The Theology Of Debt

The Trump Administration recently rescinded rules that protected borrowers from some practices of bill collectors. What is the view of Christianity about debt? Is debt a sin?

Trump’s move against borrowers built upon President W. Bush who helped pass a law making it harder to file for bankruptcy. While Obama had issued an executive order limiting collections procedures, A.G. Sessions has now overturned that order.

Preacher Samuel Moody in the early 1700’s said it was not wrong to be poor, but to be in debt was a sin. The public did not see it this way during various periods since then, but the Republican Party has been quite consistent. It sees those who cannot pay back obligations as free loaders. In short, it still sees debt as sin.

It’s a bit ironic the Trump Administration is moving against those who do not repay loans when the President himself has used bankruptcy several times in his career to avoid paying back loans. He seems to avoid the charge of sin.

Across U.S. society there seems to be some consistent level of concern for the poor in general but little sympathy for the poor who are in debt. I’ve seen writers who say the Lord’s prayer to forgive those who owe you is not about money but something else. It seems to me it is about money.

Both religious and secular people agree stealing is a moral failure. Using bankruptcy laws to avoid paying back debts is not viewed by everyone as stealing.

20 Responses

  1. Jinx II

    Hypocrites, every one of them. They define and justify things for their own benefit and then use it to access more wealth. You are right that it is all about money and power and it always has been.

  2. Katherine Tweed

    Excellent — I’m just beginning Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. I’m glad to have read this at the same time.

      1. Juan Ruiz

        The financial principles in the Bible have you giving away all your assets to the poor and living like a pauper.

  3. Schurkey

    I say debt is not a sin, it’s slavery. Put folks far enough in debt, and you own them. They spend the rest of their life working to pay you off.

    Going into debt for major–and reasonable–purchases is something I can understand. A mortgage on a reasonable house, or a reasonable business? Sure.

    Going into debt for an iPhone? Hell, no.

    Carrying a balance on a credit card is NUTS. If you can’t pay off your card every month, cut it up.

  4. Brent Kleppen

    The Bible makes it clear that debt is something to be avoided, in part because of the potential legal consequences like those highlighted here. I’ve never heard anyone suggest that being in debt is sinful, however.

    1. Brent 6:44 Thanks for your comment.

      re: Not heard borrowing is a sin

      The Lord will open for you, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations but you shall not borrow Deuteronomy 15.6

      1. The Julius Project

        Jon…to whom is this passage being directed? What is the context? What is your hermeneutic be used? The truth is… you pick a passage and make it say what you want it to say. Even an atheist needs a consistent hermeneutic.

        1. Julius 3:30 who is this passage being directed? What is the context?…The truth is…you pick a passage and make it say what you want it to say.

          All the Bible was written by the wealthiest 1% of that time. Everything that was written had some audience in mind that the wealthy wanted to influence for their own benefit. In this case, the wealthy probably wanted to collect money from people who borrowed. What better technique than to tell them they are sinners.

          As far as me picking a passage and making it say what I want it to say, that’s the only game in town.

          1. If you are going to make some claim that the Bible was written by the wealthiest 1% you are going to have to prove it. The standards of proof, not assertion, not implied, apply to you as well as a Christian. In your world, verifiable proof, not faith, is the only satisfactory standard. So, Jon, tell us who wrote the BIble and how you determined they were in the 1%. I’m betting you got caught in your own trap, … again.

          2. Matt 4:37 Amazing. You believe so passionately in the Bible and you do not know who wrote it? I thought you would tell me.

            Here is a discussion of Biblical authors. It does not go into the class of people the authors were, wealthy, but that is widely agreed upon.


            Here is a review of a book, Ancient Literacy by W.V. Harris. The review was in a Harvard publication. The reviewer writes

            Harris argues that the social and technological conditions of the ancient world were such as to make mass literacy unthinkable.

          3. Henry

            5:23, Ehrman is a great example of poor scholarship. From 2000 years after an event, Ehrman seems to know better who was the author of the NT books based on writing style only in contrast to the book’s historically known author.

          4. Jinx II

            Reality is that today’s Republicans are treasonous plutocrats who care nothing about the truth or the people they are supposed to serve. Too many of their followers drink the poisonous vomit they spew like champagne and condemn the rest of us independent thinkers. Grow up worm.

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