By Crown Financial Ministries
A well-known business periodical recently said, “Debt doesn’t have to be a four-letter word for businesses. Borrowing money is a safe and easy, natural, respectable, time-honored tradition for financing business operating capital, expansion, the purchase of equipment, building up inventory, and to even-out cash flow. In fact, it is the most logical means of financing business and business operations in America.”
Safe, natural, easy, time-honored, and respectable—does it sound almost too good to be true?
It was the great 19th century British author, Charles Dickens, who said, “It has been my experience that if a thing sounds too good to be true, likely it is.” When determining whether businesses should borrow, it might be wise to heed Mr. Dickens’ admonishment.
Many Christians feel that all borrowing is prohibited according to Romans 13:8, “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.”
In order to interpret this Scripture properly, it must be considered in light of the context in which it appears. In this particular reference Paul was teaching that we are never to allow someone to do something for us if we are unwilling to do even more for him or her.
Scripture very clearly says that neither borrowing nor lending is prohibited, but firm guidelines are given.
Borrowing is discouraged and, in fact, every biblical reference to it is a negative one. “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender's slave” (Proverbs 22:7).
Although Scripture shows that we are to be cautious about borrowing and it should never be normal, when you look at today’s society you find that borrowing is rampant.
This generation thinks it is normal to borrow for periods of 30 years or more, thus creating a society that borrows to exist.
In essence, this generation has come to practice Proverbs 22:7 as no generation has since the early 1930s. That is not God’s way.
God’s Word says that borrowing is a consequence of ignoring His statutes and commandments (see Deuteronomy 28:43-45). Borrowing is never God's best for His people or for businesses owned or managed by His people.
Business borrowing principles
There are three fundamental scriptural principles related to business borrowing: borrowing should only be occasional, avoid signing surety on a loan, and stay out of long-term debt.
Borrowing should only be occasional. Typical Christian businesspeople are as deeply in debt as typical nonChristians, and it is unlikely that either have real goals for becoming debt free. Consequently, both are totally vulnerable to any downturn in the economy.
Since debt makes it very difficult for businesses, especially new businesses, to break even, Christian business owners and managers must use extreme caution regarding borrowing to start new ventures, to maintain cash flow and operations capital in existing businesses, or for expansion.
If God wants new businesses to develop or existing businesses to succeed, He will provide a way to fund them without jeopardizing their future by borrowing.
It is very important for business owners to count the cost and pray for the Lord's direction. So many Christian businesspeople have found themselves in trouble simply because they were impatient and chose not to wait for God’s provision.
Be patient and allow Him to work out all monetary needs in His time.
Avoid signing surety on a loan. The dictionary definition of surety is “the pledge or formal promise made to secure against a loss, damage or default; guarantee or security.”
In biblical times it was not unusual for borrowers to pledge their only asset of any value, themselves, as guarantee to repay a loan.
If they failed to pay according to the agreed-upon terms, they forfeited their freedom and perhaps even the freedom of their families.
In America today we no longer put debtors in prison or sell their families as slaves for failure to repay a debt, but the creditors still have a legal and ethical right to collect what has been borrowed or recover whatever property has been pledged as surety or collateral.
Stay out of long-term debt. In an era of 30- and 40-year mortgages, avoiding long-term debt may sound impossible.
Nevertheless long-term debt is a relatively new idea. There is no way our grandfathers or even many of our fathers would have assumed debts that extended for three or four decades, because they knew that if they stayed in debt long enough they would eventually be financially devastated.
The use of long-term credit can easily cloud business owners’ and managers’ view of God’s direction.
Although Scripture contains no indication that God ever directed anyone through the use of a loan, credit, or debt, often Christian businesspeople whose businesses are in financial trouble attempt to sustain themselves by borrowing through long-term credit, and in many of these instances borrowing becomes a substitute for trusting God.
The use of borrowed money generally provides a false sense of security that allows a correctable situation to grow into an out-of-control problem, and businesses find themselves so far in debt that recovery is impossible.
“The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naive go on, and are punished for it” (Proverbs 22:3). Borrowing merely delays necessary decisions; it does not avoid them.
When it is time to quit
Business bondage comes in many forms, from preoccupation with debt-related problems to over-dedication to work, and is characterized by a lack of realistic business guidelines, goals, or purposes.
Perhaps it can be defined best as anything relating to businesses that interferes with our relationship to God or our families and is out of balance according to God’s Word.
If bondage is dominant in businesses, it might be wise to reconsider the need for maintaining the businesses.
If businesses are continuing to build more debt or are continually borrowing more money just to stay in business, it also could be time to call it quits.
When owners and managers can’t go to sleep at night because they’re thinking about business problems, when they get up to study God's Word and nothing comes to mind but business problems, or when they pray and nothing comes to mind but business problems, it could be time to sell.
Indeed, God may want struggling businesses to increase once they move beyond their present debt or cash flow crisis. On the other hand, God may be using the situation to move owners or managers into new areas He has planned for them.
God’s Word says that none that wait upon Him shall be ashamed. He has promised to direct our steps, even when we feel confused. "I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, in paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, and I will not leave them undone" (Isaiah 42:16).
Christian businesspeople who are victims of business bondage should surround themselves with mature godly people who can pray with them, exhort and encourage them, and give them wise Spirit-led counsel.
Most businesses are run on credit today. In fact, the use of borrowed capital is so widespread that many businesspeople believe they cannot operate their businesses on a cash basis, which is untrue. The long-range goal of all Christian businesspeople should be to become debt free.
God never promised quick growth; He promised a solid foundation. “He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation upon the rock; and when a flood rose, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built” (Luke 6:48).
There has never been a generation of people so addicted to borrowed money as ours. At some point God’s people must break out of the debt trap and become lenders again, rather than borrowers. It’s never too late to change bad habits and attitudes. The sooner we start, the easier it will be.
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