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Let’s Talk Debt

Updated: Dec 4, 2023

Brothers and Sisters!

Paul’s charge to us in Romans 13:8 to owe nothing but love is a powerful reminder of YAHUAH’s distaste for all forms of debt that are not being paid in a timely manner (see also Psalm 37:21). At the same time, the Scriptures does not explicitly command against all forms of debt. The Scriptures warns against debt, and extols the virtue of not going into debt, but does not forbid debt. The Scriptures has harsh words of condemnation for lenders who abuse those who are bound to them in debt, but it does not condemn the debtor.

Some people question the charging of any interest on loans, but several times in the Scriptures we see that a fair interest rate is expected to be received on borrowed money (Proverbs 28:8; Matthew 25:27). In ancient Yashar'al the Law did prohibit charging interest on one category of loans—those made to the poor (Leviticus 25:35-38). This law had many social, financial, and spiritual implications, but two are especially worth mentioning. First, the law genuinely helped the poor by not making their situation worse. It was bad enough to have fallen into poverty, and it could be humiliating to have to seek assistance. But if, in addition to repaying the loan, a poor person had to make crushing interest payments, the obligation would be more hurtful than helpful.

Second, the law taught an important spiritual lesson. For a lender to forego interest on a loan to a poor person would be an act of mercy. He would be losing the use of that money while it was loaned out. Yet that would be a tangible way of expressing gratitude to YAHUAH for His mercy in not charging His people “interest” for the grace He has extended to them. Just as YAHUAH had mercifully brought the Israelites out of Egypt when they were nothing but penniless slaves and had given them a land of their own (Leviticus 25:38), so He expected them to express similar kindness to their own poor citizens.

Believers are in a parallel situation. The life, death, and resurrection of YAHUSHA has paid our sin debt to YAHUAH. Now, as we have opportunity, we can help others in need, particularly fellow believers, with loans that do not escalate their troubles. YAHUSHA even gave a parable along these lines about two creditors and their attitude toward forgiveness (Matthew 18:23-35).

The Scriptures neither expressly forbids nor condones the borrowing of money. The wisdom of the Scriptures teaches us that it is usually not a good idea to go into debt. Debt essentially makes us a slave to the one who provides the loan. At the same time, in some situations going into debt is a “necessary evil.” As long as money is being handled wisely and the debt payments are manageable, a Believer can take on the burden of financial debt if it is absolutely necessary.

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