What Does The Bible Say About Debt?

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A person with a heavy burden of debt

Debt is a topic that has been debated throughout history, and the Bible has various teachings on this matter. Understanding what the Bible says about debt can provide guidance and wisdom in managing our finances. In this article, we will explore different perspectives and verses from the Bible regarding debt.

Understanding the Concept of Debt in the Bible

Before delving into specific verses, it is important to have a clear understanding of how debt is viewed in the Bible. Debt, in biblical times, was not seen in the same light as it is today. In ancient times, debt was often a result of poverty or unforeseen circumstances rather than personal consumption choices.

In the biblical era, society functioned differently than it does now. People relied heavily on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods. Natural disasters, such as droughts or pest infestations, could devastate crops and lead to financial hardship. In these cases, individuals often had to borrow money to survive and provide for their families.

The Old Testament and Debt

In the Old Testament, the Bible talks directly about debt in several instances. One example is found in Exodus 22:25, which states, “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him and you shall not exact interest from him.”

This verse reveals that the Old Testament encourages lending to those in need without charging interest, displaying a compassionate approach to debt. It emphasizes the importance of helping the less fortunate and not taking advantage of their vulnerable situation. This principle reflects the value of community and mutual support.

Furthermore, the Old Testament also contains laws that provide protection for individuals who have fallen into debt. For example, in Leviticus 25:35-37, it states, “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit.”

These verses highlight the importance of compassion and generosity towards those in need. They discourage exploitation and promote a sense of responsibility within the community. The Old Testament teaches that lending money should not be driven by personal gain but rather by a desire to help others in their time of need.

The New Testament and Debt

In the New Testament, debt is also addressed. Romans 13:8 advises believers to “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

From this verse, it is clear that the New Testament emphasizes the importance of avoiding debt whenever possible. However, this does not mean that all types of borrowing are condemned. It simply teaches that being in debt should not hinder our ability to fulfill our obligations, including showing love to one another.

The New Testament also provides guidance on how to handle debt responsibly. In Matthew 5:25-26, Jesus advises, “Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”

This passage encourages individuals to address their financial obligations promptly and responsibly. It emphasizes the importance of fulfilling one’s commitments and avoiding legal consequences that may arise from unpaid debts.

In conclusion, the Bible offers a multifaceted perspective on debt. It recognizes the reality of financial struggles and encourages lending to those in need without exploiting their vulnerable position. The biblical teachings emphasize compassion, generosity, and responsibility when it comes to debt. While the New Testament advises believers to avoid debt whenever possible, it also provides guidance on how to handle debt responsibly and fulfill one’s obligations. By understanding the biblical principles surrounding debt, we can navigate our financial lives in a way that aligns with these teachings and promotes a just and compassionate society.

Biblical Verses on Debt

Proverbs on Financial Wisdom

The book of Proverbs contains many verses that offer financial wisdom, including guidance on debt. Proverbs 22:7 states, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”

This verse encourages wise financial management and warns about the potential consequences of being in debt. It emphasizes that being in debt can lead to a loss of financial freedom and control.

Furthermore, Proverbs 6:1-5 provides practical advice on how to handle debt. It urges individuals to exercise caution and avoid becoming surety for others, as it can lead to financial ruin. This passage emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility for one’s financial decisions and not allowing oneself to be entangled in excessive debt.

Moreover, Proverbs 21:5 reminds us of the importance of diligent work and planning in managing our finances. It states, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.” This verse encourages individuals to be proactive in their financial endeavors, to carefully consider their actions, and to avoid impulsive decisions that may lead to debt.

Paul’s Teachings on Debt

Paul, one of the prominent figures in the New Testament, also shares his teachings on debt. In Romans 13:7-8, Paul advises believers to “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other.”

These verses highlight the importance of fulfilling our obligations and debts to others. Paul also highlights that the only debt we should always have is the debt of love towards one another.

Furthermore, in 1 Timothy 6:9-10, Paul warns against the dangers of the love of money and the pursuit of wealth. He states, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” These verses serve as a reminder that the pursuit of material wealth can lead to detrimental consequences, including financial instability and spiritual harm.

In addition, Paul emphasizes the importance of contentment and gratitude in managing our finances in Philippians 4:11-13. He states, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” These verses encourage believers to find contentment in all circumstances, recognizing that true wealth comes from a relationship with God rather than material possessions.

Overall, the Bible offers valuable guidance on debt and financial wisdom. It encourages individuals to exercise caution, fulfill their obligations, avoid the love of money, and find contentment in all circumstances. By following these teachings, believers can navigate the complexities of managing their finances and strive towards a life of financial stability, freedom, and spiritual well-being.

The Bible’s View on Lending and Borrowing

Lending in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, lending was seen as an act of generosity and compassion. Deuteronomy 15:7-8 states, “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.”

This verse encourages lending to those in need and highlights the importance of generosity and compassion towards others.

Borrowing in the New Testament

In the New Testament, borrowing is not condemned outright, but the Bible encourages believers to exercise caution and wisdom. Proverbs 22:26-27 advises, “Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you?”

These verses caution against being too quick to borrow and emphasize the potential risks and consequences that may arise from borrowing without the means to repay.

Debt Forgiveness in the Bible

The Year of Jubilee

In the Old Testament, the concept of debt forgiveness is found in the practice of the Year of Jubilee. Leviticus 25:10 states, “And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.”

During the Year of Jubilee, all debts were forgiven, and people were given a fresh start. This principle of debt forgiveness demonstrates God’s grace and mercy towards His people.

Jesus and Debt Forgiveness

In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of forgiveness and encourages His followers to forgive others. In Matthew 6:12, Jesus teaches His disciples to pray, saying, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

This verse reminds believers of the importance of forgiving others, just as God forgives us. It serves as a reminder that debt forgiveness goes beyond financial transactions and extends to the forgiveness of others’ mistakes and shortcomings.

Practical Lessons from the Bible on Handling Debt

Avoiding Debt

While the Bible acknowledges that debt may sometimes be unavoidable, it encourages believers to exercise caution and wisdom in their financial decisions. Proverbs 21:5 states, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.”

This verse teaches the importance of planning, budgeting, and living within our means to avoid unnecessary debt.

Repaying Debt

When it comes to repaying debt, the Bible emphasizes honoring our obligations and seeking to repay what is owed. Romans 13:7 reminds believers to “Pay to all what is owed to them.” Additionally, in Proverbs 3:27, it is advised, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to do it.”

These verses highlight the importance of fulfilling our financial obligations and honoring our commitments.

In conclusion, the Bible offers valuable insights and teachings on the topic of debt. It encourages believers to exercise wisdom, caution, and compassion in their financial decisions. Whether it is through avoiding unnecessary debt, practicing generosity, or seeking forgiveness, the Bible provides guidance for managing our finances in a responsible and God-honoring manner.


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