to see people set free from debt. He cares so much about freedom that He wrote the Year of Jubilee into the laws of the ancient Israelites, telling them “At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts,” so that none of His people could remain in financial bondage. The book of Proverbs contains multiple warnings about staying away from debt. Even “helping” a friend or family member by taking out a loan with them earns us a stern warning from Solomon: “One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge and puts up security for his neighbor.” The New Testament gives us a very practical teaching on debt: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another….”
Still, Many of today’s Christians have made large debts a permanent part of our lives. We’re content to carry around tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, for decades at a time… as long as we can make the monthly payments. We have willingly made ourselves slaves to something that God repeatedly warns us to stay away from.
If you still don’t believe that debt is bad news, maybe you should take a look at the world today. From the 2008 housing market collapse and ensuing Wall Street crash to the sovereign debt crisis still unfolding in Greece, widespread borrowing has brought our modern society to the economic tipping point. It’s time that we stood up and took notice.
Debt is not a part of God’s plan for your life. So if you’re still living with debt, don’t just rationalize it… do something about it.