Usury and Interest

Article bJ

Usury and Interest

Article bJ

This article considers the subject of receiving usury on money or on property, and considers the subject of paying interest. Firstly the Hebrew and Greek words underlying usury will be considered. With regards to the KJV Bible the word usury appears 22 times in the Old Testament, and appears twice in the New Testament. The Old Testament word usury derives from four different Hebrew words as follow; bJ-1

5378. nasha', naw-shaw'; a prim. root [perh. ident. with H5377; through the idea of imposition]; to lend on interest; by impl. to dun for debt:-- bJ-1.5

5383. nashah, naw-shaw'; a prim. root [rather ident. with H5382, in the sense of H5378]; to lend or (by reciprocity) borrow on security or interest:-- bJ-2

5391. nashak, naw-shak'; a prim. root; to strike with a sting (as a serpent); fig.; to oppress with interest on a loan:-- bJ-3

5392. neshek, neh'-shek; from H5391; interest on a debt:-- bJ-4

The New Testament word usury as in the KJV comes form one Greek word as follows; bJ-5

5110. tokos, tok'-os; from the base of G5088; interest on money loaned (as a produce):-- bJ-6

Following are numerous Scriptures concerning usury, with various comments; bJ-7

(Exo 22:25) "If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury." Note this Scripture especially reproves charging a poor brother usury bJ-8

(Lev 25:35-37) "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. {36} Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. {37} Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase." Note this Scripture also especially reproves charging a poor brother usury. bJ-10

(Deu 23:19-20) "Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury: {20} 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." Note this Scripture does not particularly make any difference if the brother is poor, but quite distinctly disallows charging any brother usury (although it yet allows charging a stranger usury). Note how this verse does not only disallow charging usury on money, but disallows charging usury on anything. bJ-11

(Neh 5:7&10) "Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them. {10} I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury. {11} Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money…" Note how this verse seems to appose all usury and does not give much liberty to charge any brother usury. This verse even disallows one percent increase. bJ-12

(Psa 15:5) "He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved." Note here again any usury is quite strongly reproved. bJ-13

(Prov 28:8) "He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor." Again note how this verse reproves usury. bJ-14

(Jer 15:10) "Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me." bJ-15

(Ezek 18:8-9&13&17) "He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, {9} Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD. {13} Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him. … {17} That hath taken off his hand from the poor, that hath not received usury nor increase, hath executed my judgments, hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live." bJ-16

(Ezek 22:12) "In thee have they taken gifts to shed blood; thou hast taken usury and increase, and thou hast greedily gained of thy neighbours by extortion, and hast forgotten me, saith the Lord GOD." Note how strongly these verses in Ezekiel reprove usury. bJ-17

Although the above Scriptures especially reprove charging the poor interest, they quite clearly even discourage charging any brother interest. Yet it appears the Jews could charge strangers around them interest. The aspect of charging a non brethren interest is considered later. bJ-18

In considering the difference in dealing with a poor brother and a wealthier brother, it should be considered that although the Jews were to forgive their brother's debt at the year of release, that it yet made a difference if the brother was not poor. Deu 15:3-4 concerning this reads, "…that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release; {4} Save when there shall be no poor among you…". As all the Israelites got established and richer, the more wealthy ones might have even borrowed from the less wealthy ones to build bigger and better. In considering these things it appears if a Israelite was wealthy and simply borrowed money from a fellow Israelite to build bigger and better, such a debt would not have had to be forgiven on the year of release. Although Moses allowed that one would not forgive his brother's debt on the year of release when no poor were among them, yet Moses a few verses later revealed that they would always have some poor to care for (Deu 15:11). The debts of these poor ones was always to be forgiven on the year of release. bJ-19

The Bible classifies usury with unjust gain because usury normally at the cost of the poorer, creates an easy gain for the wealthier which God does not approve of. Yet it must be considered that modern day inflation economics and possible deflation have a definite bearing on how much actual gain one might receive through receiving usury. Inflation even makes it possible for the poorer one who borrows money without interest, to receive unjust gain from the wealthier, because inflation allows him to pay back devaluated dollars in paying his debt. Yet interest or usury, is basically established for the lender to receive actual gain for the use of his money which the Bible would classify as increase and unjust gain. bJ-20

In relation to inflation it must be admitted that one who receives usury at a low bank rate receives less actual gain than the interest rate he receives, while the bank receives the most actual gain for money usage for it is not their money which is devaluating. The lender must pay for all the actual gain of the bank and the gain of the individual who lends to the bank. Yet inflation lowers the actual cost the debtor must pay for the use of his money. This article is written in consideration of usury creating actual gain for the use of money. bJ-21

It is not necessarily wrong although inconvenient that because of circumstances, talent and diligence in material affairs that some have more wealth than necessary, while others have less than they really need. Usury is Biblically wrong and the reasons are obvious for the Spirit of the Bible is equality and to help the poor, while usury permits the one who already has more wealth than needed, to more easily add to his already abundance, at the cost of making it more difficult for the one who is poorer to add to his substance the additional wealth which he actually needs. Usury also is not in unity with the Bible principle of man earning his livelihood by his labors for it permits the wealthy to live off of those who pay usury rather, than his own labors. Usury adds to the cost of all goods and services considerably for businesses include usury as a fixed cost, thus every business that is involved in completing a particular product from the steel mill or seed business to the retail store adds a usury cost extra on their part in working with the product. It would be very interesting to find statistics how much less goods and services would cost if people would not expect usury from their business investments and would lend without charging usury. bJ-22

Concerning the subject of lending out money, it is sad that some or many Christians if they cannot receive interest on their money, than go and spend or invest their money on some personal item, and do not lend out any money at all. Lending out no funds at all, because one cannot charge interest likely is more oppressive to the poor than lending with a small interest fee. Yet this truth by no means, means that one should charge interest, but very much means that one should not refrain from giving loans to the poorer, simply because he should not charge interest. Although products in one respect could cost less if usury was not charged on loans, yet here again it appears if the world then because of not being able to charge interest would not give out any loans at all, such could hinder prosperity and create significant poverty. Such is true because those poorer ones who could use borrowed funds practically to establish businesses and provide products and services, could not get any funds to work with, while the rich might just sit on their money and live in luxury. In a self serving world, loaning out money on interest likely helps prosperity and the economy more than not loaning out money at all. Yet again this does not mean one should charge interest, but means God's people should not refrain from loaning out funds even though they should not charge interest. Yet obviously discretion should be used in lending out funds. Psalms 112:5 concerning this reads, "A good man showeth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion." bJ-23

Even though in the Old Testament God's people could take usury from strangers, such does not make it permissible for God's people in the New Testament to receive it from non church people, for in the Old Testament it was proper for God's children to subdue and oppress their neighboring nations and for them to hate their enemies but in the New Testament God's children are to love their enemies and do good to all man even to those who despitefully use them. The Old and New Testament alike teach freely lending, which if done today as taught would any funds be left to lend to others on usury? In Luke 6:34 Jesus asks the question, "And if ye lend to them of whom he hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again." In consideration of this verse would not Jesus also ask if ye lend on usury what thank have ye for sinners also lend on usury? bJ-24

In Christ's parable in Luke 19:11-27, wherein a nobleman went into a far country giving his servant responsibility over his money, valuable direction concerning usury can be found. In this parable the nobleman who was lord to his servants, reminded the servant who had laid his pound in a napkin, that he knew his lord was an austere man taking up that he laid not down and reaping what he had not sown and then asks this servant why when he was aware that his lord was this type of man he did not put his lord's money out on usury. From this parable it can be clearly understood that Jesus classified usury as for those who are austere, who gather where not having laid down, and reap where they have not sown. Matthew gives a very similar parable to this and therein uses the word hard instead of the word austere (Matt 25:24-27). It is clear that being hard or austere and gathering that which we have not laid down and reaping where we have not sown is against Christian principles. Jesus who is our perfect example Himself said he was meek and lowly in heart and that he came not to be ministered to, but to minister to others which is far from being hard or austere and reaping what one has not sown. Considering these attributes of Christ it cannot be said, that Christ is this hard nobleman, and that thus the money we handle we are responsible for in the same way as these servants were, and that thus we may put our money out on usury. One should remember how Jesus here revealed that usury is for the hard and austere ones. bJ-25

Another area concerning usury is that of usury on victuals, provisions, and property. Lev. 25:37 reads, "Thou shalt not give him thy money on usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase." Duet. 23:19 reads, "Thou shalt not lend upon usury to the brother, usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of anything that is lent upon usury." Most Scriptures speaking of usury do not confine it to usury on money but on property or provisions as well. Exodus 22:14-15 sanctions charging rent or hire but with this gives the owner the responsibility of cost. Verse 15 reads, "But if the owner thereof be with it, he shall not make it good: if it be an hired thing, it came for the lenders hire." bJ-26

It is true that to charge hire or rent is proper. A rent charge on property which only covers ownership costs such as taxes, insurance, depreciation, maintenance, and owners personal time involved cannot be considered increase or usury for it is not actual gain for the use of wealth. Yet a rent charge which exceeds ownership costs as these, creates increase for the use of property. It is also true that during inflation times more actual gain or increase may be received through an excessive rent charge on property wealth, than the gain or increased receivable through receiving interest on money wealth. This is true since a greater part of the interest received from money wealth, may only compensate for the loss money wealth encounters by inflation lowering the dollar value, while inflation does not devaluate property as it does the dollar. It also very much must be admitted if one is receiving a lower rate of interest than the rate of inflation is, he is receiving no actual gain or increase for his money. In considering the subject of receiving usury on property, one should consider a rent charge above actual expenses on a property makes it quite easy for one who already has five houses to get a sixth house as the cost of making it difficult for the one who has no house to get one house! No wonder God who cares for the poor is opposed to usury. bJ-27

In fully considering the effects and complications of our usury oriented society one must consider that, in the world's mind one's business must not only create profits sufficient to pay them for their personal labors, and other expenses, but also must create profits sufficient to pay them interest on the money that is invested in their business besides. The world would say, if my business does not pay me for my time and pay me interest on my money invested, I simply will get an occupation that pays me for my time, and then besides put my money out on interest. Thus most businesses have a profit margin built into them to allow for and accommodate the expense of paying interest on one's investment. Thus if one is not paying any interest on his business property, he simply can have more profit, that is if he charges the going rates. Businesses can charge and often do charge the full price that those around them charge, even if such price is set up to pay one usury on his investment. bJ-28

Because our society in determining what to charge for their products or services, normally demands profits sufficient to pay interest on their money invested in the business, the normal house rent (or rent on any property) in our society is much higher. Should Christians charge this higher rent which is normal in our society because of society demanding usury on their investment? One should here remember this higher rent cost makes it very possible for the wealthy one who had five houses to get the sixth house at the price of making it quite difficult for the one who has no house to get one house. One should here remember how the Scriptures not only reprove charging usury on one's money but also reprove charging usury on one's victuals or goods. As God's people generally are the poor and persecuted of this world it does not appear they often will have many houses to rent out. Yet if in some situations some have several houses, it does not appear they should get yet more houses at the cost of making it difficult for one who has no house to get one house. One should also consider, as the one who rents out houses should not charge the going and higher rate (because of refraining from charging usury on possessions), others in other businesses neither should charge the going rate for their products and services, if the going rate is much increased because of society demanding interest on their business investments. In some businesses the owner does not set the price for his goods. If this price is generally higher because of society demanding interest on their investment how should Christians respond to this? bJ-30

Many businesses or occupations involve only a minor investment, and thus most of the income from such occupations obviously is paid for labors and skills rather then paid to accommodate interest on the investment. Yet concerning those businesses where little labor is involved and much investment is had, the going rate for such services or products will be much increased to provide payment for money invested, and those who receive the going rate are largely receiving payment for their investment. If one is paying interest on his business investment, it likely is not as wrong to receive the going and higher rate to help cover his actual interest costs, as if he was not paying any interest and yet charging the going and higher rate. bJ-31

Possibly some feel if they can achieve a sufficient income from a business that involves mostly investment and little labor they will be more free to labor in the Gospel. Others who have much money might feel if they can created a large income by investing their abundance in a business that will pay them for their investment, they will have much money to give for the sake of the Gospel. Although God can use our time and our money, yet it is clear that God does not want His people to attain to time and money to give to Him by means that are contrary to Godly principles. One should here remember how Saul brought a sacrifice to God provided by a means against His will, which sacrifice was not accepted, because it was to given according to God's plan (1 Sam 15:1-23). Although it does not appear that the money and time achieved through receiving usury is desired by God, yet God clearly can use the additional money and time that His people can attain to by denying themselves of luxurious living and refraining from paying unnecessary interest. It might here be worthwhile to consider that in many Christian congregations much more money could be achieved to be given to the Gospel by cutting off unnecessary interest paying, than what is achieved for the Gospel by charging interest. Possibly in God's sight, if a poor brother pays usury to a wealthy brother and the wealthy brother then gives this money to the Gospel, the poor one really is giving this money, yet possibly God does not consider it being given by anyone. God has not planned that the needs of the elderly should be provided by usury on their money wealth or property wealth, but rather has ordained firstly that their children and secondly the church should provide for the needs of the elderly (1 Tim 5). bJ-31

God is against usury because He desires equality, desires to help the poorer, and desires freely lending although with discretion. God does not desire that the wealthy should accumulate more wealth only through wealth, and God does not desire that the poorer must pay usury. One should here consider that the usury principle to some extent encourages covetousness as it encourages one to earn more than what he needs so that he can gain from his wealth. May God's people in these matters and all matters remember to follow the intent and spirit of the law, rather then the legalistic letter of the law. Christians knowing how the Scriptures do not approve of usury should not simply expect to get interest free loans, but should only borrow from others when truly needed and then expect to also give loans to others when needed. bJ-32

As it is clear that receiving usury is against the Biblical principles of freely sharing and helping the poor how should paying interest be considered? Receiving interest is unjust gain and oppressive while paying interest is an unjust cost and being oppressed. Even though being oppressed is better than oppressing, it must be considered that one who pays usury is directly supporting one in the wrong of receiving interest. Jeremiah 15:10 reads, "I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury..." thus discouraging both of them. Proverbs 22:16 reads, "He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want." According to history in the past usury was illegal and was not accepted by the public. Menno Simons speaking of the Catholic leaders says they were usurers and classifies this with many other grave sins, he also speaks of the Catholic leaders becoming so greedy they became open usurers. John Holdeman has a very good article on usury in the Mirror of Truth which I wish all would read. He writes if one willingly pays interest he is a transgressor of the law because he has pleasure in another's sin. bJ-33

It could be conflicting and possibly offensive if we would be paying interest to a neighbor or friend and meanwhile this individual would become interested in our faith and want to learn of our doctrines of which we would need to say that we do not believe in receiving interest, as previously we were paying him interest. As all areas of paying usury are considered, it becomes clear that usury should only be paid when a necessity, and the question yet remains how often is it a necessity especially since diligence, freely lending, and working together are Biblically taught. bJ-34

The writer one time felt he needed to get a loan at a bank which I did. Yet two other times when I thought I needed to get a loan at the bank, better opportunities for financial assistance arose. Once I was about to go to the bank, but before I got around to going, a brother stopped in and offered a small loan that filled the need. This brother charged no interest. I felt this brother coming when he did was more than just a coincidence. Another time I needed a larger loan, and was planning to go to the bank on the following Monday, but Sunday a friend stopped in for a short visit in which he complained how little interest the bank was paying him. So Monday while my wife yet thought I was going to the bank I simply went to that neighbor and we made a better financial arrangement, although I still paid some interest. I think this friend stopping in also was more than just a coincidence. I do not believe this friend had any idea that I was needing a loan and I do not think he ever before or after stopped in our house to visit. bJ-34.5

I have heard statements that in essence are saying that paying usury is something we need to accept and submit to as a necessity. It is true that if there is a lack of diligence, a lack of freely lending, and a lack of working together, the less wealthy may need to pay usury or scarcely have a house to live in. Yet diligence, freely lending, and working together are all Biblically taught. Paying usury cannot be accepted as a normal necessity since spoken against by Gods word and the solution to eliminate it's need is also included in the Bible. Calculations reveal some astounding possibilities how carefulness in earning and spending, freely lending, and working together can replace the need of paying usury. It is true that if an individual has only a small amount of funds to lend out, alone it is almost useless but by working together and combining these little amounts, very useful loans can be generated. If individuals because of a conviction that paying usury is outside of Gods perfect will and plan for His children, would seriously and diligently endeavor to eliminate its need by being careful in financial matters, freely lending, and working together, the need of borrowing on usury could soon be entirely eliminated. bJ-35

The following examples are not meant to strongly promote or make mandatory such plans but to portray what saving and freely lending can do. One example is if 5000 individuals would provide $24.00 each monthly for freely lending, the wealthier possibly paying some for the poorer, the need of new usury loans would soon disappear and present usury loans soon could be helped. During the first 8 years of this program some more than 108 loans, of $15,000 each could be issued annually based on being paid back in 8 years. From the 9th to the 16th year some more than 324 loans of this kind could be issued annually or half the loans of twice the amount could be issued if paid back in 8 years. From the 17th year to the 24th year some more than 540 loans of this kind could be issued annually or 108 loans of $75,000 each and after 24 years if no more fund were added, 648 of these loans could be issued annually or 108 loans of $90,000.00 based on an eight year payback schedule. It is also interesting that out of these five thousand individuals and average of 75 new homes begin annually, thus at the start of this fund more than enough of 15,000.00 dollar loans would be available for all home starters and after 24 years there would be 6 times as much funding available as would be needed to supply all home starters with $20,000.00 loans based on a 8 year payback time. Funding thus would be available for Businesses also. It is also interesting to consider that without freely lending and working together it is very possible that on and average over $100.00 interest is paid monthly per individual plus what is paid on rent. bJ-36

Although in the following example a loan is received equal to what was actually earned by previous savings, the principle of freely lending should not be based on freely lending now to receive a loan in the future. In this example if parents would save $18 monthly for each of their children to later purchase a dwelling place, at age 21 a couple starting a home of there own would have $9,072.00 saved for them by their parents to purchase a house. Calculations also reveal they would have provided enough loaning value to others by their 21 year savings to be now worthy of a 21,000 dollar loan based on being paid back in 8 years. Thus their would be $30,000.00 interest free funding available for their house. The children would first need to pay back the $21,000 loan, then their parents, while this $18.00 figure could be reduced since children should save some of their own funds. bJ-37

It must be considered if inflation were not compensated for the funds which individuals set aside for freely lending, which now would make useful loans would in time devaluate and lose much of their usefulness while those who borrow these funds would be accepting unjust gain by returning devaluated dollars to pay back their debt figure. The inflation problem if not compensated for, discourages freely lending both for those who would like to provide funds permanently for this purpose and for those who would freely lend until a future purchase, because the usefulness of funds permanently provided would gradually disappear and funds provided till future purchases would later not purchase what it originally would have. A simple inflation compensation plan between the lender and borrower can be used which would justly make the needed dollar figure adjustments to compensate for inflation while this compensation plan would also justly provide the needed adjustments for deflation. bJ-38

The early church in Acts had all things in common, thus in this way had in her care all of the possessions of her members. In the light of the above, would it not be proper for Gods Church today to offer to justly and efficiently care for the funds of those who desire to freely lend, and for the funds of those who desire to save for a future purchase, though operating a united fund exchange program which would have the purpose of encouraging freely lending, and of helping the church to abstain from the fellowship with usury that paying usury includes, thus being more perfectly separated from the world and escaping more of the corruption in the world through lust.

In conclusion, should we not count it a privilege to freely lend although with discretion and be thankful: God has blessed us so this is possible. May this article, further God's will in material areas for His children. bJ-39

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