Freedom, Finances, Debt and the Bible

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Happy July 4th! This day called Independence Day signifies an important place in US history.  This day is celebrated with common references to freedom and independence.             Photo by *Micky

Freedom as a theme/metaphor in the Bible:

Freedom has always been a goal for God’s creation.  The often perplexing part of the creation story is the presence of a delicious looking tree that God inhibited the garden’s first inhabitants from tasting. God gave permission to the creatures to taste, eat, and enjoy all the trees – except one. We as individuals have freedom because of that tree.  We have freedom because we can choose God.

Picture it this way.  I have one shirt – a green shirt.  Every day of the week I wear my green shirt and someone says, “Wow, Craig, you must really love that green shirt.”  I cannot say, “yes,” because I do not have a choice if I wear that shirt or not.  Now imagine if I have a blue shirt, green shirt, red shirt, and yellow shirt and every day that week I wear my green shirt.  At the end of the week when someone says, “Wow, Craig, you must really love the green shirt.”  I can say, “yes,” because I had a choice.  The tree introduces freedom because it introduces choice.

The definitive story in the OT is a story of freedom.  It is the deliverance from Egypt.

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. Exodus 3:7

This slavery is unnatural because it violates human freedom.  Thus, God intervened.

God does not want his followers to be enslaved, but to be free:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Relationship between Financial Debt and Freedom:

Interestingly, many of the thematic stories of slavery can be applied to the biblical teachings about debt.  The Bible never says debt is a sin, but there are many cautions regarding the dangers of debt.  The Bible says some of the following things about money and debt:

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. Proverbs 22:7

For the Lord your God will bless you as he has promised, and you will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. You will rule over many nations but none will rule over you. Deuteronomy 15:6

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Matthew 6:24

God calls money a master.  If money is a master, we would be its slaves.  Furthermore, the one who borrows becomes a servant.  For this reason God wills that his people would borrow from none because he says those who borrow will be ruled over.  In his book 10 Steps To Financial Prosperity Bill Griffeth writes, “Debt provides convenience, freedom, and flexibility to our lives. It allows us to buy goods and services by committing a portion of our future earnings to pay for them.”  These Bible verses share that Mr. Griffeth’s opinion does not share good company with the biblical witness.  Financial debt does not introduce freedom into the lives of people, but slavery.  We, the strangest of creatures, willingly choose to be bound, tied underneath an unhealthy credit / debt scheme.  Perhaps this independence day would be a great time for you to declare financial independence.

For more details on being enslaved to money I encourage you to read Debt as Obligation: A Biblical Perspective.

One final note about freedom in the Bible. Freedom was never granted so we could live indulging ourselves in every selfish desire. Instead here is how Paul describes Christian freedom:

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.Galatians 5:13

We should also apply this principle to our finances.  Our financial freedom is not for self indulgence, but to serve one another in love.

Comments

  1. Al Rivard says

    I agree with debt generally is not good but good debt to buy an income producing asset is ok. Remember the parable of the talents.If we never borrow properly and live in fear we cannot advance ourselves and help others. W Clement Stone speaks of good debt in his book ”The success system that never fails”and also Robert Kyosaki speaks of the dollar as being debt because of the FED reserve system.

    • says

      Al,
      Personally, I’d feel quite uncomfortable using the parable of the talents to teach that people who don’t borrow money are living in fear. Indeed, there are ways that some people leverage debt. My personal philosophy rules this out.

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