The Bible contains more verses about money than it does about Heaven and Hell combined. Why? Because God created us and knows the role that money plays in our lives.
But across all 2,350 verses about money, not one of them says that borrowing, or being in debt, is forbidden. The Bible does not contain a direct mandate to never borrow money. It does, however, clearly indicate that borrowing comes with burdens and negative consequences. Scripture is clear that while debt itself may not be sinful, it’s also not God’s best for His people. This is because when we choose to borrow money, we are putting our trust and confidence in a credit card or a lender instead of in Christ. As it says in Proverbs 22:7, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” Borrowing can easily turn into a habit or cycle very quickly, pulling us further away from the Lord and the freedom He offers.
These biblical principles about borrowing and debt haven’t changed, even if the currency by which we borrow has. Credit cards are not evil, they are neutral. Credit cards are a resource, a form of currency, and by themselves can neither do good nor bad. But the way you choose to use your credit card determines its positive or negative impact.
When used wisely, credit cards can help you earn rewards and benefits. credit cards can kind of get you free money. Depending on the card, you can earn cash back points, flyer miles, and other perks by making purchases with your card and paying it off in full at the end of each month. But remember – no reward or perk is worth carrying a balance on your credit card.
But when used wrongly, you trap yourself in a cycle of debt, unable to make progress and thus wasting money on interest charges and incurring more debt to try and stay afloat. Paying off any debt requires discipline and sacrifice that unfortunately many people no longer have.
Over the last decade, overall household debt in the US has increased by 11%. The average household carries a credit card balance of over $16,000. Including all debt (like mortgages), the average household owes $135,284. Because of the increasing acceptance of relying on debt for survival, it opens a wonderful opportunity for the body of Christ to look, and spend, differently than the rest of the world.
Here are general biblical principles to keep in mind as you pray about the use of your credit card:
The Bible is explicitly clear about avoid surety (depositing a pledge in either money, goods, or partial payment for a greater obligation). Proverbs 11:15 tells us to not be surety for someone else – “He who is surety for a stranger will surely suffer for it, but he who hates going surety is safe.”
And Proverbs 22:26-27 remind us of more dangers associated with borrowing, “Do not be among those who give pledges, among those who become sureties for debts. If you have nothing with which to pay, why should he take your bed from under you?”
AVOID A BALANCE.
If you use a credit card for the points or rewards, pay it off in full at the end of each month. Romans 13:8 says, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another…” It also doesn’t actually help your credit score to carry a balance month to month and the interest charges tend to be outrageous. Be sure to do your research and find a card that has a great rewards program. Remember Psalm 37:21, “The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives.”
AVOID LONG-TERM DEBT.
If you do incur charges on your credit card, stop using it until you have paid off all your charges and work diligently to pay them off as quickly as possible. Your home mortgage should be the only long-term debt you have, if any, and even that you should work to pay off as quickly as possible.
REPAY WHAT YOU OWE.
For Christians, bankruptcy should not be an option. When you borrow, you are making a vow or a promise to repay what you borrow. Even if the law says bankruptcy is an acceptable option, God still expects us to repay all our debts and fulfill our promises. Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 explains, “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.” It may take time, hard work, and a lot of sacrifice, but you can pay off your debts and honor the Lord while you do it. Read the story of the widow in 2 Kings 4 to find encouragement, and imagine the power of your testimony after working to pay off your debts!
HAVE AN EMERGENCY SAVINGS FUND.
This may be one of the most important principles to follow when it comes to achieving any financial stability. Most Americans don’t even have $500 saved. Couple that with the staggering amount of debt owed by each household and it’s no wonder credit card debt is a growing epidemic. Proverbs 21:20 says, “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man swallows it up.” Protect yourself from having to depend on your credit cards to pay for an emergency or unexpected expense by having a healthy savings account. Start with a $1,000 and work your way up to a year’s worth of living expenses.
CREATE A BUDGET.
This applies to those with and without debt. Following a budget is the absolute best way to see where your money is going and what purposes it’s serving. You can get started here.
If you need to get out of overwhelming credit card debt, get in touch with Christian Credit Counselors. Their highly-trained team of friendly counselors can help you establish a plan to pay off your cards the right way. You can get started with a free debt analysis now.
Remember that not everyone should have a credit card! Be honest with yourself and pray about the decision before you continue to use yours or get one. It takes wise management and discipline to use it the right way, so spare yourself the debt and pain if you know you won’t handle it the right way.
If you need a plan to pay off your debt, start with the Debt Snowball calculator. It will show you exactly how long it will take to pay off your debt, how much interest you can save, and a payment schedule to follow. It’s easy to use, so don’t wait!