“Borrowing is like a wedding; repaying is like mourning.”
—A Swahili proverb.
THIS saying is well-known to people in East Africa, and it undoubtedly reflects the sentiment of many in lands around the world. Is that how you feel about borrowing money from a friend or other sources? Though it might seem advisable at times, is it a good idea? What are the dangers and pitfalls of borrowing?
Another Swahili saying gets to the heart of the matter. It says: “Borrowing and lending spoil a friendship.” Indeed, debts can put friendships and relationships in jeopardy. Even with the best of plans and the most sincere intentions, things do not always turn out as expected. For example, if time passes and due repayments are not made, the lender may become irritated. Resentment could build, and the relationship between the lender and the borrower
Borrowing money can also endanger a person’s relationship with God. How? First of all, the Bible says that it is a wicked person who deliberately and knowingly refuses to repay his debts. (Psalm 37:21) It also makes clear that “the borrower is a slave to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7) The borrower must realize that until the money is paid back, he is under obligation to the lender. True is another African saying: “If you borrow a man’s legs, you will go where he directs you.” The idea is that one who is heavily in debt is no longer at liberty to do what he would like.
Repaying what one borrows, therefore, must be given high priority. Otherwise, difficulties will likely arise. Mounting debts can result in much distress, as well as sleepless nights, overwork, bickering between husband and wife, and even family breakups, not to mention possible lawsuits or imprisonment. There is wisdom in the words found at Romans 13:8: “Do not owe anything to anyone except to love one another.”
IS IT NECESSARY?
In view of all of this, it is best to be cautious when it comes to borrowing money. It is prudent to ask: Is there a real need to borrow? Is it a matter of saving your means of livelihood so as to care for your family? Or is there a measure of greed involved, perhaps a desire to live beyond one’s means? In most cases, it would be better to make do with less than to obligate oneself by borrowing.
Of course, there may be exceptions, such as when an emergency arises and there does not seem to be any other way out. Even so, if a person decides to borrow, he should show himself to be a person of good principles. How can this be done?
First, never take advantage of someone just because he or she seems to be better-off than others. We should not feel that when a person appears to be well-off, he owes it to us to help us financially. Nor should we feel that we are free of any moral obligation to act with honest intentions toward such a person. Do not be envious of those who seem to enjoy financial security.
Then, make sure to repay what you have borrowed, and do so promptly. If the lender does not stipulate a specific timetable, you should, and you should stick to it. It is recommended that you put your agreement in writing in order to avoid misunderstandings on either side. (Jeremiah 32:9, 10) If possible, return what is borrowed to the lender personally so that you can thank him yourself. Conscientiousness in returning what you borrow makes for good relations. Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount: “Just let your word ‘Yes’ mean yes, your ‘No,’ no.” (Matthew 5:37) In addition, always bear in mind the Golden Rule: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them.”
HELPFUL BIBLE GUIDELINES
The Bible offers a simple antidote to the urge to borrow money. It says: “To be sure, there is great gain in godly devotion along with contentment.” (1 Timothy 6:6) In other words, being content with what one has is the best way to escape the sad consequences of borrowing. Admittedly, however, it is not easy to be content in today’s world of instant gratification. That is where “godly devotion” comes into the picture. In what way?
Take, for example, a Christian couple in Asia. In their younger years, they admired those who could afford to own a house. So they decided to buy one with their savings and money borrowed from a bank and relatives. Soon, however, they began to feel the heavy burden of high monthly payments. They took on more work, putting in long days, which left them little time for their children. “The stress, pain, and lack of sleep felt like a heavy rock on my head. It was suffocating,” said the husband.
“Looking at material things from a spiritual perspective is a protection”
In time, they remembered the words of 1 Timothy 6:6 and decided that the only solution was to sell the house. It took two years before they were finally relieved of their burden. What did this couple learn from their experience? “Looking at material things from a spiritual perspective is a protection,” they concluded.
The Swahili proverb mentioned at the outset is well-known to many. Yet it has not stopped people from borrowing. In light of the Bible principles considered above, would it not be the course of wisdom to think seriously about the question, Should I borrow money?