Financial Management and Debt in the Bible

Financial Management and Debt in the Bible

There are many teachings of Christianity that offer solutions to the problems we all face in the 21st century. The claims of skeptics that the Bible is an ancient book of myths that have no relevance to life in the modern era is false. The practical value of Christ’s teaching speak to its inspiration by God and validate the Christian life. No area of life shows this more clearly than financial management and debt.

In the days of Christ, many people had difficulty managing their money. The common people would get themselves in debt to a money lender–sometimes just to buy the necessities of life. Many of Christ’s parables address the issues of getting into debt and settling debts. One option for debtors in those days was to sell themselves into slavery to the person who loaned them the money. The Old Testament law said that the maximum length of servitude was seven years. There were even special times when all debts were forgiven.

People still have trouble with financial management and debt. In today’s world, instead of a person lending the money it is a credit card company. Many people become slaves to them. One option today is to declare bankruptcy. It is interesting that bad credit can be resolved in the same time period as the old Jewish law–seven years.

The teachings of Christ and the early Church revolved around avoiding servitude. The key phrase in the teachings of Christianity is “being content.” In Luke 3:14, Christ told soldiers to “be content with your wages.” Hebrews 13:5-6 tells Christians “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said ‘Never will I leave you, nor will I forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence the Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid of what man can do to me.” Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, stated this principle clearly in Matthew 6:19-34. That passage warns against “laying up treasures on Earth.” It points out that we can’t always change our station in life, but that Christ’s followers should trust God for our needs.

In 1 Timothy 6:8-9, Paul tells Christians to be content if they have food and clothing and that “foolish and harmful desires …plunge men into ruin and destruction.” How much grief, mental anguish, and frustration has credit card debt brought on people today? Later in that passage Paul talks about the uncertainty of wealth (verses 17-21). In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul says, “I have learned to be content.” For Christians, the Church is the security blanket to provide basic support, and Matthew 25:34-46 tells Christians how to find what really brings contentment.

The Bible’s wisdom is a great testimony to its divine origin, and gives practical lessons for financial management and debt. Wealthy Christians are told not to be arrogant or to put their hope in wealth. The Bible tells all Christians to put their hope in God, whether they are rich or poor so they can “take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19).

— John N. Clayton © 2021