Is Debt a Sin or a Temptation?

Best to avoid it.

In many Christian circles, guilt is considered a sin, and there is strong biblical support for this position. However, it is also possible that debts are not a sin unless it is a temptation.


No situation is good. A sin is a sin, and the temptation is something that can lead to sin. Even if temptation is not a pure sin, it is still best to avoid it.


Consider both sides of the picture: debt as sin and debt as temptation.


Guilt as a sin


In our world, we do not consider debt a sin. It is too common and in many cases even considered a virtue. Buying a house with a mortgage is one such “good use of debt,” taking student loans is another. A big picture, we have the idea that debts are even good for the economy, fueling demand and keeping workers busy.


However, there are at least three ways in which debt itself is a sin.


Buy what we can not afford. Debt is an attempt to spend the cost of what we want to buy, usually over many years. This makes us believe that we can afford to buy when we really can not. God expects us to be good stewards of our money, and using debt to buy what we can not afford right now is one way to play a financial shell game with ourselves. If we say we can afford something, we mean that we can afford the payments. That is not the same thing.


Debt is a form of voluntary slavery we embark on. Also, it is slavery for someone other than God. Anything further from God is a sin!


Proverbs 22: 7 tells us, “The rich rules about the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Since debt rules are legal, we could convince ourselves that they are somehow sacred. But not everything that is legal is sacred. Exposing yourself to the risk of being slaves to others is certainly not sacred, especially when it comes to buying something that is not necessary, like a bigger house, a new car, or a vacation. This is above all buying excess.


Desire. defines “desire” as “desires, longings or longings for something, especially for the property of another person.” To do this is to violate the Ten Ten Commandment. Debt serves as a trailblazer when it comes to being eager – it allows us to turn the desire for something into reality, to have it. Usually, we want the things that other people have, and that is desirable.

Debt can covet to a higher level. This happens when debt becomes a habit, even a lifestyle in which a consumption pattern based on debt develops. When the Day of Settlement comes – a bankruptcy or other form of late payment – it is not a single act of sin, but a series of sins committed over a very long period.


Debt as a temptation


The other possibility is that debts are not so much a sin as an act that can lead us to sin. That is a temptation. We can imagine similar relationships elsewhere: a married man spends time with unmarried women he is attracted to, or he visits alcoholic bars. In any case, there is a temptation – an act that enables you to sin, but it is not a sin in itself – and the sin itself that brings the temptation to its logical conclusion.


Some ways, the debts are just a temptation:


It allows the acquisition. To acquire possession is not necessarily a sin. It is when takeovers take on extreme proportions, as when we start spending more than we know we can afford. Homes and colleges are significantly more expensive than the average person to make cash payments, so that debt is usually used to pay for the bulk of the purchase. If we stay within the proper ability to repay the loans, the guilt will not be a sin. However, if we continue to borrow to make purchases that are not strictly necessary, we turn ourselves into sin. That is a temptation.


Creates the potential for failure. Psalm 37:21 tells us, “Evil lends itself, but does not pay back …” That sounds very much like a sin! These are exactly the debts we are prepared for. There is a certain point of insolvency for everyone, and that is the debt we can afford. That is a temptation.


It diverts our attention from divine activities. Debts facilitate consumption; this is not a sin per se, but there is a point out there where it becomes one. We can borrow and consume for a lifetime, but never cross the line where consumption becomes sin. However, since debt is relentless in repayment, there will always be a reserve for our lien on our income. Also, due to this commitment, it will also take our time and attention. This will leave us less money, time and concern for the work in the Kingdom. This is a temptation at best and maybe even worse.