Dealing With Debt

Error message

  • Deprecated function: unserialize(): Passing null to parameter #1 ($data) of type string is deprecated in css_injector_init() (line 53 of /home/krwester/
  • Deprecated function: unserialize(): Passing null to parameter #1 ($data) of type string is deprecated in css_injector_init() (line 53 of /home/krwester/
Deuteronomy 15 & 28, 1 John 2, Matthew 18
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 5

Dealing With Debt

(Deuteronomy 15 & 28, 1 John 2, Matthew 18)


Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.


Introduction: Over half of Americans say that debt negatively impacts their life. I imagine the same is true for any society which allows easy credit. If there was anything in life that created problems for more than half of the people, that something should be taken seriously. And it is taken seriously by the Bible. The Bible contains an enormous amount of advice on our relationship to money. Part of that relationship is avoiding debt. Sometimes it seems that debt is unavoidable. A medical emergency can create debt. A failed business might create debt. How can a person become a home-owner without taking on debt? Even having a reliable car might require debt. Did you know that God had formal rules for His people and debt? Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and learn more about debt!


  1. The Blessing of Avoiding Debt


    1. The last several lessons in this series are about how being generous with God creates blessings (including financial blessings) for us. Read Deuteronomy 28:1-2 and Deuteronomy 28:12-13. As you consider these four verses, what do they suggest about debt? (Debt is the opposite of blessings. It puts you at the bottom and not the top. Lending to others puts you at the top.)


    1. Read Proverbs 22:7. No one wants to be poor, or worse to be a slave. Why do you think the Bible says that someone who borrows is like a slave?


      1. This proverb does not give any explanation for its statement about slavery, except to create a parallel to the relationship between the rich and the poor. Why are they similar? (Money gives the rich options. The parallel is that a person who is in debt has a lack of money and a lack of options.)


  1. Pride and Debt


    1. Read 1 John 2:15-16. Why would anyone voluntarily take on debt? (Some of this has to do with the “pride of life.” Your friends have new cars. Perhaps they have a boat, a recreational vehicle, a camping trailer, or something that you would like to have to “join” them.)


      1. When you think about your personal debt, how much of it is based on pride?


      1. There is an expression, “too soon old and too late smart.” I recall standing in front of my first home. It was very small and had no garage. Parked in front of my home were two new cars - a Thunderbird and a Mustang. As I contemplated that picture I thought something was seriously wrong. Can you tell me what was wrong? (I had borrowed money for the cars and they were a depreciating asset!)


    1. What should I have done to change that picture? (At some point in time I stopped buying new cars and for decades drove cars that I found for sale by the side of the road or learned about through friends. I drove a $200 Honda Accord, a $1,000 Chevy LUV truck, and a $3,000 Mercedes. It was embarrassing when I drove to meetings where people knew only that I was a lawyer.)


    1. Is there a way to buy a new, reliable car without debt? (Now that I am old we save the amount of a new car payment every month. When we need a new car, we pay cash for it. We try to buy cars that do not lose a lot of their value.)


  1. Love and Debt


    1. Read Proverbs 6:1-3 and Proverbs 22:26-27. What problem is being discussed here? (This is what we would call “guaranteeing a loan.” You agree to pay what is due if the person taking out the loan fails to pay.)


      1. Isn’t this a loving thing to do? Isn’t this something that parents should do for their children? (Notice precisely what these texts say. Proverbs 22:26-27 assumes that you do not have the money to pay the debt. Proverbs 6:1 indicates that you are doing this for a neighbor or even a stranger.)


        1. Would it be correct to call it “debt” if you have the money to pay for guaranteeing the loan of a family member? (I don’t think it is debt if you have the money. Consider the advantage of giving the money to the debtor to avoid paying interest to a third party.)


    1. Read Deuteronomy 15:1-3. What is the official system that God set up for His people? (Every seven years a debtor was released from debt. This applied to fellow Jews, it did not apply to foreigners.)


      1. What attitude is behind this Sabbatical release? (God did not want debt to continue to increase.)


      1. What impact would this have on those who were lenders? (This would discourage lending.)


    1. Read Deuteronomy 15:7-9. What does God say about discouraging lending? (God says lenders should lend to the poor even if they were close to the release year. If we give the poor nothing we are guilty of sin.)


    1. Read Deuteronomy 15:10. How should we look at lending money to the poor? (This is an opportunity for blessings from God.)


    1. Compare Deuteronomy 15:11 with Deuteronomy 15:4-5. How would you reconcile these two passages? (There are two possible answers. First, the poor do not obey the commandments and as a result become poor and need help. They should obey the commandments to avoid poverty. Second, if we take our obligations to the poor of the church seriously, we will not have poor people in the church.)


      1. Notice that in the “official system” those who are not believers are excluded. What is the lesson in that? (I don’t believe that God is asking us to subsidize intentional bad behavior. It is not love to enable destructive behavior.)


    1. Re-read Deuteronomy 15:1. For those of you knowledgeable about the American legal system, does this remind you of anything? (This is somewhat like the American bankruptcy laws. It is an answer to crushing debt. It is a relief system that every lender knows about.)


  1. A Theology of Forgiveness


    1. Matthew 18 records a story of a king who settled accounts with the servants who owed him money. One servant owed 10,000 talents. Read Matthew 18:25-27. How would you respond to the king if you were this debtor? (The king does more than what was requested. He does not grant more time to pay, he forgives the debt.)


      1. How do you think the servant was able to convince the king to lend him such a large sum? (This must have been a special, talented servant.)


    1. Read Matthew 18:28-30. Is this a shocking response for the person forgiven 10,000 talents? (Read Matthew 18:31. It was so shocking that when others learned of this they reported it to the king.)


    1. Read Matthew 18:32-34. Do you agree with the actions of the king?


      1. Did you notice that this penalty is not the same? It does not involve the debtor’s family or require them to be sold as slaves. However, the Greek word translated “jailers” is “torturers.” What does that suggest? (It suggests that this debtor has gone from one who cannot pay his debts to one who deserves punishment for what is essentially criminal activity.)


    1. Read Matthew 18:35. The context for this story is very important. Jesus’ motivation to tell this story is a discussion about forgiving those who sin against us. See Matthew 18:21. Have I just wasted your time with this story, or do you think it has something to teach us about lending and debt? (I think it contains two relevant lessons. First, it shows the vulnerable situation of a debtor. Second, I think money is just one application of our obligation to forgive others in light of what our Heavenly Father has forgiven us. If God gave us our lives back (something of unlimited value), how can we fail to show mercy to those in the church who owe us money?)


      1. We never touched on the rare situation in which people are in debt due to no fault of their own. What does this story suggest about helping those people? (The context of forgiving those who sin against us must apply to those whose debt is their own fault. How much more helpful should we be to those whose debt is not their fault?)


    1. Friend, will you look at God’s advice on debt as another blessing? If you avoid debt, your life will be blessed. Why not forgo your pride and take seriously the Bible’s teaching on debt?


  1. Next week: Laying Up Treasure in Heaven.