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!

I. The Blessing of Avoiding Debt

A. 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.)

B. 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.)

II. Pride and Debt

A. 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?

2. 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!)

B. 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.)

C. 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.)

III. Love and Debt

A. 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.)

a. 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.)

B. 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

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

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

C. 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.)

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

E. 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

F. 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.)

IV.  A Theology of Forgiveness

A. 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

B. 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.)

C. 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

D. 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?)

E. 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?

V. Next week: Laying Up Treasure in Heaven.

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
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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.