Biblical Usury

Vigilant

Woodpecker
Woman
So, here is a summary of what the Bible teaches on usury, interest, and loans.

Usury
The English word "usury" has nothing specific to do with the Hebrew and Greek words translated as "usury." This is because, historically, the word has been used in a specific way: "excessive interest."

There is not one verse -- not one hint -- in the Bible that taking excessive interest is wrong.

What is prohibited in Deuteronomy 15:1-7 and Deuteronomy 23 is interest on any loan, in any form, that has been extended to a poor brother in the faith. It is perfectly all right to lend at interest to someone not in the faith. Here, I quote from the King James (1611), since its terminology -- "usury" -- is the familiar source of the debate over usury.

Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury: Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it (Deuteronomy 23:19-20).

The Hebrew word translated here as "usury" is nawshak, meaning "bite." Examples:



Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteththe horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward (Genesis 49:17)
And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died (Numbers 21:6).
The word in no way implies "excessive." It means any extra payment at all.

The prohibition applied only to charitable loans to poor brethren in the faith and to a special category of resident aliens, men who had submitted to the Mosaic law. The texts are quite specific.



If thou lend money to any of my people that is poorby thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury (Exodus 22:25).
And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase (Leviticus 25:35-37).
The Hebrew word here translated as "stranger" is different from the Hebrew word for "stranger" in Deuteronomy 23:20. Deuteronomy's stranger was a temporary resident, probably a businessman.

How did a charitable loan differ from a commercial loan? A charitable loan had the following features:



1. There was no interest payment.
2. It was morally mandatory.
3. If the borrower defaulted, he could be sold into slavery.
4. It had a six-year limit, as did the term of slavery.
5. The creditor had to supply tools of production to the indentured servant at the end of the period of slavery.
6. The day of release was on the day of atonement [yom kippur] in the nation's seventh (sabbatical) year
7. It was not mandated by the civil government.
This is laid out in Deuteronomy 15:1-7 and Leviticus 25:1-9.

A non-charity loan could be collateralized by a piece of rural land. The borrower could lose his land for up to 49 years if he defaulted. The 49-year limit was established in terms of the sabbatical periods of seven years: seven times seven. This is discussed in Leviticus 25, the chapter on the jubilee year.

A non-charity loan was not under any restriction with respect to interest. A person who defaulted on a commercial loan that had not been collateralized by land could be sold into slavery, but a unique kind. He had to be paid. Also, he did not receive tools of production at the end of his term of service. This term could be up to 49 years.



And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant: But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile: And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return (Leviticus 25:39- 41)
I have written two versions of Leviticus: the Reader's Digest version (750 pages) and the full version (4 volumes), called Boundaries and Dominion.


Jesus Annulled the Jubilee Laws

Jesus annulled the Jubilee laws He announced liberation.



And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears (Luke 4:16-21).
If He did not annul Leviticus 25, then the Mosaic law of slavery is still in effect. This is the only passage in the Bible that authorizes inter-generational slavery.



Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour (Leviticus 25:44-46).
See my comments on this passage in my commentaries on Leviticus 25 and Luke 4:16-21. See also Chapter 4 of my book, Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus.

He who denies that Jesus annulled the Jubilee laws owes it to his followers to explain why the Mosaic law's authorization of inter-generational slavery is not still in force. Leviticus 25:44-46 was widely was cited by defenders of the South's slave system prior to 1865. I think it is wise not to attempt to resurrect it now. Except for Jesus' words in Luke 4, there is no explicit or implicit annulment of inter-generational slavery in the New Testament.

In short, a Christian who cites the Mosaic laws governing the prohibition against interest has a lot of explaining to do. He had better understand the implications of his position.

The Mosaic laws governing interest-taking on charitable loans were aspects of the national sabbatical year, including the crucial provision, the six-year term of slavery. This all ended when Israel disappeared as a nation in 70 A.D. These laws were not re-established by the New Testament.

Conclusion: the Mosaic laws governing charitable loans are defunct. There is no more national sabbatical year and no more jubilee year.


Jesus Authorized Interest

In the parable of the talents, which dealt with the Final Judgment, Jesus told of three stewards. A rich man puts them in charge of his money. Then he leaves town. On his return, he requires an accounting. One steward had multiplied his five talents by two to one. The second had multiplied his two talents by two to one. The third had buried his coin in the ground, which he returned to the owner. Here was the response of the owner, who is symbolic of God on judgment day.



Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:27-30).
If charging interest were not legitimate, why would Jesus have used the example of money-lending as a legitimate way to increase capital? Why would He have attributed to God such words of condemnation for not having lent at interest?

Those Christian commentators who say that usury is prohibited, meaning all interest on loans, prefer not to mention the existence of this passage, let alone explain it.

Conclusion

The Mosaic law prohibited interest on a narrow class of loans: charitable loans to fellow Israelites and resident aliens. It did not prohibit interest on all other loans.

Charitable loans were to be annulled in the seventh year, at one time. Loans collateralized by rural land were to end in the seventh seventh year, or jubilee year. The land reverted to the heirs of the conquest generation.

The sabbatical year and the jubilee year system were annulled by Jesus and ended when Israel ceased to exist as a nation.

Jesus authorized interest-bearing loans.


 
Jesus Authorized Interest

In the parable of the talents, which dealt with the Final Judgment, Jesus told of three stewards. A rich man puts them in charge of his money. Then he leaves town. On his return, he requires an accounting. One steward had multiplied his five talents by two to one. The second had multiplied his two talents by two to one. The third had buried his coin in the ground, which he returned to the owner. Here was the response of the owner, who is symbolic of God on judgment day.




If charging interest were not legitimate, why would Jesus have used the example of money-lending as a legitimate way to increase capital? Why would He have attributed to God such words of condemnation for not having lent at interest?

Those Christian commentators who say that usury is prohibited, meaning all interest on loans, prefer not to mention the existence of this passage, let alone explain it.

Amazing how modern-day individuals will spin the message of the gospel to justify their own worship of mammon. Those passages have nothing to do with financial management, but rather are an analogy to help a segment of the common man who deals with money understand faith and how to best use it (i.e. spread it and multiply the number of believers in the Lord). One should not just play it safe when it comes to the Lord, one should actively fight for faith (sometimes even in the literal sense) and ensure the gospel is spread far and wide.

Here is the entire parable [NKJV]:

14 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. 16 Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. 17 And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. 18 But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.

20 “So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ 22 He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ 23 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

24 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’

26 “But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 27 So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.

29 ‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

So, no. The Bible does not authorize usury as Mr. North seems to proclaim, here:

Conclusion

...

Jesus authorized interest-bearing loans.
 

Mrs.DanielH

Robin
Woman
@Vigilant I like that you bring the bible into discussions throughout the forum. I'd like to share an Orthodox perspective on the passage in Matthew that you brought up.

These are the words of St. Cyril of Alexandria on the parable of the talents: "The man who is the landowner is actually the Creator and Lord of all. The Word compares the time the landowner spends away from home in the parable to either the ascension of Christ into heaven or at any rate to the unseen and invisible character of the divine nature. Now one must conceive of the property of God as those in each country and city who believe in him. He calls his servants those who according to the times Christ crowns with the glory of the priesthood. For the holy Paul writes, “No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God.” He hands over [his property] to those who are under him, to each giving a spiritual gift so that he might have character and aptitude. We think that this distribution of the talents is not supplied to the household servants in equal measure because each is quite different from the other in their understanding. Immediately they head out for their labors, he says, directly indicating to us here that apart from the procrastination of one they are fit to carry out the work of God. Surely those who are bound by fear and laziness will end up in the worst evils. For he buried, Jesus says, the talent given to him in the earth. He kept the gift hidden, making it unprofitable for others and useless for himself. For that very reason the talent is taken away from him and will be given to the one who is already rich. The Spirit has departed from such as these and the gift of the divine gifts. But to those who are industrious an even more lavish gift will be presented."
 

Vigilant

Woodpecker
Woman
"Usury was a means of taking dominion over the wicked and God's law clearly allows for such dominion. "the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous" However, that very same usury could not be practiced on someone who was part of the covenant community because at that point the person charging usury is capitalizing himself at the ..." - page had disappeared, but this was still available.
 
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