Use Minimal Debt—or Better, No Debt

Over the past 28 years, I have met many investment advisers who have instructed their clients to use debt in order to increase their investment returns. When the market goes up, additional returns can be obtained through the use of debt. However, when the market goes down, the results can be disastrous. I remember one woman who borrowed against her home and invested in mutual funds only to discover four years later that the funds had decreased in value by 50 percent. Being upset with what occurred, she immediately sold her investments and paid off as much of the loan as she could. Several years later, she is still servicing the remaining debt.

The deception from the world is that “smart people use other people’s money.” This is contrary to God’s Word. Every reference in scripture to borrowing is negative, and nowhere in the Bible does God ever direct anyone to borrow money in order for God to bless. Our all-powerful God is able to meet every need without the assistance of the bank. Philippians 4:19 states, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

It is not a sin to borrow money, but it is a sin to borrow and not repay. Psalms 37:21 states, “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.” The implication is that the righteous person not only repays all debts but goes “the second mile” and gives generously.

Experience has shown that people who use a lot of debt when investing will generally encounter one of the following problems:

1. When the markets are down, borrowers are forced by the lender to sell at the wrong time. In Proverbs 22:7b, God warns that “the borrower is servant to the lender.”

2. Psychologically and emotionally, it is much more difficult to survive a “bear market,” because debt increases the volatility of your portfolio. For example, if you borrow 50 percent of what you invest, and if the market decreases 20 percent in value, then the loss on your personal capital is 40 percent.

3. If the investment decreases significantly in value, you can lose more than your original capital and end up with a deficit that may take years to repay.

In Deuteronomy 28, God promised the people of Israel that, if they fully obeyed him, he would bless them so much that they be would lenders and not borrowers. In other words, God can bless your investments without the use of debt. I have seen more than 100 individual cases in which God has done this.

Before you borrow to invest, be sure to ask God to reveal your motives. Frequently, people use debt in order to “get rich quick” because of covetousness or greed—both of which are contrary to God’s Word. On the other hand, saving and investing carefully over a long period of time, with the objective of meeting future needs, is a very biblical attitude. Proverbs 13:11 states, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow” (emphasis added).

Saving and investing to provide for future needs is biblical. However, God strongly discourages the use of debt. I recommend that you save and invest whatever funds God has provided, and trust God to meet your needs, which he has promised as you put him first. (See Matthew 6:31–33.)