The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. – Proverbs 22:7
One of the things I plan to do from time to time here is highlight specific verses that speak to our financial lives. The truth is God’s Word has a lot to say about how we handle our finances, and honestly much of it is just good common sense.
I wanted to start with this verse from Proverbs because this verse probably more than any other started me down this path of getting out of debt and also ignited the desire in me to help others to freedom as well. When I first started listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio, I heard him quote this particular verse frequently. The truth of this verse was deeply convicting to me and convinced me that I needed to learn to live in a different way.
First I want to say that nowhere in the scriptures does God ever say that it is a sin to be in debt. However, there are many examples in the scriptures where God makes it clear that being in debt is not wise.
Think of it this way. When I swipe that plastic card or sign those loan papers, I am making a pledge that I will pay back at a future date the money that I am being given today. So what does that mean? Well, it means that my future earnings are no longer completely my own. Just as a slave works for his master and his efforts provide benefits to his master and not to himself, so also now that I have placed myself in debt I am no longer working solely for myself. Before I work a single hour this month, part of my income has already been committed to the lender who gave me the money. Depending on how much money I have borrowed and how much debt I have accumulated, I may have to spend several days of the month where practically speaking I am not working for myself, I am working for my lender. Effectively, I have placed myself in a position of servitude to the person or organization that lent me money. I am now a slave to my lender.
Another aspect of this is a slave does not control his or her future. A slave doesn’t have the choice of deciding that tomorrow they wish to work for a different master. By the same token when I make myself the servant of the one who lent me money, I have effectively given up a piece of my freedom. Perhaps one day I feel that God is calling me to a different profession and that job will not pay me nearly as much. Maybe a new mom desperately wants to stay home with her precious new little baby, but is saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of college loans. When I place myself in the position of a servant by borrowing money, I may find have forfeited my rights to choose my future. If I want to change careers, following where I feel God is calling me and that change means significantly reducing my income, I may no longer have the ability to follow my heart because my lender owns a piece of me.
Worse than that, sometimes our financial situation changes because of factors outside our control. You walk into your employer one day and your boss tells you your services are no longer needed. Perhaps illness or accident leaves you unable to perform your job for a period of months or even permanently. These are trying times in the best of circumstances. The last thing we need in the midst of a crisis like this is to be in a position of servitude to a lender and wondering how we will be able to fulfill the obligations that we have placed ourselves under.
When I was struggling with debt this verse was really convicting to me. I do not want to ever place myself in a position where I have any master but Christ. I’ve spent too many years allowing folks like Chase, Discover, Citibank and others be my masters and spending many hours each month working to satisfy the masters I allowed to have control over me. Never again do I want to allow myself to be in that position.