Debt

Biblical directives are necessary in a world where indebtedness to build school buildings is common. The primary injunctions concerning indebtedness are directed toward the creditors—those who have the financial ability to abuse others by lending at interest (Ex 22:25-27; Lev 25:35-38; Deut 23:19, 20). Judgments against the lending-borrowing practice focused on exorbitant interest charged to those in need while “the rich became richer” (2 Kg 4:1-7; Neh 5:1-13; Ps 15:5; Prov 28:8; Jer 15:10; Ez 18:13; 22:12; Hab 2:7).

Borrowing is always viewed in a negative light (Prov 17:18), something one would want to avoid (Prov 22:7). However, borrowing is not altogether outlawed (Ex 22:25; Ps 37:26; Matt 5:42; Lk 6:35). It should be also noted that the original etymological range of the word “loan” meant to take a bit or consume. “Don’t bite off more than you can chew” or “be careful he doesn’t take a bite out of you” are common reminders. So borrowing is allowed though not advocated.

Scripture indicates that a borrower is a slave to the creditor (Prov 22:7) and debts must be repaid (Ps 37:21; Rom 13:7-8). So, a person or institution should follow these guidelines when considering indebtedness:

(1) Prayer—According to His sovereign will, God will meet His peoples’ needs (Matt 6:33-34; Ph 4:19; 1 Jn 3:21-24; 5:14, 15);

(2) Prudence—Believers should ask wise questions. Is the purchase necessary? Is it a need? Will the purchase further the purpose of Kingdom building without inhibiting the total program of the school? (cf. Prov 17:1; 27:23-24);

(3) Planning—God’s people should be shrewd (Lk 16:1-9), reaping eternal benefits. Budgets, collateral, etc. should be mapped out taking every practical precaution (Prov 21:5);

(4) Petitioning—Christians must grant people the opportunity to be blessed in giving by allowing the need to be known (Acts 4:32-37; 2 Co 8, 9; 1 Tim 6:17-19). Willingness to lend was a sign of righteous graciousness (Ps 112:5), debt repayment might be dropped (Prov 19:17), and a “loan” might be transferred to “gift” status (Ps 37:26) making creditors, contributors.

On the surface, numerous passages of Scripture seem to mitigate against the pledge (“striking the hand in pledge”; Prov 6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18; 20:25; 22:26-27; Ecc 5:4-5). However, our 21st century vocabulary does not correspond to the original writer’s language. The word in Hebrew “to take or give in pledge” refers to a security or deposit, what is referred to now as “collateral.”

The application of these verses to life had much more to do with a ‘vow’. Both Old and New Testaments emphatically state that once a promise had been made it must be kept (Ecc 5:1-7; Jas 4:17). People who pledge ought to be instructed that this financial promise to God’s work must not be taken lightly. Better not to pledge and bear no responsibility than to pledge and bear a penalty.

The Hebrew idea of “pledge” is a warning against a blind fiscal guarantee which may lead both creditor and borrower to ruin. Scripture considers this practice to be gambling—the pompous belief that monetary responsibility can be put off until tomorrow (Prov 27:1; Jas 4:13-17).

Dr. Mark Eckel is Professor of Leadership, Education & Discipleship at Capital Bible Seminary, Washington, D.C.  This statement was originally written for a project in 1987 and has since been included for the “School Wide Biblical Integration,” an ACSI enabler in 2002, having been used in various venues since.

 

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