Borrowing and Lending: Slaying the Debt Dragon

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
15824563184 a184ac5ccb o 1

The white trash bag sat slumped on the cement front step of my red brick and stone 1950s ranch home. Slouched to one side, I knew it contained clothes for my youngest daughter, a collection of hand-me-downs from a friend’s child who was just a little bit older. I was so grateful for the gift, especially as we struggled to finish the financial journey to which God had called us. We hadn’t been able to afford too many extras. As I sat in the middle of the living room floor sorting the contents—too small, too big, next season—I muddled through a conversation with God in my head.

Are you there? Do you really care about our money? Has this journey of paying off over $120,000 in debt really made a difference? Do you really care about me?

In her e-mail, my friend mentioned she had a few clothing items for me, too. To receive hand-me-downs for your child is a great blessing. To receive hand-me-downs for yourself is a bit humbling. “Thanks,” I responded, while in my heart I grumbled and doubted the clothes would be anything that fit or that I’d like.

As my sorting game continued, ingratitude was replaced with tears. Out from the bag came clothes I adored, some with tags still attached. And they fit perfectly. It was a simple answer to big questions.

Yes, God was there. Yes, He cared. Yes, the journey had been and would still be worth it.

Divinity seeped through the edges of a bulging white trash bag. I paused to exhale words of thanks.

Crossing the Finish Line

That was nearly three years ago. Weeks after opening the trash bag, our family crossed the finish line of paying off all of our consumer debt—$127,482.30 to be exact. We overpaid Sallie Mae for our student loans by $0.32. She kept it. We asked for it back. The customer service representative was thoroughly confused.

Since then, much of life is the same. We still don’t have credit cards. We still plan our meals. We rarely dine out. We live simply. I still use coupons.

Since then, much of life also has changed. We went on vacation. We upped our grocery budget by fifteen dollars each week. We bought a car with cash. We give and save exponentially more.

I began sharing money saving tips on a weekly television news segment and in a newspaper column. Our story hit the front page of Yahoo! and the pages of the Wall Street Journal. I wrote a book, sharing our experience, along with encouragement and practical tools for others on the same path.

Heart-Breaking Stories of Debt

Because of the exposure and broad reach of our story, not a week goes by without e-mails from people stretched to their emotional and spiritual limits due to debt. Often they break my heart:

My wife and I are senior citizens. I am a semi-retired pastor. We owe close to $100,000 in debt and make less than $2000 a month.

I really feel I have robbed God of what belongs to him so I’m sure this is a huge part of my financial woes. I try to give it to God but I know that I have failed him and my family.

I have so much debt. I know God is angry with me.

I scrape together what little knowledge I have—both financial and theological—and attempt a response. I pray that the words I deliver bring grace into the lives of the people who receive them, that they can find hope in the most hopeless of situations.

Is Debt Prohibited?

From my own investigation, I’ve discovered the Bible never explicitly prohibits debt. Many Christians and even some seminarians have mistakenly thought it does. But then again, God’s word doesn’t necessarily have anything positive to say about debt either.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. (Prov. 22:7)

One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbor. (Prov. 17:18)

They will lend to you, but you will not lend to them. They will be the head, but you will be the tail. (Deut. 28:44)

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ (Luke 14:28-30)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. (Rom. 13:8)

Is Debt Dangerous?

From my own life, I’ve discovered debt and the mismanagement of money can wreck people like those who e-mail me. Debt wrecked my own soul.

Locked in a prison of our own making, my husband and I felt we were the only ones who had debt. We unwittingly believed everyone else—especially those in the church—had their financial junk together. This led to isolation and more debt and hopelessness. We felt so alone, so in the dark, so ashamed.

Surely, this was not the abundant life promised by Jesus:

Payment after payment,
interest upon interest.
Always wanting more,
never having enough.

Fearful when we first heard the call to repay it all, we clung to each other and dug in our heels. We battled a dragon that threatened to destroy our marriage. After all, money disputes number among the most common causes for divorce. We battled a dragon that longed to tell us how we would provide for our children. We battled a dragon that determined if we could be generous or not.

With each sacrifice we made—from giving up gifts to going without restaurants for years at a time to foregoing even meat for a short period—we realized we would never return to borrowing again. Slaying the debt dragon stretched us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Four long years, we fought. Birthdays and anniversaries and holidays passed. The release we felt in making that final payment was incomparable. It’s on YouTube, by the way; you can watch it.

Daily Deliverance

However, I still pray to be delivered from debt every day. Every time temptation creeps into my soul and I want to borrow to buy. Every time someone else has something I want. Every time I am unwilling to save and wait.

Oddly enough, I am thankful for the debt we had and the way God directed our steps. I am grateful for the lessons I learned and the communication skills we developed as a married couple. I am appreciative for the call placed on my life to share our story and spread hope to others who feel trapped.

Most of all, I rejoice that God spoke to me through a white trash bag on a sunny afternoon, reminding me that he was there and my story mattered.


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?

Featured image by GotCredit. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.