Is personal debt evil?
Updated: Jan 26, 2022
Debt has been spoken about for thousands of years. Don’t believe me? Read the Bible. There are numerous references to debt. It speaks to both the givers and the receivers.
I find the most compelling scripture in Romans 13:8, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another.”
I have felt and I see where debt creates friction. Those that lend tend to want it returned. Those that borrow start to feel shamed or guilty if they can’t return it right away. Next thing you know, you are in a situation described in Proverbs 22:7, "... the borrower is servant to the lender." Even though there are very nice people and lenders out there, your own soul can’t let go. You live in your own internal bondage.
God’s instructions on paying our debts are crystal clear. The scripture in Psalm 37:21 boldly states, "The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous sheweth mercy, and giveth." And further, in the scripture recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) 19:35 of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we read the following: "Pay the debt thou hast contracted... release thyself from bondage." And in D&C 104:78, "And again, verily I say unto you, concerning your debts-behold it is my will that you shall pay all your debts."
Now for the lender, it is given in Leviticus 25:37, "Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase." If you are like me, I had to look up the definition of usury and victuals. Usury is the illegal action or practice of lending money at unreasonably high rates of interest, and victuals are food or provisions. Let’s further translate this scripture. Do not lend your money at high interest rates, nor lend your provisions for profit. My takeaway here is that God does not approve of unrighteous debt lending practices. Could you go so far as to call it evil, maybe.
I know there are a lot of grey areas in the realm of debt. For example, buying a house, the need for a place to live. The scriptures mention in Deuteronomy 15:8, "But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need." I'd even go so far as to define the distinction between borrowing for your needs (good debt) and borrowing for your wants (bad debt). A home is a need, whereas an exotic trip is probably not. I'd say that most people utilize consumer debt (credit cards) to satisfy their desires (enjoy now, pay later) rather than their necessities.
To be clear, I'm not saying you shouldn't take a vacation; what I'm saying is that you shouldn't go into debt to do so. I want you to accumulate enough riches to be able to travel wherever you desire.
I conclude that debt is not evil, but there is darkness and evil surrounding debt. Our society has become so misguided that we have become dependent on a great credit score to value our worth. If you want to have light, love, and peace in your life, you are best served by being debt free and using strict caution when entering into debt. When you do have the ability to give, do so more freely, as a loan could jeopardize a strong relationship.
Romans 13 (churchofjesuschrist.org)
Proverbs 22 (churchofjesuschrist.org)
Psalm 37 (churchofjesuschrist.org)
Doctrine and Covenants 19 (churchofjesuschrist.org)
Doctrine and Covenants 104 (churchofjesuschrist.org)