Introduction: Forbes says that foolishly spending money is the number one cause for divorce. While others dispute the extent of the relationship between money and divorce, a common view is that financial problems tend to seep into other areas of family life and create friction. My guess is that couples are not fighting over how to spend extra money, they are in conflict over the debt that arises from foolish spending. Did you know that the Bible gives us counsel on debt? It does! Let's dig into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn about God's view of debt!
Old Testament Rules on Debt
Read Deuteronomy 15:6. We have repeatedly discussed God's promises to bless us financially if we are generous with Him in the use of our money and talents. What does this text suggest about God's blessings to us and debt? (This tells us that God's blessings will allow us to be lenders, and keep us from being borrowers.)
To what does this text compare borrowing money? (You are ruled by those to whom you owe money.)
Does this text say borrowing money is wrong? (No. But, it does not put borrowing in a favorable light. It says that when it comes to lending and borrowing, God wants us to be lenders!)
Read Deuteronomy 15:1-3. What happened every seven years in the lending and borrowing system among the Israelites? (Debts were cancelled!)
Think about how God's system for His people compares to the modern banking system. Do banks want to give you credit cards so that you will get into debt? (Absolutely.)
How would the banks' behavior change if debts were cancelled every seven years? (Today, banks want to lure us into debt because they charge enormous interest rates. But, this shows that under God's system, lenders faced very practical limits on lending.)
What about lending to foreigners? (That was different.)
Read Deuteronomy 15:7-9. Well, well! This reveals the obvious limitation in a system cancelling debts every seven years. What does God call it if you don't want to lend money when the seventh year is approaching? (Sin!)
Read Deuteronomy 15:10-11. When the text refers to "in the land" and "your brothers," what does this say about God's policy? (The NIV translates this "toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy." However, that is not the way the rest of the translations that I consulted treat this. The rest refer to the poor and needy among your brothers. This seems to focus the policy on fellow believers.)
Read Proverbs 3:28. What principle does this text promote? (Prompt payment of debts.)
Read Deuteronomy 28:12-14. As you think about these verses and the lessons we learned from Deuteronomy 15, what concepts is God combining? (Lessons on the connection between obedience and blessings, lending rules and our care for the poor.)
Why are these concepts combined? (God's goal is to bless us so that we do not need to borrow. But, lending to the poor (and releasing them from debt), is part of being generous towards God.)
If being obedient to God will help us to avoid being in debt. What are those rules? Let's explore those next!
Read Proverbs 17:18 and Proverbs 22:26. What does it mean to "pledge?" (This is guaranteeing the payment of a loan. The Bible warns us about promising to pay the loan of another person in the event they fail to pay.)
Why is this different than actually lending the money to the other person?
Read Proverbs 22:27. What does this suggest is the true problem with being a guarantor of debt? (The real problem is not being able to pay back the debt. If you truly had the money, you could make the loan yourself. But, the problem arises when you want to be helpful (or appear rich) and you don't have the money.)
Read 2 Kings 6:4-7. What would be the obligation of the man who accidentally lost the ax head had Elisha not been around to perform a miracle? (Read Exodus 22:14-15. You are to make restitution. This is not true if you paid to rent the ax head or if the owner of the ax head was working with you.)
My wife's parents were poor farmers. She tells the story of her father borrowing an electric drill from a neighbor. The drill burned out when her father was using it, and the result was that they paid for a new drill for their neighbor and had nothing to show for it. What would have been the better approach? (Just buy a new drill for yourself.)
Read Luke 14:28-30 and Proverbs 21:5. What does this suggest about the use of our money? (Use common sense! Plan carefully. Have a budget. Make sure you have enough money for whatever project you have in mind.)
Read Proverbs 22:1. Why do people want to live above their means? Why borrow money to look like you have more wealth? (You think that brings more esteem. Others think better of you.)
What does this text say is better than looking wealthy? (Having a good name. The good news is that a good name costs you nothing other than keeping your word and obeying God.)
If we put the Luke 14 instruction to use common sense together with Proverbs 22, does borrowing money to look wealthier end up with the result you want? (No. You end up poorer. Not only do you have to repay the debt, but lenders take part of your money in interest.)
Read 1 Timothy 6:6-8. What antidote do we find here to our the desire to borrow money to get new things? (Be content.)
Read Proverbs 13:11. If you have an ambition for better things, how does this text say we should fulfill that ambition? (By saving our money.)
Read 1 Timothy 6:9-10. Is borrowing money that you do not need a "foolish and harmful desire?" (If you are borrowing to "look rich," this ambition is a "trap.")
Re-read Luke 14:28 and apply it to the cars we drive. I recall that when I was young, I had two cars and I would replace one of them with a new car about every two years. I borrowed the money, of course, to buy my cars. One day, I looked at my small home with my two "new" cars parked outside (my house did not have a garage). What would you change about this picture? (I realized that I had my money in the wrong place. Cars depreciate, houses often appreciate. I bought a much bigger home (with a garage) and drove used cars for the next twenty years.)
Will buying less expensive used cars make you feel like you are on a diet? You know it is good for you, but hate the process? (Consider how God blessed my "used car" program. At one point I had two beautiful cars in my garage: a red Corvette and a Mercedes two-seat convertible. Outside my garage was a dark blue Mercedes S class that I drove to work every day and a Dodge Grand Caravan that I used to haul things. The total that I paid for all of these vehicles was $16,000! I know this seems impossible, but it is true.)
We have been discussing borrowing money for things that we do not need. What if we need to borrow money to live? Read Matthew 6:28-33. What alternative does God offer to borrowing money to live?
What would it look like to "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness?" (Being generous with God brings blessings, as we have discussed in our previous lessons in this series. Second, creating the right priorities will help us to have good budgeting goals.)
How would you like to live a life without worry about finances?
Friend, your life will be better without debt. Why not determine, right now, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, you will determine to become a lender and not a borrower?