No. Debt is not a sin. It’s not always a wise choice, but it’s not a sin either. The Bible never says you are sinning if you are in debt. God does warn against the dangers of debt and explains why it is not prudent. Here are the main verses where the Bible discusses the nature of debt.
Debt Is Slavery
Debt is slavery. If you owe someone money, you must continue paying them back until you owe no more or you risk going to court. The obligation you’ve made to repay puts you under the same bonds as slavery. You’re not free to choose whether you’ll pay them back, which also means you’re not free to choose to work for pay or do something else. You are required to keep sending those payments. You have no freedom.
This is God’s strongest warning against debt:
The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
Proverbs 22:7 (WEB)
The borrower is slave to the lender. God doesn’t say that those who borrow are sinners. But He does warn that when you borrow you put yourself under the yoke of slavery to your lender. God doesn’t want us to serve anyone or anything but Him. In fact, Jesus warned us that we can’t serve Money and God. We have to choose one. When you put yourself in debt, you are making yourself a slave to your lender – which requires you to do whatever you can to get the Money you need to repay him.
You know that’s the truth. If you stopped paying your mortgage or auto loan or any other loan, what would happen? You’d have those things taken away from you or you’d eventually be forced to file for bankruptcy. Until you’ve paid those loans off, you do not own the things you bought with borrowed money. You’re not a homeowner if you have a mortgage. You’re a bank’s slave. You must continue working to repay them, or they will take your home and ruin your credit.
What Will Happen If You Can’t Repay?
Knowing that the things you’ve put up as security for your debts can be taken if you don’t repay should alert you that it could be foolish to borrow money. If you lose your job and can’t pay your mortgage, what will happen? Your home will be taken from you. The very place you sleep will be pulled out from under you.
26 Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts. 27 If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you?
Proverbs 22:26-27 (WEB)
Is it worth borrowing money if you’ll risk losing the very things you’re working for? When the bank takes your home, you risk losing most or all of the equity you managed to build up. Your ability to repay a loan is not completely in your control. A job loss or illness can easily throw you into a bad situation which causes you to lose everything. That’s why God asks you if going into debt is worth the risk. You’re better off to save and pay cash.
Debt Is Foolish
The problem with debt is not that it’s a sin. The problem is that it can be just plain dumb. As I mentioned before, you can be forced into a bad situation because of things completely out of your control. Being in debt only makes that bad situation worse. God doesn’t want debt to put that extra strain on you when you’re going through a tough time. That’s why He cautions:
One who lacks sense gives a pledge and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor.
Proverbs 17:18 (WEB)
Putting yourself in debt shows a lack of wisdom. Forget those who try to tell you that the mathematically better choice is to get a loan and pay it off over time because you can earn more in the stock market. God tells us plain and simple that debt is foolish. It’s not a good choice. Just looking at the difference in returns (between investing or paying off debt) doesn’t account for God’s wisdom, the problems that occur when you can’t repay, or the fact that debt is slavery. In the case of debt, you don’t need mathematical calculations to show that it’s a bad decision. God has plainly told us that it’s not a good thing, and He’d rather we stayed away from it.
Owe No One Anything Except Love
Finally, Paul gave us good advice in Romans:
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:8 (WEB)
The only debt we should owe anyone is the debt to love. In its context, this verse means that we should pay whatever we owe. This idea is also reflected in Psalm 37:21, where it says that the wicked borrow and do not pay back but the righteous are generous and give. We need to focus our time and energy on showing God’s love to the world rather than repaying the debts we’ve taken on foolishly. Our goal should be to get out of debt and avoid it as much as possible so we can devote ourselves to love more and more. A life free of debt is free to love at all times. You are no longer bound by the chains of debt. You are free to use your time showing love rather than working to repay your debts.
None of this means that debt does not have its proper place in our finances. But foolish debt – to buy things we can’t really afford – is not going to glorify God. Christians should only be going into debt when they are reasonably sure they can repay the loan and they are not using the debt for foolish or sinful purposes. This is why Christians and bankruptcy can be a bad mix. Setting an example of consumerism and following it up with not paying debts we owe will leave people wondering about God’s love working in our lives.
So no. Debt is not a sin. But it’s not always a good choice, and it’s a poor master. Free yourself from being anyone’s slave except Christ’s. For He has bought us with His blood, and by choosing Him we are choosing to have no other master but God.