Chronicles of Sadie

A Father’s Perspective on Debt


As a new dad who is also a youth pastor, I find myself praying often about the relationships that my daughter will someday have. I pray for the girls that will someday walk into her life and influence her so greatly. I pray for the boys—well, actually I pray that God will remove the boys from her path that don’t need to be there—by force if necessary—or even if just for fun!

You may laugh and think that I’m just an overprotective father, but I doubt that you’ve seen, as I have over the years in regular display, the kind of devastation that errant romances can have on young spiritual lives. I’ve seen incredible students seemingly throw away everything they’ve been taught and have ascribed to for the chance to “not be alone.” Reasoning or intervention will sometimes work, but the rate is astounding. If a life-changing (not necessarily irreversible, but life-changing nonetheless) decision is made for adolescents, it is usually made in the area of relationships.

Now, I’m not unrealistic and I don’t expect perfection—Lord knows that perfection has yet to occur in my own life. But I do hope and pray that my little one can learn that much of the quality and effectiveness of her life will be determined by the people she interacts with. Platonic relationships. Pastoral and educational influences. The one young man someday, who through a series of dangerous tests and an elaborate gauntlet of evaluation of such traits as work-ethic, godliness, loyalty, self-control, and wisdom, will attempt to prove himself worthy of her hand—yeah, I’m not melodramatic at all. In all seriousness though, people are shaped by the people around them.

There’s danger in putting up security for a stranger’s debt; it’s safer not to guarantee another person’s debt. Proverbs 11: 15 (NLT)

So this passage offers several tidbits of wisdom for our lives. The first is very practical and very specific. Simply put, it’s not wise to co-sign, guarantee, or to put down money on someone else’s debt. Why? Well, because the odds that you will become totally responsible for what they owe are staggering. It will entrap you and leave you with a debt that you didn’t accrue, yet still owe. In addition to that, contrary to what people think, money borrowed and guaranteed among friends is often a relationship-killer. The many awkward situations that can and will occur will usually serve to devastate a friendship beyond reasonable repair.

What about the Bible’s clear indications to be generous and help those in need? Ah, I’m glad you asked. Notice what this passage is saying. Don’t guarantee a debt—or in other words, don’t take on the debt of someone that neither of you can pay right now and of which payments and interest will be required.

Giving, on the other hand, is a different matter. We should be encouraged to give from what we have as often as we feel led to do so. But we can’t give what we don’t have; that’s not good stewardship and it only sets us up to pay off someone else’s debt—now our own debt. So we should be givers, not loaners. When we do give, we shouldn’t expect anything in return.

The second and broader principle of this passage goes back to relationships. For my darling Sadie, I know that the people in her life that she chooses to associate with will have influence in their families, schools, and community. In many ways, Sadie will be lumped in with who they are perceived to be. I don’t mean this as a cut-and-dry judgment that is always true, but scripture is very clear that we will become like those we spend our time with. Hey, we all know this to be true.

In many ways, the characteristics of our social circles are like the “debt” that we owe and pay to society. It doesn’t have to be bad; it can be good debt that is consistently paid in positive ways. We, as individuals, each contribute to the whole of our community. Groups pay these dividends aswell. In my church, I receive credit and/or criticism for what our church staff does—even when I don’t directly have anything to do with the specific item in question. You see, we pay each others’ debt or receive each others’ dividends simply because we are near each other.

So that’s why my prayers have already begun for my Sadie. I pray that her future relationship decisions will not leave her owing any foolish “debts” she didn’t personally accrue. No, I pray instead that her relationships will increase the value of her culture and positively influence her world.

Trust me, it’s a broken, humble request I know only God can answer.