Imagine for a moment you’re very tight on funds. Between student loan payments and rent, you have no money to spare. You’re working two jobs. You drive an old car, with old tires and you watch every penny because you have no choice.
Out of the blue, that dreaded thing happens: Your car breaks down. The repair’s expected to be $400. And that’s $400 you don’t have.
In desperation, you stop in the payday lending storefront you’ve passed hundreds of times, never having considered this option before. You explain your need for fast, short-term cash. They lend you the $400 while you agree to pay $60 in upfront fees plus interest.
The interest, if annualized, amounts to over 500 percent. You know it seems crazy, but in desperation, you borrow the money because without your car, you can’t get to work. You also agree fully to repay the loan in two weeks knowing by then, you’ll have received your next paycheck.
Things don’t go as planned and you’re not able to repay the loan. The payday loan is renewed for another $60 fee, along with the same exorbitant interest rate.
The spiral continues. You get further and further in the hole, growing weary and feeling hopeless.
And then, of course, Christmas season is here.
This scenario happens all too frequently. According to The New York Times, about 12 million borrowers turn to payday lenders each year. In a recent survey by The Federal Reserve, “46 percent of Americans said they did not have enough money to cover a $400 emergency expense. Instead, they would have to put it on a credit card and pay it off over time, borrow from friends or family, or simply not cover it at all.”
A Different Story
Now imagine a different ending to this story: Rather than going to a payday lender, you share your story with people in your church. One of them wants to pray about helping. Rather than charging exorbitant fees, they offer to lend you the money without any interest and give you a lift to the repair shop.
There is an old adage of “never lend money to family or friends.” But is that true? When is it appropriate to lend money to a friend? Or is an outright gift sometimes better?
As Christians, we’re stewards of God’s money. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the adage in light of our faith. You may have personal experiences or have heard stories where lending someone money has not worked out well. There is certainly potential to become an enabler, benefiting neither the borrower nor the lender.
However, if the need is legitimate, and a gift would contribute to more irresponsibility or loss of dignity, then lending may be the right move.
Believe it or not, the Bible isn’t silent on the topic. Here are some pertinent passages:
–“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:9-10
–“If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest.” Exodus 22:25
–“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18
Applying the Bible’s Teaching to Those in Need
Several years ago, a single mom at our church told us her car was going to be repossessed at midnight. The woman had a good job, and for the most part had been making the car payments. However, the payments were often late and fees were assessed.
We knew if she lost her car, she would most likely lose her job. This would adversely affect her and her children. After prayer and discussion, we withdrew money from our bank savings and purchased a money order to pay off the loan that day. We set up a payment plan for her. She faithfully paid the loan off over the next year.
In an interesting twist, helping her in this way was a blessing to her family as well as to ours.
Lending puts us in direct relationship with those in need. Instead of “the poor” as an abstract concept on our prayer list, they become people we are rooting for because we’ve chosen to invest in the relationship in more ways than one.
Should you lend money to a friend? This is not a question I can answer for you. But we do know the One who can. When we take these situations before the Lord and ask, “What is best?” the Lord will guide and direct us. We can prayerfully think about an outright gift, a loan or maybe what is best is prayer and encouragement. We can be sensitive to the spirit’s leading and also weigh our sense of judgment with the need being presented.
The Lord may have us lend money that the borrower doesn’t repay. But that is between the borrower and God. We have done what we felt called to do and there are always blessings in obedience.