Sunday, March 2, 2014

Should the Church Borrow Money - Lesson 1

The question of the church borrowing money comes up when the church needs to build a building or acquire property. Borrowing money for expansion is quite common in the business world but should the church adopt this cultural practice?

William Shakespeare said, "Neither a borrower or lender be, for loan oft loses both itself and friend..." If this sounds familiar this quote was later "borrowed" by Benjamin Franklin in his poor Richards almanac. If we are going to consider whether the church should borrow money, we don't typically consult Shakespeare for such insight. It is also probably not a good idea to get our advice from our "unchurched" banker or our "broke" finance professor. So where do we go for wisdom on this topic.

When ever I want to know what the church should do I turn to scripture.

I spent most of a Sunday afternoon last week looking and I didn't find anything in scripture that instructs the church to borrow for expansion in either the OT or NT.

I thought, well, maybe they didn't have borrowing in Biblical times? Let's look at what I did find to answer that question.
Proverbs 22:7 "The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender."
This word slave is, well, slavery or bondage. The principle here is for the individual to avoid borrowing. I think we would agree that the church should not be in bondage to anyone except Christ, so the church should avoid borrowing too.

Romans 13:8 "Let no debt remain outstanding except the continued debt to love one another."

My old King James says, "owe no man anything". I think that is pretty clear.

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

Yes this is addressed to the nation of Israel but so was the 10 commandments and the church takes those very seriously so we should too.

Proverbs 17:18 "A man lacking in judgment strikes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbor."

A more modern version says "It is stupid to guarantee someone else's loan."

Proverbs 6:1-5 Is a similar passage but more emphatic. "My son if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have struck hands in a pledge for another. If you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself since you have fallen into your neighbor's hands:  Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor! Allow no sleep to your eyes no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler."

Get out of debt with gazelle intensity.

Numbers 30:2 God says vows are to be taken seriously.

I conclude debt is not God's way. He strongly discourages debt, from any scripture I could find on the topic

So if God says don't borrow and don't pledge, what are we to do to aggressively pursue the work of God's kingdom.

It seems that scripture has an example that we don't often consider. Can you Old Testament scholars think of what it is? Well that is the topic of our next post.

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