Scripture discourages debt. It condemns the misuse of debt and the failure to repay debts (Psalm 37:21; Proverbs 3:27-28). If we take God’s Word seriously, we should avoid debt. In those rare cases where we go into debt, we should make every effort to get out as soon as possible (2 Kings 4:1; Matthew 5:25-26; 18:23-24). The question isn’t, “Why not go into debt?” but why? Unless the answer is extraordinarily convincing, we shouldn’t do it.
What are some of the consequences of a debt-laden lifestyle?
1. Debt lingers. The new boat is fun for a while, but two years later, when it’s sitting in storage, the motor needs repair, and the kids don’t want to ski anymore, we’re still paying for it.
2. Debt causes worry and stress. Stress experts say that the bigger a person’s mortgage (or any debt), the bigger the stress. Debt is a serious enemy of mental health.
3. Debt causes denial of reality. We drive our bank-financed cars, running on credit card gas, to open a department-store charge account so we can fill our savings and loan-funded homes with installment-purchased furniture. We’re living a lie and hocking the future to finance it. When creditors call many people won’t answer, believing that somehow they can go right on spending money they don’t have. One day it catches up—but by then integrity, relationships, and credibility have been ruined.
4. Debt leads to dishonesty. “The check’s in the mail” isn’t funny when you’ve heard it repeatedly from a Christian brother who is enslaved to debt—and now to dishonesty. Some people lie on credit applications, not revealing debt for fear they’ll be disqualified for further loans. Others desperately resort to criminal acts to try to keep up with their debt payments.
5. Debt is addictive. There are striking comparisons between debtors and drug addicts. The way out of both addictions can be very difficult. Those in debt with one income will almost always go into debt with two incomes, just as they will if the one income is doubled. Ninety-eight percent of the time debt is an internal problem, not an external one. It isn’t a matter of insufficient funds but insufficient self-control.
6. Debt is presumptuous. Scripture says the just shall live by faith. The borrower, however, lives by presumption. Undertaking any debt is a gamble that our future income will be sufficient to make payments. The Bible says we don’t know what a day may bring forth and we should not presume (Proverbs 27:1).
7. Debt deprives God of the chance to say no or to provide through a better means. God can give us direction either by providing funds or withholding them. When we borrow, we eliminate that second option and thereby blur God’s leading. If we really need something, there are alternatives to debt. One of them is to accumulate savings that will allow us a margin on which to draw when needed. But if the money for a need isn’t there, our first course should be to seek provision from God, not the banker (John 14:13-14).
8. Debt is a major loss of opportunity. Our loss isn’t simply the interest we’re paying. Our true loss is the difference between the money we’re losing and the money we could have earned with it. Worse yet, debt is a loss of opportunity to invest in eternity. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of debt is that it results in diminished giving, loss of opportunity to help others, and loss of eternal rewards.
9. Debt ties up resources and makes them unavailable for the kingdom of God. Whenever we’ve taught on giving at our church, many people say: “Now that I understand God’s principles of giving, I’d love to double or triple our giving, or even more. But we’re so strapped with debt, it’s just impossible.” Past unwise decisions inhibit present and future generosity. The solution is not to shrug our shoulders helplessly, but to give as much as we can now and commit ourselves to get out of financial bondage so we can give more in the future.
Without a firm conviction against going into debt, people will inevitably find the “need” to borrow. Those with convictions against borrowing will always find ways to avoid it. (In other words, they’ll choose to spend less money.) The more you’re inclined to go into debt, the more probable it is that you shouldn’t.
The basic question is this: Is the money I will be obligated to repay, and the bondage it will create, worth the value I’ll receive by getting the money or possessions now?
For more, see our other resources on money and giving, as well as Randy's related books.
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Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.