Why I Live Without Loans!

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I feel preachy today.

Turn in your Bibles to Deuteronomy chapter 28. Go down to verse 12. If you’re there, say, “Praise The Lord!” For those of you who haven’t found it, it’s toward the front of your Bible, between Numbers and Joshua. And it reads,

The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow.

And Proverbs 22:7 says,

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

People often ask why I am so staunch in my stance on living without debt. These passages and others like them tell me that it’s the will of God for his people to to be free from debt. And I think that most people professing to be Christian in our culture today would agree with that statement. However, where I differ from the mainstream on this issue is here. When most church goers read these scriptures, they think of a promise of God that they hope will be manifested at some point in the future. And they are correct in that God was speaking to the children of Israel about what He would do in their lives if they followed His ways.

However, as a follower of Jesus Christ, believing that the Bible is His inerrant, revealed will for my life, I like to think of the Bible as a users manual for my life today. It’s sort of like when I buy a new cell phone. Without reading the manual, I can easily charge the battery, add contacts, and make phone calls through my past experiences with like devices. However, in order to dig deeper, and get the full benefit of my pocket computer/video camera/voice recorder/phone, I need to read the manual from the manufacturer to fully understand the hidden functions and benefits of the product.

When I became a Christian, at age 20, I became a new creature according to 2 Corinthians 5:17. However, I had lived for 20 years learning how to operate my life. With cell phones, they pretty much build upon last week’s technology and give us a few new features. However, when a man is born again, Paul writes,

…old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Therefore, it would be both silly and ineffective for me to attempt to simply pull from past experiences and operate my new life. Because this life is not an upgrade, but the end of one life and the beginning of a new.

That being said, as a babe in Christ, I operated my finances the best way I knew, according to what I’d been taught, and according to what my pastor and mentors told me. But as I grew and started understanding the scriptures for myself, passages like Deuteronomy 28:12 and Proverbs 22:7 began to leap out at me. I had student loans, credit card debts, a car loan, and a mortgage. I thought, “Man, I’m in a messed up situation.”

Then I would go to church and hear conflicting information. When speaking on finances, the preacher would say things like, “If you don’t have the money, you can’t afford it.” But he would often have a caveat like, “…unless it’s for a house because it’s such a big purchase.” At other times he would go on about how it’s smart to borrow to get a house because you can build equity as opposed to renting and “throwing away money.” But he would still be adamant about it being God’s will for us to be debt free. As the crowd said, “Amen,” I felt like I was the only one in the place who felt like something didn’t quite add up. And I would notice other churches with their building projects. They would have the signs of a bank that read, “Financed By…” But they all seemed at some point or another to condemn the use of debt or say that God wanted us all to be debt free.

Then I came across Luke 16:13.

No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

When I read that no one can serve two masters, I thought about Proverbs 22:7, “…the borrower is servant to the lender.” Then I reasoned, “As a Christian, I am to live my life completely in service to the one who died for me, according to 2 Corinthians 5:15, “And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” And again in Romans 6:22, “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” I could not then and still cannot to this day, reconcile within my conscience being a servant to a lender and simultaneously being a servant to God. Jesus said plainly, that “No servant can serve two masters.”

My wife and I vowed to never borrow again and started to pay off all our debts, including our mortgage, as quickly as possible. Sometimes I’m amazed at how fast we were able to do it. We paid off over $200,000! And we were not making an enormous amount of money, either. When we began our debt free journey, I was working part-time at UPS.

I sometimes get questioned by professing believers about my position, and they say my interpretation of scripture is too literal, or that I’m trying to stick to the “letter of the law” and not to the spirit of what Jesus was teaching. First, I’ll say this. When I started, I was doing nothing more than obeying my conscience and doing the best I knew to follow the instructions of my God. That being said, I have yet to find any scriptures that contradict my initial understanding. However, the arguments in support of “holy borrowing” are usually nothing more than the opinions and experiences of men, rather than reasonable interpretations of scripture. I hear things like, “The Lord told me to get a loan,” or “The Lord told me to buy the house.” I never argue with people when they say, “The Lord told me…” That’s between them and God.

These are the best arguments I have heard from scripture:

1. It can’t be impossible for man to serve two masters [God being one of them] because the Bible instructs servants in how to relate to their earthly masters as in Colossians chapter 3.

22 Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

Touche. However, we must remember that Jesus Himself made the statement that “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.” I didn’t make this stuff up. Further, when Paul tells slaves how to conduct themselves if they were called while in servitude, he says something interesting. 1 Corinthians 7:20-24 reads,

20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God.

Notice that Paul says, “But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.” Therefore, if it is possible for you to be free, His desire is for you to be free. This argument cannot used as a cop out to remain under the bondage of debt. Understanding the times, some people were sentenced to physical servitude for life. They, therefore, could not be set free in the natural sense. However, he goes on to write, “…he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord.” God totally understands our situations. Just as someone may have been sentenced to a lifetime of slavery in Paul’s day, if you’re 100 years old, with a trillion dollars in debt, you may never be debt free on this earth. Nevertheless, true repentance is a total change of mind. I firmly believe if the rare person for whom it is impossible to pay off their debts, is truly repentant and has a heart and mind to do money God’s way, the Lord will honor the fruit of that repentance.

Verse 23 is another one that keeps me from taking on debt. It says that I have been purchased with a price and charges me not to become slaves of men. If the Bible is true when it says “the borrower is servant to the lender,” and we have a direct command not to “become slaves of men,” if I willingly become a borrower, I willingly become a slave of men.

Here’s the bottom line. Jesus is right. No man can serve two masters.

2. God told the children of Israel to borrow from the Egyptians.

21 And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty: 22 But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.

Exodus 3:21-22

35 And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: 36 And the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians.

Exodus 12:35-36

It seems that they may have a point here. However, if we look closely at these quotes from the King James Version of the Bible, we see that the plan from the beginning was to “spoil the Egyptians.” That was the first red flag that led me to look up the word translated as “borrow” in the authorized version because the word spoil means to plunder, pillage, or take by force. The Bible clearly states, “the wicked borrows but does not pay back.” (Psalms 37:21) God could not have been instructing His people to be wicked by borrowing from the Egyptians without intention to repay. The word translated as borrow in this story is “shaw’al” (Stong’s 7592). It is translated as ask (or some version of ask 94 times), while it is translated as borrow or borrowed only 6 times. Seeing that there was no intention to repay the Egyptians for the spoils, I think it safe to say that the word could not have been correctly translated as “borrow” as shown in the King James Version, but as ask, as shown in Young’s Literal Translation.

35And the sons of Israel have done according to the word of Moses, and they ask from the Egyptians vessels of silver and vessels of gold, and garments; 36and Jehovah hath given the grace of the people in the eyes of the Egyptians, and they cause them to ask, and they spoil the Egyptians.

Ex 12:35-36.

Here’s the bottom line. God did not instruct Israel to borrow from the Egyptians, but to spoil the Egyptians.

3. The prophet told the woman to borrow vessels to sell her God given oil in 2 Kings 4.

1 Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen. 2 And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil. 3 Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. 4 And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full. 5 So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. 6 And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed. 7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.

Here’s another one of those 6 times the KJV renders “shaw’al” as borrow. 4 of them were used in Exodus. See how Robert Young chose to use the word ask in this passage as well.

1 And a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets hath cried unto Elisha, saying, ‘Thy servant, my husband, is dead, and thou hast known that thy servant was fearing Jehovah, and the lender hath come to take my two children to him for servants.’ 2And Elisha saith unto her, ‘What do I do for thee? declare to me, what hast thou in the house?’ and she saith, ‘Thy maid-servant hath nothing in the house except a pot of oil.’ 3And he saith, ‘Go, ask for thee vessels from without, from all thy neighbours—empty vessels—let them not be few; 4and thou hast entered, and shut the door upon thee, and upon thy sons, and hast poured out into all these vessels, and the full ones thou dost remove.’ 5And she goeth from him, and shutteth the door upon her, and upon her sons; they are bringing nigh unto her, and she is pouring out, 6and it cometh to pass, at the filling of the vessels, that she saith unto her son, ‘Bring nigh unto me a vessel more,’ and he saith unto her, ‘There is not a vessel more;’ and the oil stayeth. 7And she cometh and declareth to the man of God, and he saith, ‘Go, sell the oil, and repay thy loan; and thou and thy sons do live of the rest.’

If you’re still not satisfied with the translation explanation, the story itself shows, as the Exodus story, how there was no intention to return the acquired items. She was to “Go, sell the oil.” I don’t think it’s far fetched to believe she sold the oil while still inside the vessels used to carry it. Side note. You also see how the bind created by borrowing literally would have made the widow’s children slaves to the lender had not the prophet stepped in.

Here’s the bottom line. When translated accurately, we see the widow wasn’t instructed by a prophet to borrow.

It’s also interesting to see that the word used for borrow in Deuteronomy, Psalms, and Proverbs is different than the word “shaw’al” used in Exodus and 2 Kings. The word used in Deuteronomy 28:12, Psalms 37:21, and Proverbs 22:7 is “law-vaw” (Strong’s 3867). I like to check the original languages and multiple translations for accuracy. Sometimes it really helps me understand things better.

Those are the only reasonable Biblical arguments I’ve heard on the matter. If you have other reservations, feel free to contact me or comment directly to this blog post.

To sum it all up, I live without loans because I’m fully persuaded that this is the will of God, as shown in His scriptures. To continue to take out loans because of discontentment with our means is not acceptable.

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Romans 12:1-2

I told you I felt preachy. That was long.

Peace & Thanks,
Jamel Black
Personal Finance Coach

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