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Q. Do you think it's OK to carry a little bit of debt (like a student loan) and to save for the future? I've heard others say any debt is terrible and having a savings account means we don't trust the Lord for our future.
I am amazed at what extremes we reach in carrying out the Bible's advice. For example, there are some (usually) good teachers who believe that somehow a bank savings account is a "good thing," while savings put into precious metals are evil - a form of "hoarding." Go figure…
In reality there is actually more biblical justification for owning precious metals than for investing in fiat money and a fractional reserve system where our leaders encourage "unjust weights and measurements."
Unjust Banking System
"Differing weights are an abominations to the LORD, and a false scale is not good" (Proverbs 20:23)
(See also Pr 20:10, Pr 11:1, Pr 16:11).
The book of Proverbs is full of advice about how to conduct our daily affairs. In chapter six verses 6-8 we are shown the example of the ant who "prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest."
In Proverbs 21:20 we are told that smart people save treasure and oil in their home but a foolish person swallows it all up. Charles Ryrie interprets this verse in the following way: "The wise man plans and saves for the future, but the foolish person squanders what he has" (Ryrie 1996, 998).
Not to Worry but to be Prudent
Some teachers think that saving for our futures contradicts Matthew 6:25-34 where Jesus tells us not to worry about food or clothing. But, Jesus isn't telling us to behave irresponsibily or to neglect being prudent about our futures. He isn't contradicting Proverbs 21:20. Instead, He is telling us not to "worry" about provisions.
We are not to "hoard" things or to "worry" over the future. But, we are to save, prepare and rest knowing that "my God will supply all your needs"…(Phil. 4:19).
Borrower becomes a Slave to the Rich?
As far as debt is concerned we are told that the "borrower becomes the lender's slave" (Pr. 22:7). In contrast, our cultural worldview suggests that we take on debt because in a period of inflation our debt becomes easier to pay with devalued dollars.
However, during an unusual period of deflation such as occurred during the Great Depression, money disappeared right and left as banks closed and people reneged on loans.
Sounds sort of like today, doesn't it?
During an unusual period of hyperinflation low-cost fixed loans become valuable IF one can keep enough cash to cover hyperinflating costs of everyday items like groceries, gasoline and utilities.
In a hyperinflationary spiral too often people lose all of their savings rapidly (in about 3 to 10 days) and cannot even pay for the low-interest fixed loans.
Therefore, it is probably wise to avoid debt in these unusual times.
The Rich Drag Poor to Court
The Bible warns us that the rich tend to oppress others and drag people into court (see James 2:6). So while it may be OK to carry small amounts of debt for short periods of time, it's not a good idea for the long run. I suspect this is why in Proverbs we are told that the borrowers "become" the lender's slaves. It's just solid, good advice to avoid debt when we can.
Contentment with Little
Paul reminds us to be content with things like food and shelter (First Timothy 6:8). For those who are rich he advises they be ready to share with others (1 Tim. 6:18).
Save, be Frugal, avoid Debt, Tithe&Share
Putting all of this together it seems we should be prudent and save for our futures (Pr 6:6&21:20). We should learn to be content with less (1 Tim 6:8). We should avoid debt (Pr 22:7). And we must be ready to share what we have with others (1 Tim 6:18). That includes a willingness to tithe to our churches (Mal 3:10) and to share with the poor (Jas 2:15).
Ryrie Study Bible, NASB. 1996. Chicago: Moody.
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