It seems like every day you get a new credit card application in the mail.
One promises 10% cash back on Amazon purchases. Another promises free airline miles. And yet another offers you rewards from your favorite department store every time you make a purchase.
You begin thinking — if you make every purchase on a cash back credit card, you could earn a lot of cash back. It would be kind of like using a coupon for every purchase.
That’s good stewardship, right?
But you’ve also may have heard that Christians shouldn’t use credit cards.
Confused? Let’s set the record straight.
Should a Christian Use Credit Cards?
To be clear, the Bible doesn’t plainly say Christians should or should not use credit cards. Obviously, credit cards did not exist in Biblical times.
However, the Bible does have a lot to say about debt, stewardship, and greed. And the Biblical principles about debt, stewardship, and greed can be helpful in deciding whether or not it’s wise to use credit cards.
What the Bible Says About Debt
Let’s begin with debt. Does the Bible say it’s wrong to be in debt?
Not exactly. The Bible does have some strong words about debt, though.
First, the Bible is clear that if you borrow, you must repay. Psalm 37:21 (ESV) says, “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives.”
Second, the Bible points out a downside to borrowing. Proverbs 22:7 (ESV) says, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is a slave to the lender.”
Whenever we borrow money, whether via a credit card or some other means, we have certain obligations to the lender. We must repay what we borrow.
What that means is if we owe money, paying that money back must become a priority. If another great financial opportunity comes along while you are in debt, you may have to turn that opportunity down if you owe money on your credit card.
Credit card debt can affect your ability to qualify for a home loan, to pay for a vacation, or even to take time off work to go on a short term mission trip.
When you carry credit card debt, you truly are a slave to the credit card company.
Finally, the Bible is clear that it’s never a good idea to bank on an unknown future. James 4:13-15 (ESV) points out,
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
Nobody knows what the future brings. It is a bad idea to purchase something on a credit card, thinking you can pay it back when you get your big bonus next month. What if that bonus doesn’t come? What if you lose your job?
Don’t finance an uncertain future.
What the Bible Says About Stewardship and Greed
The Bible has a lot to say about being a good steward of what we have been given, whether that’s money, health, or any other blessing.
A look at the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 provides a good example. The man who was given 5 talents and invested wisely to double his money was praised by his master. The man who buried his one talent in the sand and didn’t even put it in the bank to earn interest was chastised.
When God gives us anything – money, talents, a good job — we are to use it to the best of our ability. A case could be made, then that using a cash back credit card is a good use of money.
But that’s not all the Bible has to say about money.
Hebrews 13:5 (ESV) warns against greed when it says, “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ’I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”
And 1 Timothy 6:10 (ESV) says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
We are to be content with what God has given us, even when we don’t have as much as our neighbor. Even more important than that, our use of money should reflect our love for God. Using credit cards to pay for something outside of your budget because you are discontent or greedy, then, would be wrong.
So What is the Verdict? Should Christians Use Credit Cards?
As a Christian looking at all the Bible has to say about debt, greed, stewardship, and contentment, I would say it is OK for Christians to use credit cards.
But just because it’s OK to use credit cards doesn’t mean it’s always wise. A credit card is just a tool to help manage your money, and like any tool, it can be used wisely or unwisely.
If you’re going to use credit cards, make sure you pay off the balance each and every month.
If you can’t pay your balance, you are banking on an uncertain tomorrow, contrary to what James 4:13-15 says.
One way to make sure you can pay your balance each month is to track your credit card spending in your budgeting app or checkbook register.
By treating credit card purchases as money already spent, rather than a balance to be paid in the future, you can earn your cash back rewards while being certain you can pay the bill at the end of the month.
If you don’t have the discipline to pay off your card every month, it’s not worth using credit cards. Again, the borrower is slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). No amount of cash back or other rewards is worth being a slave to someone else.
Finally, be sure you are not using credit cards to fill a need that only God can fill. Don’t try to keep up with the neighbors or put your trust in your credit card’s ability to pay your bills.
Honor God with your money. If you’re doing that, you’ll be just fine, whether you decide to use credit cards or not.
Are you interested in more Biblical Perspective on your finances? Check out our new 6-week Bible study, God & Money!