The question of debt is a very common – specifically among college students who upon arriving at school receive their first piece of mail and it is for a credit card, not cookies from Mom. So what’s the answer to debt? What do we do about it… especially if we’re told to avoid it at all costs (no pun intended) but are faced with situations that necessitate the borrowing of money, etc. This is the nature of a question I received from a former student.

I feel like I know the answer to this one. I don’t want to incur more debt, almost at any cost. I am willing to if that’s the means of graduate school for me though, although, exhausting all other options initially. My girlfriend is not so sure, but she wanted to ask some people if they took out loans to go to graduate school.

You’ve heard it:

“‘Debt is dumb.'” Now, go write a song about it Bleecker” – Matt Chandler (he was joking at the time)

Okay. Debt typically isn’t wise. I mean, I have a debt. I went into debt to pay for a home (I would rather have not, but who’s got $90,000-$100,000 lying around??? I don’t. You don’t. My wife doesn’t.) I have undergrad school debt. I don’t like it and most of it is due to my ignorance of how much school actually cost. But I’ve got debt from school and I don’t like it.

Seminary/Grad School cost me very very little. I had an 80% scholarship to SWBTS. I paid the rest out of my own pocket (I worked on campus as a garbage man so that I could avoid debt).

I have no debt from seminary/grad school.

Abby and I have paid off her loans and now we’re tackling my loans. (by ‘tackling’ I mean that we’re paying 2 payments every month). This has put a momentary strain on us, but we’re wanting to be done with debt from school.

When it comes to debt, you have to look at what kind of debt you already have (if any) and judge whether you should/shouldn’t take any more on. If you have to take a momentary hit in regards to loans for graduate school, while it is WAY CHEAPER than your undergrad, is it wise? Maybe. That being said, during the time you have debt (if you’ve incurred any or must) you should avoid other kinds of debt (credit cards, cars, electronics, etc.). This is where it becomes difficult… saying ‘no’ to small pleasures (out to eat, concerts, movies, steak, etc.) so that you can be out of the shadow of debt later. If you already have debt, many of your loans may be able to be deferred until you’re out of grad school – you should definitely look into this. The only issue you MUST be aware of is that while you won’t have to make any payments, you will incur interest depending on if it’s subsidized/unsubsidized loan. You can read HERE on how to tell the difference.

Is it a mortal sin to have debt? Some say that a Christian should NEVER take on debt & if you do, you’re in sin – but these same people have a home loan, credit card, and teenagers. I would say ‘no’, it’s not a mortal is to go into debt, but Scripture does talk about not owing anything… except for love (Romans 13:8) to others. That being said, the Scriptures don’t say that debt isn’t permissible… although, there are strong words against those who lend money and are harsh against those that borrowed from them (Prov. 28:8). I would say that if you’re reckless about money and trying to take on too much then you may fall into sin… besides, money is not evil – the love of it is (1 Timothy 6:10). Why? Because you’ve now treasured something above God – and that’s sin.

Okay – so if you need to take on some debt is it completely wise? Well… it’s usually a better idea to not go into debt simply for this reason: when you’re in debt you become a slave to debt. You have to work off that loan. You have to work off that payment. You now owe back someone or a bank, etc. and many of us have found ourselves limited on what can/could enjoy because we’re stuck in debt. It’s just like sin. We are slaves to sin (Rom. 6:20) and therefore are set/must to ‘pay off’ that debt. The difference with sin is that we can/could never pay back to God what He is owed – so we’re stuck.

This is why I love the Gospel!

We couldn’t pay off the debt of sin, but Christ came and substituted himself for us! Isn’t that cool?! He paid off the debt we could not owe… and now we’re free to be/live/love/walk/talk/relate as we were created to be (2 Cor. 5:21). This is why we need Jesus who redeems us from the woes of our sin burden… all He asks for is obedience to him – and that includes not making money your god… or anything else besides Him for that matter.

So, should you incur debt with graduate school? If at all possible – avoid it. But if you must, be wise about how much you can take on and pay off that which you owe before your loan payment is due. Pay it off and pay it off quick. Deny yourself now and later you’ll be able to enjoy the freedom of a debt free life.

Hope this helps.