It’s one thing to trust God to provide for our present needs (Matthew 6:33). It’s another to presume upon Him by dictating (via a decision to incur debt) the terms of His future provision. By choosing to go into debt, we twist God’s arm to provide not only for our needs, but also our wants.
Do we believe God knows best what our needs are? Debt spends money we don’t have. So isn’t our decision to go into debt proof that we believe we need more than God has given us? If we don’t have the resources to buy something, and if we feel such need for it that we’re borrowing to get it, aren’t we saying God has failed to meet our needs?
If God knows best, and if He knows what we need, then why hasn’t He provided sufficient funds? Is He encouraging us to pray for provision rather than take things into our own hands by borrowing? In this age where we seem unwilling to wait for anything, does God want us to learn what it means to “wait on the Lord” (Psalm 27:14; Isaiah 30:18)?
Before we go into debt, we should ask ourselves the following questions:
1. Is debt our way of getting around depending on God? (Why trust God to provide when we can get a loan?)
2. Is debt our means of short-circuiting the God-created means of acquisition—including work, saving, planning, self-discipline, patience, and waiting for divine provision?
3. What message are we sending to God when we go into debt rather than live on what He has provided? What are we really saying when we take out a loan? How does it reflect on our view of God? What are we saying about His sovereignty, goodness, wisdom, or timing?
4. What effect will going into debt today have on our ability or willingness to tithe and give voluntary offerings tomorrow?
5. What effect will today’s decision to go into debt have on tomorrow’s freedom to follow God wherever He wants us to go?
6. By taking out a loan that commits us to make payments over a number of years, are we presuming upon God? (Certainly, if we will require more income to make the payments, we’re presuming on God. We may “know” that we’ll receive a promotion and pay raise in September, but God hasn’t guaranteed it. Plans change, companies go out of business, and employees fail to get “certain” promotions.)
7. Although our income today might be enough to make debt payments over the next twenty years, is it right to assume that we’ll continue to generate the same level of income? (Many people’s income increases over the years, but many others’ decreases. Many incur increased financial commitments beyond their control, such as health-related expenses or caring for an elderly relative. People get laid off. Has God promised that can’t happen to us?)
8. Are we mortgaging the future to pay for the whims of the present? Are we mortgaging God by supposing to commit Him to pay off something He may disapprove of?
9. Is debt our way of circumventing prayer, patience, and waiting on God to provide?
10. If we “must” go into debt to provide for our “needs,” is it because our “needs” are really wants in disguise? Have we spent so much money on our wants that there’s not enough left for our needs? Have we robbed God and forfeited His financial blessing by failing to give Him the firstfruits?
11. Have we really exhausted all other avenues to avoid going into debt? Have we given up expensive activities, hobbies, and memberships, and liquidated valuable possessions? (Often, we think we have no choice but to go into debt, when in fact we’re making many unnecessary choices that drive us toward it.)
One of the strongest arguments for not going into debt is that we’re not God. We’re not sovereign, omniscient, or omnipotent. James 4:14 warns that we cannot know what will happen tomorrow. And if we don’t know and cannot control all that the future holds, how can we be sure that we can pay off new debts? We can be certain that God will provide for our basic material needs if we seek first His kingdom (Matthew 6:25-34), but where does the Bible promise that God will provide for all the debts we incur though our own greed, impatience, or presumption?
If we are seeking first His kingdom, will we put ourselves in bondage to debt?
For more, see our other resources on money and giving, as well as Randy's related books.
Photo credit: Death to the Stock Photo
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.