The Bible talks a lot about money. God often tells us to be careful not to love money more than Him and other people. At the same time, however, Scripture encourages us to use money wisely. We should work hard and take care of our wealth so that we can provide for our families and give to the church and those in need. And we should be very suspicious of debt in all forms. Debt carries with it promises and obligations. When we borrow money, we are agreeing to pay it back in a certain amount of time, usually with interest. We are betting on having money in the future that we don’t have now. Since only God knows the future, all we can do is make logical guesses about income that we hope to gain. We can plan to work hard and smart to earn what we need to fulfill our debt, but things can happen that are beyond our control (lost jobs, major sicknesses, damages to our homes, sudden changes in the economy, etc.).
Proverbs 6 begins with a powerful warning against sharing debt with others, even close friends (and possibly family, too). This would include co-signing on loans, a legal agreement where two or more people borrow money together and then share the responsibility for paying it back. This often happens when parents help a teenage child to buy a car or lease an apartment, but it can also happen with college friends sharing a place. The higher stakes version involves business ventures where partners or investment groups borrow a lot of money together (hundreds of thousands of dollars or more) with plans to eventually make enough profit to pay back the loans and still have money left over. Risky, the Bible says. As you read today’s passage from Proverbs, notice the urgency of God’s call to get out of shared debt as soon as possible; we are told to even lose sleep until we are free from the danger of shared “surety” or legal responsibility for loans (chances are, a person in a lot of debt is already losing sleep with worry anyways). God likens the person with shared debt to a hunted animal like a deer or bird, which must run desperately until it gets away. Yikes!
The application of this passage for you as middle school students may seem far in the future, but it is not as far away as you think. In a few years you will want to buy a car, and you may want to get help from your parents in doing so. After that, you may want to rent an apartment while in college or starting out on your own in your career. Will you expect your parents to co-sign a loan or a lease? Maybe. But if they tell you, “No,” or give some heavy strings attached to a “Yes,” just know that they are probably not being mean, but simply listening to the warnings of Scripture about shared debt. For now, it would be wise to start earning and saving money through chores or allowances or small jobs. You want to start preparing now to avoid entering the cycle of debt at a young age like so many other Americans. If you want to know more about how your family can start applying the Bible’s teachings on money for your life right now as a student, a great book on this topic is “Smart Money, Smart Kids” by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze.
The Text (Proverbs 6:1-5)
1 My son, if you become surety for your friend, If you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,
2 You are snared by the words of your mouth; You are taken by the words of your mouth.
3 So do this, my son, and deliver yourself; For you have come into the hand of your friend: Go and humble yourself; Plead with your friend.
4 Give no sleep to your eyes, Nor slumber to your eyelids.
5 Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, And like a bird from the hand of the fowler.
Questions to Think About
- Do you expect to borrow money to buy a car in high school? Why or why not? What is your family’s plan for purchasing your first vehicle?
- Do you plan to rent an apartment with friends during college and ask your parents to co-sign the lease? If not, what other options might be available to you so that you can avoid getting your parents to share debt and responsibility not just with you, but with one, two, or even three roommates?
- Have you started learning how to earn, manage, and save money? Explain.