If there’s someone in your family that you’d like to see less of, there’s one surefire way to ruin that relationship: Lend them money.
Our families can be the greatest blessing that we ever have in this life, but they can also be the greatest burden. The key to having thriving, healthy family relationships is knowing how to foster the former and avoid the latter. And that means keeping them free from debt.
If you ever find yourself thinking about borrowing money, you might be tempted to turn to your parents or other family members who are in better financial shape than you. After all, our families are often the first place that we look when we encounter difficult situations.
It can also seem much more convenient or comfortable to turn to a family member for a loan than to go to a bank. You have a lot of relationship equity established with your family– they love you, they trust you, and they probably want to do whatever it takes to help you succeed in life.
On the other side of the equation, that same relationship equity can motive you to loan money money to a family member who is in need. Your personal attachment to your loved ones can make it seem like loaning them money is the right thing to do.
Unfortunately, both of these notions are deceiving: Borrowing money is always a bad plan, and creating debt within families is a terrible idea.
We’ve written extensively about the problems with debt on this site. It’s a form of financial and spiritual slavery, it costs you tons of cash in the long run, and it holds us back from accomplishing important things with our money. All in all, debt is not part of God’s plan for your life.
Family or Slave?
Those are lots of reasons to avoid debt in general, but let me drive home one specific point that is most relevant in this discussion: Debt disrupts normal relationships and recasts them in terms of bondage. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 22:7 that “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”
Any time you borrow money, you place yourself at the mercy of the person who lent it to you. Financially speaking, you are a slave to them. And anytime you loan someone money, they become slaves to you.
This is where we see the real danger of debt in family relationships: God created family to be some of the most beloved people in our lives. Family relationships should be marked by unconditional love and mutual giving. But anytime we borrow or lend money with someone in our family, we pervert those relationships.
God’s purpose for your family is for you to be a loving, honoring child of your parents, and for them to lead you with wisdom, guidance and protection. But if you borrow money from them, it changes all that. You no longer have parents — you instead have masters.
Exceptions to the Rule?
Perhaps you think your family is different. You are too close, too trusting, and too honest with each other to let a debt come between you. And besides, you’re sure that you’ll pay the loan back on time and everything will be as it was.
That all sounds good in theory, but what happens if you hit a roadblock and aren’t able to repay the loan on time? How will it feel when your family members start itching to get their money back? Will they put pressure on you? Will they start questioning your financial decisions? Will they try to control you until you give them what you owe them?
It doesn’t matter how great a relationship you have with someone — debt can change it quickly. Trust turns into suspicion. Generosity turns into stinginess. Honesty turns into evasion. Patience turns into exasperation. Love turns into resentment.
Putting debt into a family relationship will drive a wedge between you. When debt is involved, family celebrations become a bit less festive. Borrowers look for opportunities to evade their lenders. Instead of loving the people that owe them, family members who lend money become preoccupied with figuring out how to collect from them.
If you have a great family relationship, borrowing money threatens to sully it. The more dearly you value your family, the more important it is to guard it from debt.
Photo by Brad Holt. Used under Creative Commons License.