Here’s a debate that’s fun to rip open from time-to-time. Are credit cards sinful? More specifically, is using a credit card a sin?
It’s a tough question to ask and the answers given are as contradictory as they come. Whatever your thoughts on the sin issue, opinions tend to boil down to one of two camps:
- Credit cards are okay if used properly. This camp believes credit cards can be good if they are paid off at the end of every month. They generally have no biblical backing behind their position, but they don’t believe there is anything in the bible that goes against their beliefs either.
- Credit cards are sinful. This group tends to believe credit cards are sinful because of the way they harm people. I’ve heard this group call credit cards “the new cigarettes”. Sometimes they have a few Bible passages to back themselves up, but most tend to use statistics and experience to make their point.
Breaking It Down
Before we can answer the sin question, we need to figure out what exactly a credit card is.
When you receive a credit card, you are given a revolving line of credit. Every time you pay for something with the card, you are taking out a loan for the cost of that item. The line of credit has a limit and if you hit that max they cut off your ability to borrow. Unlike normal lines of credit, the cards have no collateral attached to them and the interest rate is extremely high (with some cards charging as much as 50%).
Furthermore, a credit card’s basic function is to help you purchase things you couldn’t otherwise afford. Maybe rent came before your paycheck, or you can’t buy food and the new iPad so you use the credit card (take out a loan) to by the thing you want and get what you need.
At its core, a credit card is a device that gives you small, high interest loans to help you overspend. It’s culturally justified through credit scores which are numbers generated by large corporations t0 determine whether you’ll be able to get more credit cards in the future.
So is it a sin?
It’s hard not to stir up controversy with this one, but I’m going to do it anyway: yes, using credit cards are a sin…most of the time. Let me defend myself a bit.
The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about money, but one of the strongest statements of the book is 22:7 where it says, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender”. It is important to note the word slave because it comes up regularly throughout the Bible and especially the Gospels.
In Romans 6:16-18, Paul draws a pretty hard line in the sand when he says,
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”
As Christians, we are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to righteousness – to God. With credit cards, we’re not just slaves to the lender (though, we are), but also slaves to a greater sin: greed.
At their core, loans exist to help you spend more money than you have. That’s called overspending and poor stewardship. God has given you an amount of money to handle. And in Jesus’ parable of the talents we see the anger God has for people who misuse and mishandle the money He has given us.
And even though there are a few unique situations where it can be sometimes beneficial to go into debt (specifically, when buying a home or paying for sudden medical expenses), it’s most often a desire to have something new that puts us into debt.
Going $20,000 dollars into debt to buy a new car when a $5,000 dollar cash car works just as well is a purchase made from greed. You don’t need the new, flashy, higher gas mileage car. It’s not going to save you any money and after 6 years (standard car loan length) you will have paid significantly more than $20,000.
Do you think God is honored when you use money you don’t have (credit cards, car loans, etc) to buy something you don’t need (a car, a piece of gum, a new iPhone) to impress people who aren’t God? I don’t.
Jesus tells us we cannot serve God and money, and yet while going to church every Sunday, most of us are serving money the rest of the week. The culture is so innundated with greed that the average credit card holder owes $15,799 dollars (in credit cards).
Take notice of this, because it’s important. It challenges everything the culture has to say about money, but it’s true.
Are Credit Cards Ever Good?
I said credit cards are sinful most of the time, what did I mean by that?
When can a credit card be good? Presumably, there is a way to use a credit card appropriately and it looks like this:
- Plan out a detailed budget every single month.
- Never spend more money than is allowed in your budget (in credit cards, cash, and other forms of payment).
- As soon as you can, pay off the entire balance (same day if possible).
- Rinse and repeat.
What does this sound like? It sounds like living on a cash budget. The only difference is you have the extra step of paying the credit card bill. Why include that step at all? Reward points have repeatedly proven to get us to justify overspending and encourage holding debt (with 46% of credit card holders rolling balances over month-to-month).
Stop Playing Their Game
It’s time to stop playing the credit card game, step out of our culture, and ask the hard question: is this a sin.
Greed is the number one sin in the developed world. It’s a problem for every person who calls themselves an American, regardless of income. It’s so subversive; Jesus had to talk about it more than any other sin.
It’s a problem. Are you dealing with it?
What do you think? Are credit cards sinful? Why or why not?