“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender” (Prov. 22:7).
“Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty” (Prov. 22:16).
Verses 7 and 16 give parallel meanings about riches and poverty. It is about the lender-borrower relationship. In v. 7, the rich are the lenders and the poor are the borrowers. The poor borrowers become the slaves of the rich.
In v. 16, the more they borrow, the more the rich are enriched. The more the poor pay the rich, the poorer they become.
In 2 Kings, we read about the story of a prophet’s wife, who comes to Elisha asking for his help (2 Ki. 4:1). She says that her husband is dead. Now, the creditor comes to take her two sons as slaves. Their slavery is payment for the debt they owed to the creditor.
In the ancient Near East, debt is a form of slavery. If you do not pay your debt, you pay it by becoming a slave to your lender. Thus, the rich lenders rule over the poor borrowers. If they cannot pay up, they become the slaves of the rich. In those days, poverty can lead to slavery.
Isn’t that true also in our day? Borrow from a lender, and the lender will rule over you. You become a slave to the terms and conditions of the lender. Charge an item to your credit card. Automatically, you become a slave to the terms of the company. If you do not pay the minimum amount on due date, they block your card. If you do not pay the total amount due, they charge you a finance charge of 3.5%. If you pay one day after the due date, they charge you a late-payment fee of P600.00. If you will not pay any amount for two months, their customer officer will call you. If you do not pay in four months, their lawyer will send you a threatening letter.
God’s Word is true indeed—the borrower is a slave of the lender. That is why in v. 16, debt is a form of oppression. The longer the creditor-debtor relationship continues, the more the lender increases his wealth. The poor borrower must keep paying back the rich lender. But the more he pays, the deeper he goes into poverty. Thus, poverty is a form of slavery and oppression.
How then shall we get out of the bondage of debt? Stop the borrowing; or stop the lending. Earn more income or cut down on your expenses. Get out of debt as fast as possible.