What does the Bible say about borrowing and about lending money?
Stay out of Debt
It is always a good idea to stay out of debt and to pay cash whenever possible but of course, in this world, that’s not always possible because we often have no choice but to borrow money to buy a house or a car but it is best to do as the Apostle Paul suggests, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8). Solomon wisely wrote that we are not to be “one of those who give pledges, who put up security for debts [because] If you have nothing with which to pay, why should your bed be taken from under you” (Prov 22:26-27). One of the laws of the Old Testament is found in Exodus 22:25-27 where it says, “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.” The point is that we should not take advantage of the poor by lending to them and then taking back something that hurts them. This is a typical thing for financial institutions. They not only make a living but they make a generous living but their wealth is often made from taking advantage of others.
Give without Expectations
The Bible is clear that we are to lend to others with no usury fee but this is speaking about individuals and not necessarily banks, but even so, many lending institutions make their living on the interest or principle of a loan and sometimes people in financial difficulties have to settle for exorbitant loan fees and service charges and sky-high interest rates. If I kept track of how much money I have loaned others in my lifetime, I might be able to be close to retiring on it by now. Sometimes it was a family member and at other times it was a friend but the proverb is true that says “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives” (Psalm 37:21). The righteous of God give without expecting anything in return, otherwise they are giving to receive back and so it’s not really giving at all but simply a business deal. That’s why “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender” (Prov 22:7).
Not Withholding Good
The proverbs have much to say about helping the poor and extending help to those who have little or nothing. Solomon wrote “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you” (Prov 3:27-28) which is similar to what James wrote where “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17). If we see a need and we have the ability and means to help but choose not to, to us, that is sin. We can make many excuses like “I am so sorry…I will pray for you” but that is useless to God and to the needy. Jesus adds that we are to “love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:35).
Blessings from Generosity
We are not to give and expect anything in return or we’re no better than a bank who lends money to have it paid back…with interest. The Old Testament teaches us that “The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow” (Deut 28:12) and “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother” (Deut 15:7). The point in all these verses is that we should “not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man” (Ezk 18:8) but that’s just what many do so even “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Prov 25:21-22). Jesus tells all who believe in Him, “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you” (Matt 5:42).
We are to borrow only when necessary but loan money to those in need, but not expecting anything in return, especially with the poor who have no means or very little means to pay us back. In this way, “you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:45). We are no more like God than when we love those who hate, pray for those who persecute us and do good to those who want to do evil to us. A quick reading of Romans 5 should make it clear that we get what we don’t deserve (called grace) and don’t get what we really do deserve (called mercy), so we should do likewise to others, enemies or not.
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.