Should Christians or Christian institutions
plan to borrow?
borrower is slave to the lender.'
A nation of willing slaves?
Should Christians plan to borrow to meet their financial
needs? As a pdf file
the theological arguments, many will claim that Christians have to
borrow in order to survive in 21st century Western economies.
It's impossible they claim, for a young couple to live on rent
indefinitely, as rental prices surge. It's essential for Christian
institutions to borrow in order to finance any major new building
project, or else with today's prices the Lord's work must be set back
It is noteworthy how many Christian societies and churches have run up
large debts in consequence. Given the tendency of Satan's agents to use
all means to bring about corruption and decline in Gospel witness, it's
remarkable that Christians have been so sleepy and so careless in
assuming that as large a lever as debt, will not also be used to
weaken, dilute and corrupt their testimony. Indeed it is to be feared
that in some cases, this has already taken place, and that in others
much trouble has been stored up for the future. So what does the
'Owe no man anything, but
to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.'
Here is a command, the words of which in the Greek carry particular
emphasis by near repetition, 'μηδενι
μηδεν οφειλετε'. As Spurgeon points out, the command is
not to pay one's debts, but not to become indebted in the first place.
The command is not addressed to an individual but the imperative is
plural 'οφειλετε', it applies to the
church with as much force as it applies to the individual. If
the church is concerned to set an example to its members, it ought to take
particular care not to plan to enter debt.
'Scripture says, "Owe no man anything," which does not mean pay your debts, but never have any to pay.
... Our laws are
shamefully full of encouragement to credit: nobody need be a thief now.' CHS, John Ploughman's Talk ch.12.
For individual believers, debt should be an accident of sickness,
calamity or unexpected need, not a planned means of meeting a desired
end. Paul writes,
'And that ye study to be
quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as
we commanded you;
That ye may walk honestly
toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.'
Debt is a sign of cursedness. It is threatened to Israel along
with fruitlessness and poverty as a sign of God's punishment.
'The stranger that is
within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down
He shall lend to thee,
and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be
Moreover all these curses
shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till
thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the
LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he
And they shall
be upon thee for a sign and for a wonder, and upon thy seed for ever.'
By contrast, loaning to others is not only accompanied by His blessing,
but also by dominion over those to whom loans are conferred.
'For the LORD
thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto
many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many
nations, but they shall not reign over thee.' Deut 15.6
'The LORD shall open unto
thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in
his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt
lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.' Deut
Repeated warning is also given not to enter into suretyship (to act as
a guarantor) for another.
'Be not thou one of them
that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts.'
'My son, if thou be
surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger.'
'We encourage speedy
payback' and at uttterly ruthless rates like this, who can
'He that is
surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship
is sure.' Pr.11.15
Thank God that His surety Son was willing to take this
terrible smarting for us!
about the Lord Jesus's own planned debts? it might be claimed that the
Saviour borrowed a colt and her foal, the upper room and other
facilities, so why may not we?
The Lord possesses all things, the
immediate willingness of His creditors indicates
recognised they were only paying returns on a colossal debt of their
own. It is also striking how he paid his and Peter's debt - by
reaching into his limitless pocket and conferring the exact sum, even
when strictly it was not his to pay.
lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and
take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his
mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them
for me and thee.' Matt.17.27
By contrast, even
though Philemon's debt to Paul was infinitely smaller, he is determined
not to hold any pecuniary debt to Philemon, on Onesimus'
and to ratify this solemnly, he confirms it with his own large
Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it'.
does of course gently remind Philemon of what his own debt to
Paul, albeit dwarved by that owed to the Saviour, amounted to, 'Thou owest unto me even thine own
Loaning is no sin, but it must be without interest - indeed
it is a Christian obligation to the poor, along with giving.
'And if ye
lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for
sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.'
stand abroad, and the man to whom thou dost lend shall bring out the
pledge abroad unto thee.' Deut. 24.11
'A good man
sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion.'
So what of believers who
have entangled themselves with a large
mortgage or debt? It is sadly now a common position, but it is
their obligation, without injuring the care and nurture of their
family, to leave frugally and strictly within their means, until their
debts are paid, looking to the Master for help.
'This poor man cried, and
the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.'
There are circumstances where taking debt out to address heavy interest
payments on another (a credit card debt for example) might be
but only as a direct means of paying one's debts, never to enlarge
them. 2 Kings 4.1-7
It raises the question of why housing prices have become as
grossly inflated and bloated as they have, and why our economy rests on
a balloon full of hot air.
The answer in no small part is due to Christian complicity in the sins
of loaning upon interest
and of taking planned loans, when they should never have been
contracted at all.
current national debt is now over £30,000 per family, and it has
increased considerably under the current Government.
gave us the right to borrow from our grandchildren and then impose on
them the interest payments too!
At one second per £, it takes 11.6 days to count to a million,
31.7 years to a billion,
light would travel between the star Alpha Centauri and back
Earth 3,628 times before you'd reach one trillion!
Why not loan instead to a
and more reputable institution than the windbags and moneygrabbers?
'He that hath
pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given
will he pay him again.' Pr.19.17
'Laying up in store for
themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may
lay hold on eternal life.' 1 Tim. 6.19
'Lay not up for
yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and
where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves
treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and
where thieves do not break through nor steal:
For where your treasure
is, there will your heart be also.' Matt. 6.19-21
Grauniad reports 8 building
societies/banks are now offering 95% mortgages again.
'It is shameful and beyond endurance to see how genteel swindling is
winked at by many. If I had my way, I'd give them the country crop, and
the prison garb for six months; gentlemen or not, I'd let them see that
big rogues could dance on the treadmill to the same tune as little
ones.' C H Spurgeon on debt. (John
Ploughman's talk, Chapter 12)
An altogether different kind of Christian