Sunday, October 3, 2010

What does the Bible say about usury?

While I'm not returning to blogging just yet (if ever), I wanted to post a response I left to a "Christian" responding to this excellent posting by John Shore. If there's one thing that really bugs me in an online discussion, it's those folks who like to cut-and-paste other people's writings - especially from fundamentalist apologists - without putting any original thought or effort into their comments. I mean sure, if you do not know how to express yourself well than by all means give a few words and perhaps a link to the article you think is relevant to the subject under discussion. Yet save the cut-and-paste jobs, they are truly annoying and are largely ignored. The next pet peeve I have with such cut-and-paste jobs is the mind-numbing illogic used by these fundamentalist apologists being cribbed from. Which brings me to the reason for this post. A commentor used the online article What does the Bible say about homosexuality? by Matt Slick to respond to John Shore's posting and I must say that this is filled with some of the most absurd reasoning I've seen in quite awhile. I find this mentality of "the Bible says 'X' is a sin and that will never change!" to be completely ignorant of how much Christian and Jewish theology have developed and changed over the centuries. With this in mind I decided to take one example of something the Bible and Christians until the time of the Reformation clearly condemned as being sinful has developed and changed since then: the taking of any interest on money and goods, i.e. usury. I'm sure that everyone has been hit with this online and just in case this may help others I want to post my response here at my blog as well. So in honor of the "Christian" commentor at and in keeping with the reasoning of Slick's article, let's see how usury should be viewed in light of the Bible's teaching (with some editing from my original posting):

There are those who like to say that the Bible does not condemn usury**. Various verses are cited (out of context) and the verses that people use to show that usury is wrong are explained away. The world wants to change God’s words and meanings into something more suitable to its sinful desires. Nevertheless, the truth stands: The Bible condemns usury as a sin. Let’s look at what it says.

Exodus 22: 25-27: "If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest. If you ever take your neighbor's garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious."

Deuteronomy 23: 19-20: "You shall not charge interest to your brother -- interest on money or food or anything that is lent out at interest. To a foreigner you may charge interest, but to your brother you shall not charge interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all to which you set your hand in the land which you are entering to possess."

Leviticus 25: 35-37: "If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit."

Nehemiah 5: 10-11: "I also, with my brethren and my servants, am lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop this usury! Restore now to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have charged them."

Psalm 15:5: "He who does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved."

Jeremiah 15:10: "Woe is me, my mother, That you have borne me, A man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent for interest, Nor have men lent to me for interest. Every one of them curses me."

Ezekiel 18:13: "If he has exacted usury Or taken increase -- Shall he then live? He shall not live! If he has done any of these abominations, He shall surely die; His blood shall be upon him."

Luke 6:34: "If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again."

Usury is clearly condemned by the Bible; condemned by the early Church, including ALL the Fathers who commented on the subject and the early Church councils like Nicaea; condemned by Reformers like Martin Luther. It goes against the created order of God. He created us all to live as brothers and sisters, to lend to one another without the taking of interest. This is what God has ordained and it is what is right. Unlike other sins, usury has a severe judgment administered by God Himself. This judgment is simple: They are given over to their passions. That means that their hearts are allowed to be hardened by their sins (Psalm 15:5). As a result, they can no longer see the error of what they are doing. Without an awareness of their sinfulness, there will be no repentance and trusting in Jesus. Without Jesus, they will have no forgiveness. Without forgiveness, there is no salvation.

What should be the Christian’s Response to Usurers?

Just because someone practices usury does not mean that we cannot love him (or her) or pray for him (her). Usury is a sin and like any other sin, it needs to be dealt with in the only way possible. It needs to be laid at the cross, repented of, and never done again.

As a Christian, you should pray for the salvation of usurers the same as you would for any other person in sin. The usurer is still made in the image of God — even though he is in grave sin. Therefore, you should show him the same dignity as anyone else with whom you come in contact. However, this does not mean that you are to approve of their sin. Don’t compromise your witness for a socially-acceptable opinion that is void of godliness.

Pray tell, Brother Slick, what are you doing to combat the wicked abomination that is usury? What of our Christian brothers and sisters who borrow money/goods at interest or lend money/goods at interest in clear defiance of God’s Word? Worse yet, what of the "Christian" businesses and even churches (!) who have compromised their witness for a socially-acceptable opinion that is void of godliness by borrowing money/goods at interest or lending money/goods at interest? Our whole economic system is built not upon the Word of God but instead upon the worldly views of that perfidious usury-lover and usurer-enabler John Calvin!

** - "Usury (comes from the Medieval Latin usuria, 'interest' or from the Latin usura 'interest') originally meant the charging of interest on loans. This included charging a fee for the use of money, such as at a bureau de change." – Wikipedia article "Usury"

For more on the history of usury and Christian theology, see the following:

  • Usury (Economic History Association)
  • Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be... (
  • Reforming the Morality of Usury: A Study of the Differences that Separated the Protestant Reformers by David W. Jones
  • History of Usury Prohibition (
  • Usury (Pharsea - Christopher West)
  • Usury & The Church of England (Rev. Henry Swabey)


    King of the Paupers said...

    Jct: Usury is condemned by God because the resulting mort-gage death-gamble kills the losers by poverty (no life-support tickets). Sign a mort-gage and end up mort.

    The Heterodox Homosexual said...

    Very nice job. I will pray for those who have made the usury lifestyle choice.

    Anonymous said...

    Accurate criticism. As Christians certain sins come into style while others (especially the ones we practice) we tend to ignore. Interested on your opinion on: Should corporate loans be considered usury? Should we consider unsecured lending usury since banks carry risk?(see chargeoff rates)