Are We Asking the Wrong Question About Debt?


Within many Christian financial circles, the relationship for how Christians should or should not relate to debt has been a debate for a while. Some would say that debt has no place in the life of a believer and others would say that debt is a tool that can be used for good.

However, it is possible that we’re asking the wrong question?

Often in our decision making as Christians, we can often find ourselves asking whether something is a sin or not. While this certainly is helpful to gauge with things that are clearly prohibited in Scripture, we shouldn’t stop here. We need to acknowledge that there are going to be questions and dilemmas where the Bible isn’t going to be clear. For instance, does the Bible tell us what type of investments we need to make? Does the Bible tell us what kind of car we should drive? What about which college my kid should attend? With these types of questions, we must go beyond the question of whether something is a sin or not. Just because something isn’t prohibited in Scripture doesn’t necessarily mean we should do it. While the Bible may not be clear about some contemporary financial issues, we can draw principles from Scripture that can help give us discernment in how we approach a certain issue.

David W. Jones utilizes this method of decision making when he answers the question of whether or not Christians should play the lottery in this article. While the Bible doesn’t speak specifically about the lottery, he does highlight problematic areas around what the lottery promotes and how the lottery can be destructive for the lives of Christians.

As followers of Christ, we are guided by the law of grace (Romans 6:14) which demands that we reflect on two aspects of every decision we make: 

1. Does this action fall in line with loving God? (Mark 12:30)

2. Does this action help me love my neighbor? (Mark 12:31)

When it comes to whether debt is a sin or not, I would fall under the belief that it is not. My reasoning is simple—Scripture never explicitly says that debt is sinful. Can debt reveal certain sinful desires in our lives? Absolutely. Is it true that the Bible never speaks about debt is a positive light? Of course. Doesn’t the Bible speak of debt as a burden that makes us like slaves to lenders? (Proverbs 22:7) That is true.

However, it must be noted that there is no explicit command that tells us that debt is prohibited or sinful. Although, I would only encourage people to utilize debt in situations that are wise or necessary. If we ignore the dangers of debt, we’ll find ourselves burdened and unable to express generosity the way that God intended for us.

Is Debt A Sin? Why This Question Falls Short

Considering all of this, the question of whether debt is sinful should not be at the forefront of our decision making on this. Just because something might not be prohibited or rendered sinful according to the Bible doesn’t mean we have total freedom to act as we please. The Apostle Paul highlights this exact mindset in 1 Corinthians 10:23 when he says:

“You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is beneficial.” (NLT)

While we might be free to do certain things, the reality is that, just like Paul mentioned, not everything is beneficial or good for us, or our neighbors. When people ask about the problem of debt in the life of a Christian, we shouldn’t highlight some Bible verse taken out of context or place strong convictions on them that they do not sense (Romans 14:13-23). Instead, we should articulate that if we take out unnecessary debt, we’re placing ourselves in a situation where we can’t be generous (or as generous) with those that God places in our path. Because we’re burdened by debt and are obligated to pay back whatever we owe (Psalm 37:21), our level of generosity is negatively impacted since we’ve increased our financial commitments. If we reflect on the two questions mentioned earlier, this decision impacts both negatively.

Of course, I’m aware that some don’t really have a choice when going into debt. So, it’s important to be sympathetic and compassionate to these exceptions. But it’s also true that debt can be avoided in most cases. Financing a car that we don’t need, biting off too big of a mortgage, and running up a consumer credit card, can and should be avoided.

The question of whether a Christian should go into debt or not isn’t simply limited to what we are allowed to do and not allowed to do as Christians. The questions we must ask ourselves is whether this action loves God and loves my neighbor. If it prevents us from living the life that God has called us to and if it prevents us from loving our neighbor, we shouldn’t feel comfortable moving forward with it.

As we look at how we can honor God and love our neighbors in the way we manage our money, it’s crucial that we don’t merely navigate important decisions by what is allowed and what isn’t. Not everything is a black and white decision. At the end of the day, we must choose which decision will honor God the most and move heartily in that direction. If one is convicted to avoid debt commitments, I would, by no means, will stand in that person’s way. However, if we do decide to enter a debt obligation, may we do whatever we can to get out of it as soon as possible so we can live free from that burden.

Author the author: Taylor Standridge is a Christian podcaster, producer, and Certified Christian Financial Counselor (CertCFC). He is also the producer and occasional co-host of the More Than Money podcast with Dr. Art Rainer and serves as the Production Manager for Faith & Finance with Rob West. He loves to write on the topics of faith, finance, and culture to help people see how the story of the Scriptures helps give wisdom for how Christians can demonstrate God's goodness, grace, and generosity to the world around them. He is currently pursuing a Master of Biblical and Theological Studies degree at Dallas Theological Seminary.