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14495Re: [Covenanted Reformation] Usury or the Charging of Interest on Money Lent

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  • multiplose
    Apr 11, 2006
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      Actually, I find that the parable of talents only enhances my
      argument against usury. I think it's important to read verses 24-27
      to understand the context. The slave accuses his master of reaping
      where he has not sown and gathering where he has not strawed
      (scattered seed). Remembering that this is a parable, we read in
      verse 26, "His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and
      slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and
      gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put
      my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have
      received mine own with usury." I think the meaning of this text is
      that the servant is acting inconsistently with his conception of his
      master's will. If the master was an unjust man, who violated the
      principle of economic justice, as I have discussed in my post, then
      it would remain consistent with his character for the servant to put
      his money in the bank and collect interest.

      I find your literal interpretation of parables to be somewhat
      narrow. The purpose of a parable is to teach one main idea or
      thought, and to expound upon it, not to offer ethical commentary on
      a subordinate issue (an issue in the parable subordinate to the
      actual meaning). Take, for instance, the parable of the unjust
      servant (Luke 16). A literal interpretation would imply that Jesus
      is praising the unjust steward. He says in verse 8, "And the lord
      commended the unjust steward, becuse he had done wisely: for the
      children of this world are in their generation wiser than the
      children of light." Would you take this to mean that Jesus is
      condoning those who, managing the estate of others, charge only 1/2
      or 4/5 of the principal of others' debts? Is that what he means?
      Or is it that we should give and be generous to others who are in
      need, so that we can enter the kingdom of heaven? What is Jesus
      trying to tell us, a specific moral precept, or a general ethical
      principle of charity? You be the judge.

      In any case, I should move on to your other questions.

      You said, "Do we not want to make a distinction between usury in
      lending to our Christian brethren and poor neighbors and lending to
      banks in the form of interest-earning deposits?"

      Before I respond, I want to know if you are referring to passages
      like Deuteronomy 23:21-23, which say that Israelites may charge
      interest on foreigners but not brothers, and if not, then what
      Biblical references are you making (if any)?

      The reason we should not rent money is, as I said before, it
      violates the principle of economic justice. It is an unequal
      exchange. Money is not a commodity, unlike property and equipment,
      it is a medium of exchange. Property is actual capital, it is a
      commodity, it can be solded or traded. But money cannot be sold,
      because it is the very means by which we sell. Anything contrary to
      this, I humbly submit, is a violation of economic justice.

      I'm not discouraging investments and management; those things are
      valuable economic strategies. There are different kinds of
      investments, but those involve actual capital, not money. Like I
      said, turning money into an industry is unjust and perverted because
      it is the very means by which industry flows. It turns the nail on
      its head, and attempts to drive it into the wood.

      Buying and selling currencies is one for of investment that falls
      under this category. I humbly ask you, what Christian could look
      upon the profession of Christianity in a man who buys and sells
      currencies to get rich quick and does not labor for what is good
      himself?

      Perhaps you can respond to some of the verses I offered in
      condemnation of usury, and we could continue this discussion.

      I am,
      your beloved brother and servant in Christ,
      Julian R. Gress



      --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, Greg Griffith
      <gjgriff@...> wrote:
      >
      > Does not Jesus Christ endorse lending with interest to banks
      (explictly) and lending by banks (implicitly) in these texts from
      the parable of the talents?
      >
      > "Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers,
      and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury".
      (Mat 25:27)
      >
      > "Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at
      my coming I might have required mine own with usury:? (Luk 19:23)
      >
      > Do we not want to make a distinction between usury in lending to
      our Christian brethren and poor neighbors and lending to banks in
      the form of interest-earning deposits?
      >
      > If we can charge rent for the use of property and equipment, why
      would not be able charge for the rental of money?
      >
      > In the Bible, Abraham and Jacob and others had wealth from their
      possessions and flocks. They could not have accumulated their
      wealth on the basis of their personal labor alone. Yes, "the
      labourer is worthy of his reward" but some rewards come from
      possessions and investments and management and not from labor alone.
      >
      > Bill Gothard has given teaching that greatly discourages
      borrowing and I've been in sympathy with it although I consider it
      to be incomplete. It's a blessing to be able to lend and not to
      need to borrow. May we all be so blessed!
      >
      > Greg Griffith
      > Springs Reformed Church, member
      > Colorado Springs, CO
      >
      >
      > multiplose <multiplose@...> wrote:
      > Hi fellas,
      >
      > I wrote this post on usury for another site, an I have decided to
      > post it here as well. If anyone knows the historical/modern
      > churches stance on this position, especially what the RPNA
      believes,
      > I would like to know.
      >
      > I believe that usury, or the charging of interest on money lent
      > violates the principle of economic justice, and of all justice,
      > which I apprehend in both nature and morals, to be this: whatever
      a
      > man sows, he reaps. Or in other words, God shall repay every man
      > according to his works.
      >
      > Since this describes justice, it then follows that injustice is
      when
      > a man reaps where he does not sow, or when a man sows but does not
      > reap. This is what the Bible so often calls "unjust gain." When a
      > man steals from another, he profits when has not worked or earned
      > that profit. He has not translated labor into wealth. His gain is
      > not based on labor or his own work, but on another's; he has taken
      > what another man has earned.
      >
      > This is why I see usury as so great a sin. When the principal is
      > paid, where does the money come from to pay of the interest? It
      > comes from the back of the man who labors. If I lent someone $500,
      > charging interest (overall) of $50, I receive in return $550. I am
      > $50 richer than before, but the man whom I lent to is $50 poorer,
      > and furthermore that $50 came from his labor! Truly this is
      economic
      > injustice; to sell or rent ones money, to make money to be more
      > expensive than what it actually is. For who would not regard it a
      > great trickery and deception, if I exchanged my $1 for their $2,
      or
      > my $10, for their $100?! Usury is nothing more than exchanging the
      > use of someone else's money for more money, it is renting out
      money,
      > at an unequal cost. How can this not be a disproportionate gain,
      and
      > a great sin?
      >
      > Furthermore, the Bible issues several condemnations of usury. One
      is
      > located in Exodus 22:25, which states, "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." The immediate
      > context in verses 21-24 indicate that this is one way in which we
      > oppress other men, whether the stranger, the widow, or the orphan.
      > By charging interest on money lent (or victuals, or anything else
      > that can be lent upon usury, Lev. 25:35-37, Deuteronomy 23:19-20),
      > we take advantage of the poor among us, we use them, for our own
      > profit and interest.
      >
      > The Bible contains a godly example of when the rich exacted usury
      > from the poor in Nehemiah 5. We read, beginning in verse 1: "And
      > there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against
      their
      > brethren the Jews. For there were that said, We, our sons, and our
      > daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we
      may
      > eat, and live. Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged
      our
      > lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of
      the
      > dearth. There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the
      > king's tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards. Yet now our
      > flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their
      > children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our
      daughters
      > to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage
      > already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other man
      > have our lands and vineyards. And I was very angry when I heard
      > their cry and these words. Then I consulted with myself, and I
      > rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact
      > usury, everyone of his brother. And I set a great assembly against
      > them. And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our
      > brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen; and will ye
      > even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? Then held
      > they their peace, and found nothing to answer. Also I said, It is
      > not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God
      > because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies? I likewise,
      and
      > my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn:
      I
      > pray you, let us leave off this usury. 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, and of the
      corn,
      > the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them. Then said they, We
      > will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do
      > as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of
      them,
      > that they should do according to this promise. Also I shook my
      lap,
      > and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his
      > labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken
      > out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised
      > the Lord. And the people did according to this promise" (vs. 1-
      13).
      >
      > The exaction of usury, as in this case, and in several historical
      > examples, increases the poverty of the poor and the wealth of the
      > rich. Lending is by its own design an act of compassion, not
      profit.
      > When we lend we ought not to expect gain or increase; our concern
      > should be for the welfare of the individual to whom we are
      lending.
      >
      > It boggles me, to think that even a penny should be exacted from
      > money lent. Nehemiah commands the people to restore the "hundredth
      > part" of the money and corn, the wine and the oil. He
      says "restore"
      > because they are stolen. Something can only be restored when it is
      > taken unjustly.
      >
      > This injunction, I would argue, to restore the "hundredth part"
      also
      > implies that usury is not excessive interest, as the modern
      > terminology indicates. If Nehemiah demanded to repay back the
      > hundredth part of what he had taken, how could he have meant the
      > nobles were wrong in only taking more money than they should have?
      > He tells them to repay the hundredth part, that is, all of it,
      even
      > to the smallest cent. And where is the slightest indication of a
      > boundary or a limitation in Scripture on interest charged? Is it
      5%,
      > is it 10%, or is it 25%? How is that usury can be excessive
      interest
      > when in Scripture no definition of excessive is ever given?
      > Furthermore, any interest remains a violation of economic
      injustice,
      > because of its disproportionate nature.
      >
      > Wealth should be gotten by labour, as the Scripture says, "Wealth
      > gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by
      > labour shall increase" (Proverbs 13:11). Labor is the source of
      > wealth: "In all labour there is profit" (Proverbs 14:23). But he
      who
      > exacts usury, does not labor. He takes what is gained from another
      > man's labor, and in so doing, he steals that man's profit. This
      > makes it so the "rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is
      > servant to the lender," (Proverbs 22:7). And I do not think this
      to
      > be a positive connotation, because in the same chapter we
      read, "Rob
      > not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in
      > the gate: For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul
      of
      > those that spoiled them" (Proverbs 22:22-23). We may conclude from
      > what has been said that, according to Solomon's words, "He that by
      > usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it
      > for him that will pity the poor" (Proverbs 28:8). Compassion and
      > sincerity of heart in labor triumph over unjust gain and
      oppression.
      >
      > Calvin once wrote a letter, in which, according to my
      understanding
      > of it, he condemned usury charged from the poor, but not the rich.
      > To this, I answer, why would one lend to the rich? Why give to him
      > who has more than enough? Isn't the responsibility of giving on
      the
      > one who is rich, who "hath this world's good, and seeth his
      brother
      > have need" (1 John 3:17)? Doesn't a preoccupation with riches
      cause
      > the rich to "fall into temptation and a snare, into many foolish
      and
      > hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition;" and
      > have we not read that "the love of money is the root of all evil"
      (1
      > Timothy 6:9-10). I do not see how anyone can reconcile these
      > principles with Calvin's notion that we may exact usury when we
      lend
      > to the rich, but no to the poor, because the very notion of
      lending
      > is to help those in need, not to bolster the riches of the rich,
      so
      > that they can be wealthier for a time. This I utterly denounce as
      > greediness and and the "hurtful lusts" which "drown men in
      > destruction and perdition."
      >
      > Besides, if usury is an economic injustice, as shown before, then
      > Calvin's statement would be like saying that, while we should not
      > steal from the poor, because they are poor, we may steal from the
      > rich, because they are rich! Both are a violation of commandment
      > eight, "Thou shalt not steal" (Exodus 20:15).
      >
      > In Ezekiel 18, particularly verses 8, 13, and 17, God lists the
      > exacting of usury among sins of a perpetual moral nature, sins
      such
      > as violence, idolatry, and a adultery. Usury is not merely a
      > political law meant only for the Israelities, but a law of this
      same
      > perpetual and moral nature. And upon the nation who practices
      > economic justice, we read of Israel as an example, "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." This is a political economic promise, and its condition is
      > political and economic justice. It is not one of the various and
      > sundry laws by which Christ was revealed to the Israelities, but
      is
      > a moral law, one just as applicable to nations today as it was to
      > the Israelities. They are told that if they behave this way
      > economically, that their labor shall cause them to prosper, and
      God
      > will bless them economically for it. I don't see how anyone could
      > not understand this to be a statement as much a statement about
      > morals as it is about economics and politics. Surely there is a
      > correlation between economic justice and economic blessing, as
      this
      > verse indicates. And therefore, this injunction applies even
      today,
      > and is of moral obligation.
      >
      > Lastly, the Westminster Standards condemn usury and approve of
      > lending and giving freely in the Larger Catechism, as you may see
      in
      > questions 141 & 142
      >
      > Having said all these things, I would quote the words of the
      Apostle
      > Paul and the Prophet Jeremiah. Ephesians 4:28 says, "Let him that
      > stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his
      > hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him
      that
      > needeth." And Jeremiah 17:10-11 states, "I the Lord search the
      > heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his
      > ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. As the partridge
      > sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches,
      > and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and
      at
      > his end shall be a fool."
      >
      > To those who read this,
      > I would like to hear from you, whether you agree or not, and why.
      >
      > I am happily resigned to the grace of God, having studied this
      issue
      > for sometime, to allow for criticism of my thoughts, that I might
      > improve, as iron sharpens iron.
      >
      > I am,
      > your dear and beloved brother in Christ,
      > Julian R. Gress
      >
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