Ezekiel 18:8 condemns the man who lends and demands interest. In fact, according to the prophet, the man who does so should be put to death. Not prison. Not exile. Death. And a similar condemnation of usury echoes throughout scripture: .
1. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 Command those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be haughty or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous givers, sharing with others. In this way they will save up a treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the future and so lay hold of what is truly life.
2. Matthew 5:40-42 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.
3. Psalm 112:4-9 Light shines in the darkness for the godly. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous. Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly. Such people will not be overcome by evil. Those who are righteous will be long remembered. They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly. They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor.
4. Deuteronomy 15:7-9 But if there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward them. Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need. Do not be mean-spirited and refuse someone a loan because the year for canceling debts is close at hand. If you refuse to make the loan and the needy person cries out to the Lord, you will be considered guilty of sin.
5. Luke 6:31-36 Do to others as you would like them to do to you. If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.
6. Proverbs 19:16-17 Keep God’s laws and you will live longer; if you ignore them, you will die. When you give to the poor, it is like lending to the Lord, and the Lord will pay you back.
7. Leviticus 25:35-37 And if thy brother grow poor, and he be fallen into decay beside thee, then thou shalt relieve him, [be he] stranger or sojourner, that he may live beside thee. Thou shalt take no usury nor increase of him; and thou shalt fear thy God; that thy brother may live beside thee. Thy money shalt thou not give him upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.
8. Luke 6:38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
9. Matthew 25:40 The king will answer them, “I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did for me.”
10. Hebrews 13:16 But don’t forget to help others and to share your possessions with them. This too is like offering a sacrifice that pleases God.
11. Proverbs 11:23-28 The desire of righteous people ends only in good, but the hope of wicked people ends only in fury. One person spends freely and yet grows richer, while another holds back what he owes and yet grows poorer. A generous person will be made rich, and whoever satisfies others will himself be satisfied. People will curse the one who hoards grain, but a blessing will be upon the head of the one who sells it. Whoever eagerly seeks good searches for good will, but whoever looks for evil finds it. Whoever trusts his riches will fall, but righteous people will flourish like a green leaf.
12. Psalm 37:25-27 I once was young and now I am old, but I have not seen a righteous person forsaken or his descendants begging for bread. Every day he is generous, lending freely, and his descendants are blessed. Depart from evil, and do good, and you will live in the land forever.
13. Exodus 22:25-27 If you lend money to my people—to any poor person among you—never act like a moneylender. Charge no interest. If you take any of your neighbor’s clothes as collateral, give it back to him by sunset. It may be the only clothes he has to cover his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will listen because I am compassionate.
14. Deuteronomy 23:19-20 Don’t charge interest to your relatives, whether for money, food, or for anything that has been loaned at interest. You may charge interest to a foreigner, but don’t charge interest to your relatives, so the Lord your God may bless you in everything you undertake in the land that you are about to enter and possess.
15. Ezekiel 18:5-9 Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right. He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of Israel. He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or have sexual relations with a woman during her period. He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan. He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked. He does not lend to them at interest or take a profit from them. He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between two parties. He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign Lord.
16. Proverbs 22:7-9 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity, and the rod they wield in fury will be broken. The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.
17. Psalm 37:21-24 The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously; those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those he curses will be destroyed. The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
18. Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
19. Proverbs 28:27 Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.
20. 2 Corinthians 9:6-9 Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you must give what you have decided in your heart, not with regret or under compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver. Besides, God is able to make every blessing of yours overflow for you, so that in every situation you will always have all you need for any good work. As it is written, He scatters everywhere and gives to the poor; his righteousness lasts forever.
21. Deuteronomy 8:18 But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God, for it is he that gives thee the power to get wealth that he may confirm his covenant which he swore unto thy fathers, as it is this day.
22. 1 Samuel 2:7 The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.
23. 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10 You yourselves know that you should live like we do. We were not lazy when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked and worked so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We worked night and day. We had the right to ask you to help us. But we worked to take care of ourselves so that we would be an example for you to follow. When we were with you, we gave you this rule: “Whoever will not work should not be allowed to eat.”
24. Matthew 6:19-21 Stop storing up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. Instead, store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust don’t destroy and thieves don’t break in and steal. Your heart will be where your treasure is.
25. 1 John 3:16-18 We have come to know love by this: that he laid down his life on behalf of us, and we ought to lay down our lives on behalf of the brothers. But whoever has the world’s material possessions and observes his brother in need and shuts his heart against him, how does the love of God reside in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.
In all, twenty five verses that imply, if not outright express, that usury is wrong in God’s eyes. Only Deuteronomy 23:19-20 says one may charge interest, but only to a foreigner. Yet, today, it is rare to find any one in either the Jewish or Christian community who abides by these admonitions. Charging interest, calculating interest, reducing interest, avoiding interest–these activities consume much of our time and energy, corporations, small businesses, and the individual consumer.
I point this out not because I’m against charging interest. That would be a declaration of war against the modern world. I merely want to call attention to the way we Christians have dealt with another set of prohibitions, prohibitions that have become the foundation of the opposition to same sex relations within the more conservative churches across the country. Six passages: three in the OT and three in the NT.
What puzzles me is why usury is rebuffed in twenty five places in the OT and the NT; yet, it’s not too much of a stretch to assert that lending with interest is one of the bigger engines that drives the modern world. No one pays attention to what the scripturs say. Same sex relations, on the other hand, are denounced in six places. Why have we (Christians) decided to consider the one worthy of our obedience and the other not? I’m focused on scripture and how we use it. The insane notion of opposing usury is just that, insane. But why do we choose to ignore scripture there, but not when it comes to a man lying with another man as with a woman. Is sexual morality more significant in God’s eyes than what we do with our money? Or have we rationalized the Bible’s anti-borrowing posture in such a way that we can tell ourselves that’s not really what the Bible means or says. A man dare not lie with another man, (Apart from Romans 1:27 the bible makes no mention of lesbians), but my credit card company’s interest rate has no relationship to the moral universe we inhabit.
One thought on “Usura and Same Sex Relations”
Good question, Lance. I contend the debt-backed economies of today’s world are evidence that the world is going to hell in a hand basket. There would be no usury if there were no debt, but debt binds individuals and nations to uncertain futures and stifles productive growth. In other words, if you are spending all your productivity playing catch-up, what incentives are there for moving forward?
Meanwhile, the perverse incentives in our world culture to spend beyond means leads to hasty decisions and lasting regrets, as we slowly drown ourselves and all life in environmental toxins, war, and incurable disease. There’s much to be said for earning before you spend, a method that has no place for usury.
There’s a lot of basic wisdom in the Bible.