I received a question last week from someone wanting a Biblical response to the concept of lending money. Since I have made Romans 13:8 (“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another…” (NIV)) a bit of a mantra for my counsel on personal finance, it is only fitting that this question would eventually come up. If I’m telling you to avoid borrowing money as much as possible, then what is my stance on lending money if you are a Christian? I thought this was an excellent question, and it is one I truly wrestle with because I know people are going to borrow money. I also know borrowing money in most cases is not a sin. Having put that out there, what does the Bible say about lending people money?
First, let’s get a couple of foundational things out of the way. Biblically, a lender becomes master of someone who borrows from them. This is pretty clear from Proverbs 22:7. Someone who borrows money is figuratively picking up the chains of debt and the lender is not responsible for their choice to do so (generally speaking). Having said that, the Bible speaks a LOT about those who are in debt and that they should free themselves from it (see Psalm 37:21, 1 Corinthians 7:23). The Bible is also pretty clear that co-signing for someone to borrow is a bad plan because co-signing generally means the person wanting to borrow money can’t handle the weight of those chains, even under pretty decent circumstances (see Proverbs 6, Proverbs 11:15, Proverbs 17:18, etc.). But let’s say someone who is an excellent candidate for a loan (is that an oxymoron?) approaches you and asks to borrow $10,000. What is your Biblical response, assuming you have the $10,000 to lend?
- Luke 6:34-38 (and other verses) teach that if I lend money, I should do so without the expectation of getting it back. In fact, there are lots of verses about forgiving debt, some of which I’ve referenced above. Unfortunately, this concept doesn’t make sense to me! If I lend you money and you promise to pay it back, then why the heck shouldn’t I expect you to pay it back!?! I wish I had a good answer for that one. Luke 6:34 specifically says, “And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full” (NIV). Does this make me a bad person to expect repayment of money someone borrows from me? Maybe those of you out there with a closer walk with Jesus can help me out on that one.
- I don’t want any slaves. Even though I am from the south and have lived here my entire life, I am not cool with the concept of slavery. I have no desire to own slaves and the Civil War (or for those of you who have a memorial to Jefferson Davis in your living room, “The War of Northern Aggression”) pretty much decided slavery isn’t a copacetic idea for our culture. I agree. I don’t want to help you into bondage by co-signing and I surely don’t want you in bondage to me. If you decide to take on debt, that is your decision and none of my business. However, if you come to me and ask to borrow money, I really struggle with this idea. Again, maybe those of you out there with a closer walk with Jesus can help me with this.
That leaves me with the Biblical response of generosity. Many of the verses I’ve shared either directly or indirectly promote the idea of being generous in all dealings. Proverbs 11:24-25 says that, “It is possible to give freely and become more wealthy, but those who are stingy will lose everything. The generous prosper and are satisfied; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” My responsibility as a Christian is not necessarily to lend money but instead to be generous and merciful. This doesn’t mean everyone who asks me to borrow money will get me to fork over some cash, but it does mean that I can always remember that the Bible is a story centered around God’s generosity, mercy and forgiveness of the biggest debt of all. When I took on all the debt sin could possibly give me, Jesus came along and took care of it.