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Financial Crisis - Owe Nothing to Anyone

This is the third and final installment in a series of articles concerning the present financial crisis.  Previously, we have considered our nation’s massive debt (government, business, and individual) in light of the Scriptures’ warnings against such excesses.  We also considered the subject of lending as a practice that is commended by God but not for the purpose of personal gain.

Having studied debt and the subject of lending from the Scriptures, now let us study the other side of the issue of debt, which is borrowing.  We noticed in the previous article that the words “lend” and “borrow” in Luke 6:34-35 are both translated from the Greek word daneizō, which means to lend money or to take a loan of money with the understanding that the money is to be repaid to the lender by the borrower.  From the standpoint of a borrower, borrowing is a matter of leveraging the future against the present.  The borrower assumes that he will be better able to pay in the future for things he cannot afford to buy in the present.  Of course, many borrowers do not pause to consider exactly what the future cost of their present purchase may be.  As they borrow more and more, their debts accumulate, and they soon find that they cannot meet their obligations to repay.  This results in bankruptcy, misery, and a host of problems.

The New Testament gives this very bold and simple instruction regarding the subject of borrowing: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8).  This is stated within a large context of practical instructions for living as a Christian (chapters 12 and 13 of Romans) and within a smaller context of neighborly relations.  The subject of borrowing fits into this context because it has a profound effect upon neighborly relations.  When money is owed from one neighbor to the other, it changes their relationship.  Such an arrangement often hinders neighborly love, in which case the law of God is violated.  To avoid this situation altogether, it is best to follow the advice of Romans 13:8 and owe nothing to anyone.

Let us take a closer look at the detrimental effects of borrowing money and becoming a debtor according to the Old Testament.  In the days of the nation of Israel, lending and borrowing were conducted from person to person, and such transactions were governed by the Law of Moses.  If an Israelite was unable to repay his debts to his fellow countryman, then he would sell himself as a slave to his creditor, although he was to be treated kindly as a hired man (see Lev. 25:35-43).  Proverbs 22:7 states the reality of such an arrangement very bluntly, saying, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.”  Today, the principles contained in the Old Testament concerning lending and borrowing are the same, although modern situations are much different.  Most loans are now obtained from banks and credit card companies, and no American can be literally enslaved for unpaid debts, but the rich still rules over the poor, and the borrower is still beholden to the lender.  Many Americans live in a state of financial slavery in which they cannot afford to pay for their present expenses because of debts incurred years ago.

The Proverbs give particular attention to the practice of ensuring debt on behalf of others.  A person who does so is called a guarantor in the Scriptures, and he is said to be surety for another.  In modern terms, we would call such a person a cosigner.  In Proverbs 6:1-5, a father advises his son to take no rest until he has freed himself from this burdensome situation, saying that he has been snared and caught with the words of his mouth and has come into the hand of his neighbor.  Proverbs 11:15 says, “He who is guarantor for a stranger will surely suffer for it, but he who hates being a guarantor is secure.”  Proverbs 22:26-27 says, “Do not be among those who give pledges, among those who become guarantors for debts.  If you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take your bed from under you?”  Similar warnings are given in Proverbs 17:18 and 20:16.  The clear message to us is that we should not cosign loans for anyone, including our own family members.

All of these instructions from the Scriptures lead us to the same conclusion and the solution to most of our financial problems, which is to avoid debt.  This means that we should live within our means, we should not buy that which we cannot afford, and we should be content with that which we have (Phil. 4:11-13; 1Tim. 6:6-10).  These things are entirely within our power to control.  Some may blame irresponsible lenders who prey upon desperate people (see the previous article), but borrowers are obligated to pay the debts that they choose to incur.  Psalm 37:21 says, “The wicked borrows and does not pay back.”  Lest we be counted among the wicked, let us repay our debts, and lest we are unable to repay, let us not acquire debts in the first place.  This is wise, godly, and blessed financial advice that we should all follow.

Stacey E. Durham



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