When my wife and I married we, like most Millennials, had student debt. All piled together, the debt looked pretty intimidating – even overwhelming. So we decided to live simply, work hard and pay off our loans. We ate out less, rented a cheap apartment, drove inexpensive cars, traveled less and put the extra money toward getting rid of our loans. Fourteen months later I remember sitting on our $20 couch in the living room of our too cheap apartment and pressing the submit button on the final debt payment.
The feeling of relief was worth the extra work and sacrifices. I remember we visited an expensive restaurant to celebrate and I ordered a pricey steak. Spending “our” money on the overpriced steak felt good, instead of money earmarked for loans.
But when we told people we paid off all our debt, we sometimes heard puzzling perspectives about a Christian’s relationship to debt. Some people congratulated us as if we had made a wise moral decision. We did not pay off the debt because we thought it was wrong to have debt, we paid it off because it made more financial sense. A view we sometimes heard was that Christians should not have debt, and that the Bible condemns debt of all kinds. I have heard Christians say that debt in all forms is a sin and something to be avoided. Many people assumed once all our debt was paid off, we would never think of going into debt again – as if we made a moral stand against the evils of debt.
Taking on Debt Was a Wise Choice
I do not regret paying off our student loans early (we paid them off in about three years, instead of the allotted 10 years). It has allowed us to put our incomes toward things that earn us money such as investments. But I also do not regret taking out the student loans to pay my way through college. My family did not have money to help me pay for my tuition, and without government aid and student loans, I probably wouldn’t have been able to attend higher education.
Because I graduated with a degree, I have been allowed access to a job market unavailable without higher education, not to mention the fact that college widened my worldview, challenged my beliefs and gave me a network of friends and colleagues who have been invaluable. If I went back to my freshman year of college with the knowledge I have now, I would take out student loans again.
Ask Some Questions About Your Debt
Verses like Proverbs 22:7 – “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender” – are used to point to the sinfulness of debt and the need to eradicate it at all costs. I support paying off debt. I support making sacrifices to get rid of debt faster. I also believe the borrower can feel suffocated by owing money. But I do think we need to ask ourselves, “Why did I take this debt? What did this debt do for me? Has it given me access to benefits I wouldn’t have had without it? Has it made me more able to help my family or friends? What have been the negative consequences of taking on this debt?” These questions can show us if the choice to take on the debt was a wise choice or not – even whether it was a sin or not.
Debt, like money, is a tool. And like money it should be used wisely. The abuse or waste of money can be sinful. In the same way, if debt is used carelessly and without thought of consequence, it can be sinful. Debt can have far-reaching consequences – friendships, families and businesses are routinely destroyed because of the abuse of debt. But those far-reaching consequences can also be positive – educational, business and medical opportunities are opened up to people who wouldn’t normally have them. Both debt and money give us access to things we wouldn’t have without them, both can be damaging if used unwisely and both are good if used properly.
In my and my wife’s cases, I believe the answers to the aforementioned questions are positive. We took the debt to become more educated, which in turn opened up more job opportunities. These opportunities gave us the ability to earn more money, making us more financially stable. The positive results of taking on the debt far outweigh the negative consequences.
Choose Carefully When Taking on Debt
Debt should be used to make you more financially stable, not less. The decision to take on debt needs to be considered carefully and researched thoroughly. I disagree with financial advisers who rail against the evils of debt, but they do have a point that our society is far too in love with the delusion that debt can get us out of any difficult situation. Debt should not be used as a replacement for hard work. Taking on debt needs to benefit long-term goals, not short-term crises.
Taking on debt needs to benefit long-term goals, not short-term crises.
My wife and I took out loans that were low interest and highly forgiving (government student loans generally are). This is important in your decision whether or not to take on debt. There are many cases where debt is damaging in spite of the reasons for taking it mainly because of the kind of loan. It is absurd for you to use a payday lender for something you could pay for with a low interest loan.
Credit card debt, payday lender loans and some car loans can be some harmful types of borrowing because of the inordinately high interest rates. Student loans, house mortgages and some business loans are types of loans that are usually more stable and often have lower interest rates. These also tend to be taken for reasons that are more beneficial to the borrower. Educating oneself, buying a house or starting a business, while all involve risk, are three ways to receive a financial return on your debt.
My wife and I have been out of debt for about two and a half years now, and those two and a half years have been good to us financially. We have been able to accumulate extra money for saving and investing much faster than we would have if we had student loan payments. But this summer, we have gone back into debt to purchase a home. The mortgage on our house is more debt than we have ever had in our lives, and it would be a lie to say it doesn’t scare us some. Buying a home is a financial risk. Inspectors and realtors cannot point out every potential issue in a home. But we know why we are doing it, we know what it will do for us, we know the positive benefits we will gain from it and we know it will allow us to help others in ways we wouldn’t without it. We know that the positives of using debt to purchase the home outweigh the negatives.