Never go into debt with a relative

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Dear Dave,

My wife and I plan to go on a mission as soon as we have paid off our debt and set up a full emergency fund.

We only have about $12,000 left in credit card debt and we don’t own a house, but my dad doesn’t want that debt to get in the way.

He offered to pay off the credit cards and make it a loan where we would pay it off over time. It’s a tempting offer, but we both feel strange about accepting it. What do you think we should do?

—Brandon

Dear Brandon,

Your dad seems like a generous, kind-hearted man. But given the goal you and your wife have, I want you to think for a minute about the spiritual implications of a situation like this.

Proverbs 22:7 says the borrower is the slave of the lender. Now the Bible don’t say debt is a sin, but it definitely discourages debt, and it teaches us to live our lives differently from the rest of the world. This is also the case when it comes to managing money.

If you do this, you will turn your father into a creditor in a very real sense. It’s going to make family dinners taste different, because you’ll be eating with your lender instead of just eating with your good old dad. Money has a way of changing family dynamics, and it’s almost never for the good. Suddenly you get frowns if you buy something for yourself, because even the nicest, most generous people have opinions.

If it was me, I would say thank you, but no thank you. There’s no way I’m in financial debt to my father.

Now, if he offered to make your debt repayment a present– one that was given unconditionally to help you enter the mission field more quickly – I would be okay with that and I would be deeply grateful and honored.

But I would like never tell you to owe a relative. Your dad probably thinks it’s better you owe him a debt than an indifferent bank or credit card company. But I wouldn’t want to do anything that could jeopardize your relationship.

— Dave

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