When Do You Become Debt Free?

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I’ve stated in my about page that I’m debt free – except for the house.

Yet, in many ways, that means I’ve swallowed the pill.  I’ve taken the bait.  When does the Bible exclude a loan as debt?  Do I make a distinction because of something I read in the Bible or something I heard on the radio?

Debt Free Friday

Every Friday, Dave Ramsey allows his listeners to call in and yell, “I’m debt free”.  The caller yells like they are free.  The caller shares the relief they feel and they share in a few jovial laughs with Ramsey.

The problem?  99% of the time they are still in debt.  If any loan means the borrower is slave to the lender then they are still in slavery (Prov 22:7).

Does the Bible at any point differentiate between different types of debts?  I.e. Good debts and bad debts? I don’t think so.

Is the statement “the borrower is slave to the lender” inclusive of all debts?  It sounds like a pretty blanket statement to me.

So, how could anyone read their Bible, conclude the borrower is slave to the lender, and then turn around and get a house loan?

I know many people who say that the borrower is slave to the lender and apply that passage to credit cards, but not to a house loan.  That reflects a cultural or mathematical value, not a Biblical one.

So the question remains: is our passion against debt culturally motivated or biblically motivated?  Have we as a culture decided that the Bible speaks to certain loans, but not to other loans?

Do all debts enslave?

Am I In Slavery? My Emotions and My Feelings

While I claim to be debt free – by an arbitrary standard that someone made up and we all excepted – I actually have a debt.

However, I would not in any sense say that I am a slave to that lender.

How am I a slave?  What can the lender do to me and my family?  What rights can they remove?

While it is true that I have obligations to those who lent me money, I think it would be excessive to say that I am a slave to those lenders. 

God still controls every element of my life.

I don’t feel like I’m in slavery – am I?

Why?

Comments

  1. says

    You bring up some good points, and until the house is paid off we’re not 100% debt free.

    There is still an obligation to pay and the lender (aka master) can foreclose among other things should you think you are “really” debt free and stop making payments!

    Yes, we accept them as “good debts” (oxymoron at best) because they aren’t as aggressive as other loans, are (usually) an appreciating asset, lower interest rate, and generally speaking aren’t designed to KEEP you in debt.

  2. Gholmes says

    Me too Debt Free (except the house)! I read Romans 13:8 “:Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt of love…” My goal is to be 100% debt free.

    Now by using the term “free” are we being melodramatic? :) Maybe we should say “no more” debt. When is debt ever free? And doesn’t the term free seem to indicate our rights are limited? Maybe akin to slavery?

  3. says

    I too feel – and consider myself – debt free even though I still owe $100k (or so) to the lender on my home. But I also have over $300k in equity locked up in the home – even after the big drop in home prices – so the fact that I owe the lender money is really no big deal. I have no other debt.

    I wouldn’t beat yourself up over it, Craig. Even if you have zero equity, unlike credit card debt and car loans, for example, debt on your primary residence is not bad debt.

    Best,

    Len
    Len Penzo dot Com

  4. Judy Perez says

    Craig,
    When you read Proverbs 22:7, the word of God clearly says ” Just as the rich rule over the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender”. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like a slave because it seems that since you can’t be physically confined this biblical principle doesn’t apply to you or your family. But this reference is more spiritual than physical, just stop paying your bills and see how you feel spiritually afterwards knowing that you did not fulfill your part of the deal.

    • says

      Judy,
      I certainly agree that biblical truth is not defined by what one feels. That is wrong.
      However, when you say this reference is more “spiritual than physical” I don’t think that was the case in the original context. People literally and physically were enslaved:
      “ ‘If one of your countrymen becomes poor among you and sells himself to you, do not make him work as a slave. (Leviticus 25:39 NIV)
      The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” (2 Kings 4:1 NIV)
      I order for us to apply this passage to us today we do stretch it from physical to spiritual. The obvious point of disagreement would surround the question – how parallel is our situation with theirs? I’d say we are living in vastly different times.

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