What the Bible says about debt is to be careful with money. It can lead to sin, adversely changes relationships, hurts our character, and leads to idolatry.
- Debt is not a sin. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but we should manage our money wisely.
- The best way to get out of debt is to make a plan and be accountable.
- You should tithe, even when you are in debt.
- Don’t be afraid to pray about your financial problems.
If you are in debt and worry about what to do, then the Bible is a good place to look. God is concerned about your financial health, but He is more concerned about your spiritual health. Find a local church and learn how the two are bound with each other.
What the Bible Says About Debt and Sin
What the Bible says about debt is usually a warning, but it never says debt is a sin. In fact, life may bring you into a situation when you can’t help going in debt, such as a medical emergency. So then, how should we view debt?
- Always repay debts – “The wicked borrows and does not repay” Psalm 37:21A
- Don’t co-sign for someone – “If someone puts up security for a stranger, he will suffer for it, but the one who hates such agreements is protected.” Proverbs15:11
- It affects your relationships with others – “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7
- It affects your relationship with God – “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19
If we go into debt to others to supply our needs, we deny God the glory of providing for us.
How to Get Out of Debt Biblically
Everything the Bible teaches about life, including debt, comes down to his grace for us and our faith in Him. If you don’t have a relationship with God, then that is the place to start.
- Pray – “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
- Write a budget – Commit to it in writing and review it. Share it with family. Also, find a friend to hold you accountable.
- List your possessions – “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
- List your liabilities – You may not know all your debts. With each debt, note its interest rate. Finally, prioritize by size and interest rate.
- Make a schedule to repay your liabilities and follow it. Note what works. Celebrate when you retire a debt but review your plan regularly with someone you trust that holds you accountable.
- Don’t accumulate more debt/increase income – Review spending with family and your accountability partner. Decide what you really need. On the other hand, you can pay off your bills faster with a second job.
- Learn to be content – “Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
- Don’t give up – You will want to quit. It’s not enough to plan. Commit to it and let others help you.
Remember, this process starts with understanding how you got to this point. It’s difficult for us all to examine our mistakes. Don’t do it alone. Get help from family, friends, and your local church.2
Tithing When in Debt
How you tithe when you are in debt is to make it a priority. God is generous, and we should be, too. That’s easy to say when giving a tenth of our possessions doesn’t hurt, but when you pinch every penny it’s hard. Here are some ideas to put you in the right frame of mind to tithe while you’re in over your head:3
- It’s as much about faith as generosity – If you can’t live on 90% of your income, you probably can’t live on 100% either. Faith gives us the strength to give when we aren’t sure we can pay the bills.
- Generosity is a way of life. We are at our best when we give.
- Pay God first, then take care of essentials (like food), and finally pay bills.
- Be happy with your generosity – “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
If you are afraid to tithe while in debt, remember that God promises to take care of us. In fact, he tells us to test him on this point. “Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in my house. ‘Test me in this way,’ says the Lord of Hosts. ‘See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure.’” Malachi 3:10
What the Bible Says About Debt and Praying
How to pray is something that even Jesus’ closest followers asked about. The Bible gives two accounts of what we call the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew 6:9-13 records it as a part of the sermon on the mount. Luke 11 also records it in a more intimate setting when his disciples ask for guidance on the subject. You should read both because it is how you should pray, no matter what the context. Here are some important points we need to take from his example:
- Father – Approach him as your father. He loves, cares for, and wants to give us good things.
- Your name be honored as holy – Praise him and recognize that he is holy.
- Your kingdom come – Recognize his authority and ask him to do his will in your life.
- Give us each day our daily bread – Ask God to supply our basic needs
- And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone in debt to us – Ask His forgiveness for sins, and recognize that you need to forgive others
- And do not bring us into temptation – Ask Him to be with you while you are tempted.
An acronym that people use is ACTS to try to remember the elements better:
- A – adoration: Praise Him
- C – Confession: Acknowledge your weakness and ask forgiveness
- T – Thanks: Dwell for a moment on the good things in your life and be thankful
- S – Supplication: Ask Him for what you need
Remember when you were young, and you asked your dad for money? You didn’t just come up and say, “give me $20.” You started by telling him how great he is, how much you love him. Right? You both knew that you wanted money, and he usually knew what you wanted it for. Sometimes he gave it to you, and sometimes he said no.
Why would we go through that ritual? Because we love our fathers, and we know they love us. Your heavenly father deserves even more respect. He is perfect and loves us perfectly. You can ask God about any of your concerns, even for financial help.