This week I’m continuing to think through the implications of the statement: the borrower is slave to the lender. How does this impact Christian loans and Christian lenders ?
Perhaps, I’m wrong, but taken at face value, this passage (Prov. 22:7) seems to indicate that any Christian who lends would then be a master. Since the Bible says we have only one master, then it seems as if it would be wrong to lend because we would be making ourselves masters over others. Why would any Christian want to put another person into bondage? We have been set free by Jesus Christ so there is no reason to once again subject ourselves or another to bondage. Could we read Romans 6:1-4 and apply that to Christian lenders, bondage, and borrowing?
Why don’t we attack Christian lenders with the same passion as we would human slave masters?
And I do continue to lend money . I lend money because I think the Bible says it can be an act of kindness.
How Christian Lenders and Loans is a Gracious Act
- Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. (Deuteronomy 15:8 NIV)
- They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed. (Psalm 37:26 NIV)
- Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice. (Psalm 112:5 NIV)
- And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. (Luke 6:34 NIV)
These passages seem to indicate that helping others through a loan is a function of God’s social justice. Christian lending can indeed be an act of compassion.
Two Types of Christian Lending In the Bible
How can the Bible, on one hand, have so many negative things to say about borrowing and then, on the other hand, have anything positive to say about lending?
The reason is because of greedy lending. This is one where people take advantage of the poor (Ps 112:5), charge excessive rates (Ezk. 18:13), and take away items essential for life (Ex. 22:26). Compassionate lending is the opposite.
How Christian Lenders Can Loan As An Act Of Kindness
- The nature of the loan itself – are the terms and rates reasonable?
- The nature of the one who offers the loan – is the lender flexible, compassionate, and concerned about the needs of the borrower?
- The nature of laws – does the law give any right to the lender?
- The nature of need – is the item borrowed worth the risk of borrowing?
Therefore, in these cases I would say the borrower is not slave to the lender, but the lender is servant to the borrower. This is a rare and countercultural type of helping. This is the very type of lending that God encourages his people do. Ultimately, when the Bible speaks against lending and borrowing, it is doing so without compassion and excessive borrowing is the focus.
My Personal Example
I have one outstanding debt – a house loan.
But, I didn’t get my loan through a regular financial institution. Living overseas, I would have been looking at a 10+% loan to buy a home.
Seven families I know banded together and offered my family a loan to buy a home. I viewed and still view that loan as an act of kindness. Basically because it conforms to the conditions where lending can be kindness.
That loan is a blessing to my family.
Do you think lending can ever be a blessing? If lending can be a blessing, can there ever be a situation where you lend to someone and you do not enslave them?
@Craig. I didn’t read that Financial Bondage was saying the lender was innocent. Usury is denounced in those passages, now how do you define usury. In the strict form that usury = to interest? or that usury is outrageous interest charges and fees? If you take certain passages out of context you can support each one sided view.
Greed and coveting is sin. Lending with motives of greed/covetousness is sin. This is a heart matter not actions. I dont think you can say debt or lending is sin in itself, you have to judge the heart and only God can do that.
When I look at my local church family I see more borrowers than lenders. Folks that could be doing more but are heavily in debt with house, 2 car payments, college loans, christian school tuition, annual vacations, rv’s all worried because the economy is going south. Now how much peace would those familys have if they had been taught that debt is like “slavery”. My covetousness put me in that bondage and years ago I lost sleep over my stupidity, I see my same brothers and sisters enslaved like I was and I want to shout you can get out of debt. Dont buy into the lies of advertisers and the generations values.
In biblical times if I was making payments to the lender was I his/her slave? Not if my crops were good and I paid him back I wouldn’t be his slave.
Greg McKinzie says
I truly hope that lending can bless rather than enslave. Our developmental ministry includes a no-interest micro-lending program for poor small-business entrepreneurs. The philosophical pillar on which the program stands is _empowerment_, and I would say in fact that I connect this deeply with the idea of a holistic liberation–in this case, liberation from economic systems that perpetuate not simply poverty but dependance and inaccessibility of resources. Anyway, the short of it is that a loan is more empowering (and therefore more liberating) than a handout, because through repayment the borrower attains a sense of real ownership and achievement (which is as or more valuable than the actual cash value). In an economy where a small-business loan carries at least a 40% interest rate plus late payment fines, this is a powerful tool. Loans are also more sustainable (another of our basic tenets) because the repayment can be recycled into other loans (a la Kiva) whereas handouts are much more limited resources. How would this sort of ministry interact with your ideas? This is a thought-provoking post. Thanks.
On an exegetical note, I wouldn’t understand Proverbs to be universal dictums–as the variety of perspectives represented within the book itself would suggest. I’m guessing you say something about that elsewhere, though.
Thanks for the comment, experience, and perspective.
As I read your comment I think you ‘get’ where I’m coming from. Perhaps it is a perspective one can only gain by being outside of the US.
Somehow people only interpret Prov 22:7 from their own experience. In my opening post I argued that I’m not sure in today’s context the borrow is slave to the lender. I don’t think anyone agreed. In this post I operated under the assumption that I was wrong – that the borrower is slave to the lender. But, in the end it still seems as though there is compassionate lending and thus not every loan enslaves. And yes, the Proverbs are not universal dictums – in the Word Biblical Commentary Roland Murphy calls Proverbs “half truths”. There is definitely something to that.
Here in PNG we don’t have any formal lending system but we often lend people money. The money is typically used for start up business projects (baking scones) where some capital is needed to buy the initial supplies. I think those loans are a blessing. As such, there are cases where (1) the borrower is not slave to the lender (2) the rich do not rule over the poor. While this may generally be true is certainly is not always true.
Our default rate is 75% and we’ve never once forced a person to repay. If they don’t repay a loan they are not eligible to borrow money again.
Your example of micro-lending is one such example of compassionate lending. Keep up the good work.
I am a foreign medical student studying in a Caribbean medical university in a Caribbean island. my school is based in texas & in the caribbean too. please am in dire need of a loan or grant to pay my fees and actualize my dream of becoming a medical doctor. please can this be approved and what are the steps to take and my payment options. kindly reply. thanks
Michael Covington says
This is what happens from trying to make a doctrine out of half of a Bible verse taken out of context. “The borrower is slave to the lender” is a poetic way of saying that when you’re in debt, you lose flexibility. The author is making a point about economics — he’s telling you how the world works. (Was Jesus literally a slave when He borrowed a donkey to ride on? Was it wrong for someone to lend Him the donkey?) This verse in Proverbs is not saying anything is wrong. If it were, the first half of the same verse would imply that it’s wrong to be poor. Look it up.
For a little context you might read http://www.moneyhelpforchristians.com/is-the-borrower-really-slave-to-the-lender/. In this post, I challenged the very thing that you challenge – this verse is not a legal doctrine that applies in the same way to our culture. However, in the comments there was not much agreement so I decided to take a second stab at things (http://www.moneyhelpforchristians.com/borrower-is-slave-to-the-lender-the-point/ ). From there I followed up with two articles that I think have be misunderstood – the misunderstanding was my fault because I didn’t clearly express myself.
In both this article and http://www.moneyhelpforchristians.com/when-do-you-become-debt-free/ I made some points from the perspective that I agreed with the statement that “the borrower is slave to the lender” as a legal genre. The reality is I don’t. However, if I did believe it I think I would be forced to argue that lending is immoral, but clearly it is not (as the above Bible verses show). The point is that those who accept Prov. 22:7 as a legal doctrine should revisit how they understand the statement.
I just don’t see how one can accept Prov. 22:7 as a legal doctrine and the idea of gracious lending. The obvious solution is that Prov. 22:7 does not apply in all contexts.
I think after you’ve read my full thoughts on the topic you’ll be a little more satisfied.
In my personal opinion and experience once we have a loan (form legal or illegal institution) we are very much a slave to the lender. Due to many wrong decisions I have lost a good paying profession and has been in debt for many a year now….and the best part is I still have to borrow to make ends meet. Some borrowings come from banks of which I can only make partial payments to most of the time. Practices of Banks here is to employ harrassing calls and visits to the house and also threats and even legal proceedings. By avoiding all these the only thing to do is to ignore yet once you are blacklisted by them you are no longer free to make wise and also needed decisons to pursue your dream further. In terms of borrowing from friends you will also be obliged to repay them not only the amount borrowed but interests (in this case these are not calculated in $$$). You will be obliged to help them in return because you are considered to “owe them one”. This interest payment would include helping their chores, helping with the talents that you have and also be extra nice to them in that you have to be on 24 hours call basis to assist them in any way.
To me all these results in no more free will to live and pursue life. I would term is at best SLAVERY
Adam the Soap Guy says
I think to understand this difficult subject we have to first define the terms we use. Lend: to give for temporary use on condition that the same or its equivalent be returned. Usury: the lending of money with an interest charge for its use. It is my belief that If we are to have true biblical view of our money and lending the above terms are very key. To lend your lawnmower to your neighbor, you would only expect the lawnmower be return in like condition as it was lent. To lend your $100.00 with 10% usury or interest, you would expect to receive $110.00 back. I believe that the Word of God is perfect and inerrant and therefore when God speaks of lending in these verses ( Deuteronomy 15:8, Psalm 37:26, Psalm 112:5, Luke 6:34), I believe He is speaking of lending freely (no usury) as well as freely as in the sense of loosely or without hesitation. Furthermore, I believe that God’s Word is simply speaking of both sides of the coin. Side 1: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7) is a warning to the borrower not the lender. Side 2: “Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice.” (Psalm 112:5) God is warning the lender not the borrower. IMHO. Thank you again for this terrific blog. Learning so much!
Gladys Perez says
I would like to consolidate my credit cards. I own 56,000 and I have a mortgage which i own 65,000. I actually i have like to refinance if possible. My interest rate is 4.75%.
Gail Bannish says
If we look at the Biblical context of lending and where it was first introduced. You’ll notice that God said to the Jews that they shall be lenders and not borrowers …Deuteronomy 28:12, “you shall lend unto many NATIONS, and you shall not borrow”. Remember God had a covenant with the Jews, but He also wanted other nations as well, so through those nations borrowing from the Jews and becoming slaves/servants of the Jews, He would have direct access to them as they would be yoked to the Jews who were yoked to Him. But now when somebody who is in covenant with God (Christian), borrows from “other nations” (banks, unbelievers), it becomes wrong because they are now yoking up with unbelivers and making themselves slaves to their master satan. We have people yoked up and they don’t even know it. We need to be very careful.
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