Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Christians in Debt

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow man has fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:8).

Based on this verse, especially its reading in the King James Version (“Owe no man any thing”), some Christians have decided that the New Testament forbids all debt. They refuse to use a mortgage to buy a house, will only pay cash for an automobile and do not carry credit cards. What about this?

First of all, although the Bible discourages debt, it does not prohibit all debt. The Mosaic law made provision for a person who is suddenly impoverished to get a charity loan from his neighbor (Deuteronomy 15:7). In addition, the Bible makes it clear that lending money as an investment in business is perfectly all right (Matthew 25:27). Beyond this, though, we have to take Romans 13:8 in context. Paul has been speaking about paying taxes, and now he says, “Let no debt remain outstanding.” In other words, he is saying that if we do go into debt, we are to pay our debts.

Practically what does this mean? For one thing, it means that Christians should pay their bills. It means we should be exemplary in the marketplace. Sadly, this is very often not the case. In general, the business community regards the church as a very poor financial risk, because so often churches do not pay their debts. In a slightly different arena, but still in the area of paying what is owed, the music publishing world has found that the worst offenders against music copyrights are churches.

It also means that if I borrow money, I pay it back according to the terms of the contract. If I buy a house, I am renting money from the bank at a mutually agreeable interest rate, and as long as I am making my payments and fulfilling the contract, I am not violating Romans 13:8.

Most Christians too readily get into debt. Are you conforming to the world in this area by living beyond your means? One reason to avoid debt is because we do not know the future. If we get into trouble and cannot service our debts, Christ’s witness suffers. Take stock of your spending habits. Commit yourself to getting your affairs under control. If you are unable to resolve your situation, find a prudent Christian investment counselor to help you.