Borrowing and Lending: Is It Biblical to Borrow Money?
In 1996, after my husband and I had been married a year, we decided to purchase a new sofa. The hand-me-down we’d been using had lost all its padding (“This couch makes me want to stand up,” Carey said), and the lime green color burned our retinas.
When we noticed that Sears was having a sale, Carey and I drove to the mall, picked out a sofa we liked, and applied for store credit. It was our first time borrowing money as a couple.
“What is your combined yearly income?” the salesman asked. When we told him what we made together—as full-time students, both working part-time on the seminary campus—he looked stricken. However, since the couch was under $1000, we were approved for a card, and we took our brand-new piece of furniture home. Carey and I paid off the couch before the year was up, so we owed no interest.
In the twenty years since that first purchase, we’ve tried to pay cash for most things, and we keep a savings account for emergencies. At times, we’ve needed—or should I say, decided—to borrow money for houses, cars, or other items. We aim to pay off debts before the “interest-free” period is over, and we’ve mostly succeeded. Once in a while, because of back-to-back emergencies, we’ve carried a credit card balance.
The interest adds up, though. We’ve found Proverbs 22:7 to be true: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” When we carry less (or no) debt, we feel freer and lighter. We are able to give more generously to others, and we sleep better at night.
Is Borrowing Biblical?
Some Christians insist that borrowing money for any reason is wrong. Although he doesn’t believe scripture forbids the practice, Larry Burkett, founder of Crown Financial Ministries, notes, “Borrowing is always discussed in the Bible as a negative rather than a positive principle. In fact it seems to be a consequence of disobeying God’s statues of economics and principles of finance.”
He continues, “The absolute minimum that God’s Word establishes for anyone who borrows is found in Psalm 37:21, ‘The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives.’ If we don’t want to be considered by God to be wicked, we must repay any money we have borrowed.”
Most financial experts agree that although borrowing is not expressly forbidden in scriptures, it is not encouraged, either. Certified Financial Planner Josh Wood advises Christians to use wisdom when they borrow money. And Marianne Miller, a financial counselor, wisely states, “The very first step to [this] financial freedom is embracing the reality that Christ promises to be enough for us.”
How Would Jesus Lend?
Borrowing is one side of the coin; lending, another. In Matthew 5:40-42, Jesus says, “And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you" (ESV).
His answer seems to indicate we should be ludicrously generous, which brings up two questions:
- How many of us have ever given to the point of being laughed at?
- Since you and I have been given scandalous grace, how can we not impart that grace to others?
Of course, when we are responsible for businesses and family members, we are to take those responsibilities seriously. I’m not condoning choices that would negate our God-given duties to care for others. I am, however, encouraging us to question the world’s philosophies.
When individuals follow culture’s mantras—get ahead at all costs; money buys happiness; the one with the most toys wins—they inevitably end up empty and broken. When our friends bottom out, if we don’t look any different from the world, how will they be drawn to the Savior?
In the book The Extravagant Fool, Kevin Adams explains: “ … there are essentially two kinds of fools—one who says (or lives as if) there is no God, and one who lives as if there’s nothing worthwhile outside of God … the bottom line was about making the right choice—deciding which type of fool to become, and either wasting my life for God or simply wasting it.”
Guidance Not Prescriptions
The decision about whether or not to borrow and/or lend money is extremely personal. In the Bible, we find guidance not prescriptions. Perhaps that’s because God longs for us to come to him directly with our questions. The gospel is not about rules but this core relationship between a Father and his children.
Three things are certain: first, our faith must inform our stewardship of resources. If we’re to be Christ-like followers of the one who gave his all for us, our finances must be guided by such tenets of discipleship as contentment, prayer, and discernment. Second, we can be sure that the Holy Spirit will come alongside us as we plead for direction and wisdom.
Finally, God does not want us to be consumed by anxiety over the issue. Jesus says, “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met” (Matt. 6:30-33, MSG).
Sounds like financial advice worth taking.
Borrowing and Lending
Is it okay for Christians (or Christian businesses) to borrow money? To encourage others to borrow money? To lend money? What does the Bible have to say about appropriate interest rates for loans and credit? Come join us at our virtual table for a discussion about Borrowing and Lending. It’s difficult to purchase a car or a home or an education without agreeing to pay installments on that commodity for many years into the future. Is this what God has in mind for us and for our resources, or are we overthinking things here? Are there practical steps we can take to avoid borrowing money, and does it matter if we’re borrowing money from a family member or from a financial institution? We welcome your stories, your thoughts, and your experiences, whether you’re a borrower or a lender. What have you learned about God, his great gift of redemption, and his work of restoration through the experiences of borrowing and lending the resources entrusted to you?