In a recent survey of several seminary students, it was determined that 70 percent of those surveyed felt that borrowing was scripturally prohibited. However, of those who felt that borrowing was prohibited, 90 percent admitted that they had to borrow in order to attend seminary. Is this a double standard, or is it a discomfiting presumption on the part of the seminary students?
Perhaps it would be easier if God’s Word did prohibit Christians from borrowing, but it does not. There is not a single verse that forbids God’s people from borrowing money. However, there is also no Scripture that encourages borrowing.
In order for ministers to teach the biblical financial principles concerning borrowing, they first must know what God’s Word says about borrowing.
God’s Word on Borrowing
In the Bible, borrowing is always discussed as a negative rather than a positive principle. In fact, it seems to be a consequence of disobeying God’s statutes of economics and principles of finance.
“He shall lend to you, but you will not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you will be the tail. So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you would not obey the Lord your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you” (Deuteronomy 28:44-45).
The absolute minimum that God’s Word establishes for anyone who borrows is found in Psalm 37:21, “The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives.” If we don’t want to be considered by God to be wicked, we must repay any money we have borrowed.
It makes no difference whatsoever if the circumstances that prevent us from repaying are beyond our control. If we owe a debt, we must find a way to repay it (Matthew 5:23-24), even if that means making special repayment arrangements with the creditor.
The Only Biblical Way to Borrow
Probably the most misunderstood financial principle in God’s Word is His prohibition against surety (Proverbs 22:26-27). Surety is assuming an obligation to pay a debt on behalf of another person. Non-collateralized loans and cosigning are examples of surety. Surety means that we presume on the future. If everything goes as expected, the debtor should be able to pay the money back. But, if something goes wrong and the debtor is not able to repay, then we are left with a debt.
It is only when collateral has been placed as security against the loan that is equal in value to the loan that we can avoid surety. If we are unable to pay the loan back, the creditor can repossess and sell the collateral, which will satisfy the total amount of the loan. The Bible cautions against any type of loan that is not totally collateralized. If Christians would observe this one caution associated with borrowing, the most they could lose would be the security they had pledged against the loan.
Bottom line, although borrowing is not directly prohibited in the Word of God, it is not encouraged either.