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Usury or the Charging of Interest on Money Lent

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  • multiplose
    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
    Message 1 of 11 , Apr 11, 2006
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      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
    • Greg Griffith
      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?
      Message 2 of 11 , Apr 11, 2006
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        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
      • multiplose
        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.
        Message 3 of 11 , 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
          >
        • forisraelssake
          Dear Julian I am in the RPNA, and while I don t think more than a few of the aspects related to interest-bearing loans are even covered in the faithful
          Message 4 of 11 , Apr 12, 2006
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            Dear Julian

            I am in the RPNA, and while I don't think more than a few of the
            aspects related to interest-bearing loans are even covered in the
            faithful judicial rulings of the Church of Scotland (so leaving this
            in effect an open question/adiaphora among members), it has always
            been my conviction that charging a fair interest rate that is not
            excessive/usurious is biblically justified, since it is just
            compensation for the high time preference of the borrower and the low
            time preference of the lender.

            Interest is the price that borrowers put on having money now rather
            than having money later. This is based on the fact that there is
            always a difference in value between present goods and future goods of
            equal quality, quantity, and form. All other things being equal
            (ceteris paribus), we want to have something now rather than have it
            later. That being the case, the only way to compensate someone for our
            having the thing now rather than later is to promise repayment with
            interest. Interest is not, I repeat, is not by its nature
            exploitative. While it is possible to criminally exact exploitative
            conditions/requirements from the desperately needy in return for a
            loan, that represents the abuse of the institution of lending and not
            what is intrinsic to it.

            Gary North, who is a sound writer in matters economic, has a lot of
            things written about interest being justified but here is a link to an
            important article on usury/interest in his biblical commentaries
            (although I am sure there are many other places where he discusses it
            in his books):
            http://www.entrewave.com/freebooks/docs/html/gnde/Chapter55.htm

            Sincerely,

            Chris Tylor
            RPNA
            Edmonton, AB
          • forisraelssake
            ... Actually I will have to modify what I said. Since this is a moral issue, binding and loosing consciences, this is not adiaphoron. This is not analogous to
            Message 5 of 11 , Apr 12, 2006
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              --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, "forisraelssake"
              <c_tylor@...> wrote:
              >
              > Dear Julian
              >
              > I am in the RPNA, and while I don't think more than a few of the
              > aspects related to interest-bearing loans are even covered in the
              > faithful judicial rulings of the Church of Scotland (so leaving this
              > in effect an open question/adiaphora among members), it has always
              > been my conviction that....
              >

              Actually I will have to modify what I said. Since this is a moral
              issue, binding and loosing consciences, this is not adiaphoron. This
              is not analogous to supra-/infra-lapsarianism,
              creationism/traducianism or any of the other perennial historic
              Protestant controversies where both sides are permitted the liberty to
              have their own beliefs, due to the nature of in these historic cases,
              it is at this point all purely theoretical. However when a time comes
              that it can be demonstrated before a church court that one side
              advocates a position leading to heresy and wickedness (which has not
              yet happened in the two classic examples of permitted disagreement),
              then no longer will faithful church courts allow a range of opinion in
              these matters.

              That is why I completely mispoke in talking about usury. Julian's
              position (if he advocated it with certainty) could never be allowed to
              simultaneously exist in a Church that has people advocating North's
              position with certainty, because this is a doctrinal question that
              will directly and obviously lead to factions that insist on
              incompatible moral positions and bind and loose consciences
              differently, which is contrary to God's will for his people. And
              reviewing the full-position that is found in Julian's post, I believe
              it is contrary to the known historical testimony of faithful church
              courts, which never abolished commercial interest-bearing loans (so
              far as I know) and has only condemned usury/interest in certain
              relatively specific circumstances, not all generalized circumstances
              for all loans whatsoever.

              Thanks for letting me take the opportunity to correct myself.

              Chris
              Edmonton, AB
              RPNA
            • multiplose
              Thank you Chris, for your thoughtfulness on this matter. Do you mind expounding upon your position with historical examples? In particular, I want to know more
              Message 6 of 11 , Apr 12, 2006
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                Thank you Chris, for your thoughtfulness on this matter.

                Do you mind expounding upon your position with historical examples?
                In particular, I want to know more about this, "I believe it is
                contrary to the known historical testimony of faithful church courts,
                which never abolished commercial interest-bearing loans (so
                far as I know)."

                Thanks,

                Your brother in Christ,
                Julian R. Gress

                --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, "forisraelssake"
                <c_tylor@...> wrote:
                >
                > --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, "forisraelssake"
                > <c_tylor@> wrote:
                > >
                > > Dear Julian
                > >
                > > I am in the RPNA, and while I don't think more than a few of the
                > > aspects related to interest-bearing loans are even covered in the
                > > faithful judicial rulings of the Church of Scotland (so leaving
                this
                > > in effect an open question/adiaphora among members), it has always
                > > been my conviction that....
                > >
                >
                > Actually I will have to modify what I said. Since this is a moral
                > issue, binding and loosing consciences, this is not adiaphoron. This
                > is not analogous to supra-/infra-lapsarianism,
                > creationism/traducianism or any of the other perennial historic
                > Protestant controversies where both sides are permitted the liberty
                to
                > have their own beliefs, due to the nature of in these historic
                cases,
                > it is at this point all purely theoretical. However when a time
                comes
                > that it can be demonstrated before a church court that one side
                > advocates a position leading to heresy and wickedness (which has not
                > yet happened in the two classic examples of permitted disagreement),
                > then no longer will faithful church courts allow a range of opinion
                in
                > these matters.
                >
                > That is why I completely mispoke in talking about usury. Julian's
                > position (if he advocated it with certainty) could never be allowed
                to
                > simultaneously exist in a Church that has people advocating North's
                > position with certainty, because this is a doctrinal question that
                > will directly and obviously lead to factions that insist on
                > incompatible moral positions and bind and loose consciences
                > differently, which is contrary to God's will for his people. And
                > reviewing the full-position that is found in Julian's post, I
                believe
                > it is contrary to the known historical testimony of faithful church
                > courts, which never abolished commercial interest-bearing loans (so
                > far as I know) and has only condemned usury/interest in certain
                > relatively specific circumstances, not all generalized circumstances
                > for all loans whatsoever.
                >
                > Thanks for letting me take the opportunity to correct myself.
                >
                > Chris
                > Edmonton, AB
                > RPNA
                >
              • forisraelssake
                ... I fail to see how engaging in currency arbitrage is ungodly. It is a risky endevour, that takes skill and talent, it equalizes markets, removes local
                Message 7 of 11 , Apr 12, 2006
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                  > 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?
                  >

                  I fail to see how engaging in currency arbitrage is ungodly. It is a
                  risky endevour, that takes skill and talent, it equalizes markets,
                  removes local provincial distortions in pricing, and ensures the
                  fairest price predominates globally, rather than irrational local gouging.

                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arbitrage
                • forisraelssake
                  ... Well my friend, how can I expand on it--by pointing to the lack of examples of faithful Reformed churches judicially outlawing usury in all cases
                  Message 8 of 11 , Apr 12, 2006
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                    > Do you mind expounding upon your position with historical examples?
                    > In particular, I want to know more about this, "I believe it is
                    > contrary to the known historical testimony of faithful church courts,
                    > which never abolished commercial interest-bearing loans (so
                    > far as I know)."
                    >
                    >

                    Well my friend, how can I expand on it--by pointing to the lack of
                    examples of faithful Reformed churches judicially outlawing usury in
                    all cases everywhere? Well I just did that. Can you point to an
                    example where that did happen? Isn't it be more your job to find
                    relevant sections from the subordinate standards of the RPNA that
                    justifies your all-usury-without-exception-is-wrong line of argument?
                    The usury that is forbidden in Q142 of the Larger Catechism points to
                    Ps. 15:5 where the term signifies unlawful interest, or that which is
                    got by taking advantage of the necessity of a distressed neighbor (and
                    not 'interest' simpliciter).

                    In John Gill's commentary on that passage, which is certainly
                    representative of the larger Calvinist community of thought (cf.
                    Geneva Bible, Adam Clarke, Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon, J,F,&B),
                    he writes:

                    Psa 15:5 - He that putteth not out his money to usury,.... To the
                    poor, in an extravagant and exorbitant way, by which he bites,
                    devours, and destroys his little substance, and sadly afflicts and
                    distresses him; see Exo_22:25; otherwise, to lend money on moderate
                    interest, and according to the laws, customs, and usages of nations,
                    and to take interest for it, is no more unlawful than to take interest
                    for houses and land; yea, it is according to the law of common justice
                    and equity, that if one man lends money to another to trade with, and
                    gain by, that he should have a proportionate share in the gain of such
                    a trade; but the design of this passage, and the law on which it is
                    founded, is, to forbid all exactions and oppressions of the poor, and
                    all avaricious practices, and to encourage liberality and beneficence;
                    and such who are covetous, and bite and oppress the poor, are not fit
                    for church communion; see 1Co_5:11

                    The point is that while the bible outlaws usury on charitable loans (a
                    charitable loan is not optional but morally compulsory) to brothers in
                    the faith and to aliens who voluntarily live under God's laws, it does
                    not forbid interest-bearing commercial loans.

                    Interest on charitable loans forbidden:
                    Exodus 22:25 "If you lend money to any of my people with you who is
                    poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not
                    exact interest from him.

                    Charitable loans declared morally compulsory:
                    Deuteronomy 15:7-8 "If among you, one of your brothers should become
                    poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is
                    giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against
                    your poor brother, (8) but you shall open your hand to him and lend
                    him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.

                    Gary North has a good observation on how the critics of interest on
                    commercial loans don't seem to apply their same logic to opposing rent
                    on land:
                    "...The critics of usury have generally viewed rent on land as
                    legitimate. If I loan someone 20 ounces of gold and charge him one
                    ounce per year in interest, I am viewed as a usurer and somehow
                    morally questionable. If, on the other hand, I let the same person use
                    my farm land, which is worth 20 gold ounces, and I charge him one
                    ounce of gold per year as rent, I come under no criticism. Why this
                    difference in opinion? In both cases, I give up something valuable for
                    a period of time. I can either spend the gold or invest it in a
                    business venture. Similarly, I can either sell the farm or plow it,
                    plant it, and reap a crop. In both cases, I allow someone else to use
                    my asset for a year, with which he can then pursue his own goals. I
                    charge him for this privilege of gaining temporary control over a
                    valuable asset. I charge either interest or rent because I do not
                    choose to give away the income which my asset could generate during
                    the period in which the other person controls it.

                    "To expect me to loan someone my 20 ounces of gold at no interest is
                    the same, economically speaking, as to expect me to loan him the use
                    of my farm land on a rent-free basis."

                    Do you require property must be bought outright or do you permit
                    renting? Or to use an Ad Hominem Tu Quoque, do you rent or lease land,
                    a house or apartment, a car or any other equipment? If so Julian, can
                    you rebut North's argument?

                    I strongly recommend reading North's paper that I linked to earlier.
                    Unfortunately if I might say so, you don't seem very familiar with
                    sound economic writers, or the role interest plays in allocating goods
                    and services between individuals with competing time preferences. You
                    use phrases like economic justice (which is a perfectly fine concept
                    in theory when supporting the natural law rights of property owners
                    against tyranny, coercion, and fraud) in ways that sound uncomfortably
                    socialistic and Marxian. I don't think you have any leg to stand on
                    with the historical testimony of the faithful in condeming commercial
                    loans as a moral evil, and I am still interested in seeing if you
                    condemn the institution of renting/leasing as well or if you are
                    willing to rethink your entire economic paradigm. I pray you are.

                    Chris
                    Edmonton, AB
                    RPNA
                  • multiplose
                    Dear Chris, Thanks for your thoughtful replies up to this point. Your first argument deals with the testimony of faithful church courts, and uses the argument
                    Message 9 of 11 , Apr 15, 2006
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                      Dear Chris,

                      Thanks for your thoughtful replies up to this point.

                      Your first argument deals with the testimony of faithful church
                      courts, and uses the argument that because they never condemned
                      usury, it is therefore their testimony that it is allowable. Not
                      knowing a great deal about the operation of church courts, I am
                      hardly able to dispute the underlying assumption here (that a lack
                      of condemnation of a particular practice is equivalent to an
                      approval thereof), however, a number of responses come to mind.

                      1. Could not the opposite argument be made? Couldn't I say that
                      because usury was never authorized by faithful church courts, it is
                      therefore condemned by those same courts? And if this can be taken
                      to mean either, then is not your argument ambigious and inconclusive?

                      2. Don't church courts need an actual case in order to rule on a
                      particular issue? Wouldn't they need a particular example of the
                      practice of usury in order to condemn? Nehemiah condemned usury
                      when it arose in the Israelite society, but not before. So
                      likewise, civil courts in the U.S. cannot rule on an issue
                      arbitrarily, without an actual case. What makes church courts any
                      different?

                      3. The testimony of the church for 100's of years was unanimously
                      against usury. It is needless to point to particular examples; the
                      plain and simple fact is that usury has only been commonplace for a
                      relatively short time.

                      So, in response, I would say that even if your argument could defend
                      its underlying assumption (that lack of a condemnation of a
                      particular practice is equivalent to an authorization of the same),
                      you still have some 1500 years of church history to refute your
                      initial premise.

                      4. You mentioned that the usury spoken of in Q142 of the Larger
                      Catechism refers to an exorbitant amount of usury. I answer that...

                      i. The original sense of the word usury had nothing to do with
                      exorbitant amounts of interest. It include all interest whatsoever,
                      anything beyond the principle (see Calvin Elliot's book
                      entitled "Usury: A Scriptural, Ethical, and Economic View," pages 7-
                      10, provided free at http://fax.libs.uga.edu/HB539xE46/1f/usury.pdf).

                      ii. Even if it did refer to exorbitant interest, are you prepared
                      to accept the consequences of that judgment? This would mean that
                      Israelites (and Christians) are forbidden from charging exorbitant
                      interest from one another, but that they are allowed (so far as I
                      understand your interpretation of the Deut. 23:19,20) to charge
                      exorbitant interest from strangers and non-Christians. But that
                      seems contrary to common sense; an exorbitant amount is by its very
                      definition avaricious and oppressive. Is this what you mean to say?

                      iii. The connotation of the word "bite" implies not huge bites of
                      interest, but small ones, which multiply exponential (as compound
                      interest does). Even a "moderate" amount of interest, as Gill calls
                      it, is sufficient to compound and increase exponentially. We tend
                      to view small amounts of money as almost having completely different
                      principles as larger amounts. But really this is ridiculous. If I
                      steal a penny from my friend, I am just as obligated to restore it
                      as I am to restore $100 stolen from the same friend. In fact, in
                      the case of $100, I am merely restoring 10,000 pennies, each,
                      individually, but as a whole sum. Remember, Nehemiah told the
                      Israelites to restore the "hundredth part."

                      iv. The qualification of charging interest not to the poor in the
                      passage does not lie in the actual passage. While certain texts
                      bring up the issue of a poor brethren, Psalm 15:5 does not, neither
                      does Deuteronomy 23:19,20, nor can it fairly be interpreted that way.

                      In response to Gary North's argument regarding renting money vs.
                      renting property, I say, that is the exact distinction to be made.
                      In the case of charging interest, you are charging interest on
                      money, and money is not a commodity, but a means of exchange.
                      Property is a commodity, and is subject to being lent, leased, or
                      rented. Money, on the other hand, is barren. But since I have not
                      studied this aspect of the issue enough to make a sound exposition,
                      I will save that for another time, and qualify what I have said
                      already with my relative ignorance on the matter. Suffice it to
                      say, seeing as I am young and only 17, I do not lease, rent, or do
                      any of the activities you mentioned. So that would make your ad
                      hominem argument to none effect :)! But I do support the
                      distinction anyway, so I will hopefully respond to that argument in
                      a future post.

                      Your last paragraph is troubling to me. In what way have I sounded
                      socialistic and Marxian to you? Are you drawing implications or
                      making observations?

                      I suppose I ought to confess, I have not read a great deal about
                      economics. But I have read my Bible, and I try to base my economic
                      theories on its teachings. Furthermore, I have studied certain
                      economists and have discussions with one of my teachers on the
                      matter. But whether any of this really matters to the substance of
                      our debate, I think not.

                      May God richly bless you in all that you do,
                      Your brother in Christ,
                      Julian R. Gress


                      --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, "forisraelssake"
                      <c_tylor@...> wrote:
                      >
                      > > Do you mind expounding upon your position with historical
                      examples?
                      > > In particular, I want to know more about this, "I believe it is
                      > > contrary to the known historical testimony of faithful church
                      courts,
                      > > which never abolished commercial interest-bearing loans (so
                      > > far as I know)."
                      > >
                      > >
                      >
                      > Well my friend, how can I expand on it--by pointing to the lack of
                      > examples of faithful Reformed churches judicially outlawing usury
                      in
                      > all cases everywhere? Well I just did that. Can you point to an
                      > example where that did happen? Isn't it be more your job to find
                      > relevant sections from the subordinate standards of the RPNA that
                      > justifies your all-usury-without-exception-is-wrong line of
                      argument?
                      > The usury that is forbidden in Q142 of the Larger Catechism points
                      to
                      > Ps. 15:5 where the term signifies unlawful interest, or that which
                      is
                      > got by taking advantage of the necessity of a distressed neighbor
                      (and
                      > not 'interest' simpliciter).
                      >
                      > In John Gill's commentary on that passage, which is certainly
                      > representative of the larger Calvinist community of thought (cf.
                      > Geneva Bible, Adam Clarke, Matthew Henry, Charles Spurgeon,
                      J,F,&B),
                      > he writes:
                      >
                      > Psa 15:5 - He that putteth not out his money to usury,.... To the
                      > poor, in an extravagant and exorbitant way, by which he bites,
                      > devours, and destroys his little substance, and sadly afflicts and
                      > distresses him; see Exo_22:25; otherwise, to lend money on moderate
                      > interest, and according to the laws, customs, and usages of
                      nations,
                      > and to take interest for it, is no more unlawful than to take
                      interest
                      > for houses and land; yea, it is according to the law of common
                      justice
                      > and equity, that if one man lends money to another to trade with,
                      and
                      > gain by, that he should have a proportionate share in the gain of
                      such
                      > a trade; but the design of this passage, and the law on which it is
                      > founded, is, to forbid all exactions and oppressions of the poor,
                      and
                      > all avaricious practices, and to encourage liberality and
                      beneficence;
                      > and such who are covetous, and bite and oppress the poor, are not
                      fit
                      > for church communion; see 1Co_5:11
                      >
                      > The point is that while the bible outlaws usury on charitable
                      loans (a
                      > charitable loan is not optional but morally compulsory) to
                      brothers in
                      > the faith and to aliens who voluntarily live under God's laws, it
                      does
                      > not forbid interest-bearing commercial loans.
                      >
                      > Interest on charitable loans forbidden:
                      > Exodus 22:25 "If you lend money to any of my people with you who
                      is
                      > poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall
                      not
                      > exact interest from him.
                      >
                      > Charitable loans declared morally compulsory:
                      > Deuteronomy 15:7-8 "If among you, one of your brothers should
                      become
                      > poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your
                      God is
                      > giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand
                      against
                      > your poor brother, (8) but you shall open your hand to him and
                      lend
                      > him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.
                      >
                      > Gary North has a good observation on how the critics of interest on
                      > commercial loans don't seem to apply their same logic to opposing
                      rent
                      > on land:
                      > "...The critics of usury have generally viewed rent on land as
                      > legitimate. If I loan someone 20 ounces of gold and charge him one
                      > ounce per year in interest, I am viewed as a usurer and somehow
                      > morally questionable. If, on the other hand, I let the same person
                      use
                      > my farm land, which is worth 20 gold ounces, and I charge him one
                      > ounce of gold per year as rent, I come under no criticism. Why this
                      > difference in opinion? In both cases, I give up something valuable
                      for
                      > a period of time. I can either spend the gold or invest it in a
                      > business venture. Similarly, I can either sell the farm or plow it,
                      > plant it, and reap a crop. In both cases, I allow someone else to
                      use
                      > my asset for a year, with which he can then pursue his own goals. I
                      > charge him for this privilege of gaining temporary control over a
                      > valuable asset. I charge either interest or rent because I do not
                      > choose to give away the income which my asset could generate during
                      > the period in which the other person controls it.
                      >
                      > "To expect me to loan someone my 20 ounces of gold at no interest
                      is
                      > the same, economically speaking, as to expect me to loan him the
                      use
                      > of my farm land on a rent-free basis."
                      >
                      > Do you require property must be bought outright or do you permit
                      > renting? Or to use an Ad Hominem Tu Quoque, do you rent or lease
                      land,
                      > a house or apartment, a car or any other equipment? If so Julian,
                      can
                      > you rebut North's argument?
                      >
                      > I strongly recommend reading North's paper that I linked to
                      earlier.
                      > Unfortunately if I might say so, you don't seem very familiar with
                      > sound economic writers, or the role interest plays in allocating
                      goods
                      > and services between individuals with competing time preferences.
                      You
                      > use phrases like economic justice (which is a perfectly fine
                      concept
                      > in theory when supporting the natural law rights of property owners
                      > against tyranny, coercion, and fraud) in ways that sound
                      uncomfortably
                      > socialistic and Marxian. I don't think you have any leg to stand on
                      > with the historical testimony of the faithful in condeming
                      commercial
                      > loans as a moral evil, and I am still interested in seeing if you
                      > condemn the institution of renting/leasing as well or if you are
                      > willing to rethink your entire economic paradigm. I pray you are.
                      >
                      > Chris
                      > Edmonton, AB
                      > RPNA
                      >
                    • forisraelssake
                      Hello Julian You raise a number of interesting criticisms of my position which I will endevour to answer in a biblical way, time permitting. However first I
                      Message 10 of 11 , Apr 16, 2006
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                        Hello Julian

                        You raise a number of interesting criticisms of my position which I
                        will endevour to answer in a biblical way, time permitting. However
                        first I would like to present a positive biblical argument justifying
                        usury in some (but not all) contexts.

                        Defintion of usury: usury is any positive rate of return taken from a loan

                        There is no universal prohibition in the Bible against interest. This
                        is clear from the text in Deuteronomy that authorizes covenant-keepers
                        to make interest-bearing charitable loans to covenantal strangers.

                        Deuteronomy 23:19-20 "You shall not charge interest on loans to your
                        brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything
                        that is lent for interest. (20) You may charge a foreigner interest,
                        but you may not charge your brother interest, that the LORD your God
                        may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are
                        entering to take possession of it.

                        This text means your position (viz. that interest is always
                        prohibited) cannot be correct. V.20 authorizes usury on people outside
                        of the covenant people, which is unfathomable if usury is a moral evil
                        like murder, adultery or stealing. We need to explore exegetically the
                        distinction being set up by Moses here between the two groups and the
                        motivation for it, but it is plain that usury cannot be an
                        *unconditional* moral evil but one conditioned on a specific set of
                        circumstances.

                        Next, God positively commends the institution of loans as an example
                        of how blessed and rich he will be making the commonwealth of Israel:
                        Deuteronomy 15:6 For the LORD your God will bless you, as he
                        promised you, and ***you shall lend to many nations***, but you
                        shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they
                        shall not rule over you.

                        To make your point, you would have to argue this verse speaks only of
                        charitable zero-interest loans to foreigners (for when interest is
                        prohibited, all legal loans become charitable). Yet the Moses texts
                        are clear, "covenant-keepers do not owe interest-free charitable loans
                        to those who are not under the jurisdiction of either God's
                        ecclesiastical covenant or God's civil covenant." (North.) Since God
                        in Deut 23:20 authorizes commercial non-charitable legal loans to
                        foreigners, and it likewise does not obligate you to charitably loan
                        (interest-free) even if they are desperately poor when they are not a
                        brother (i.e. fellow covenant-keeper), it does suggest the loans in
                        this verse are interest-carrying commercial loans being used as a tool
                        of dominion.

                        Usury being forbidden is always most strongly tied to the concept of
                        taking interest on morally obligatory charitable loans to the severely
                        distressed brother. For instance:
                        Leviticus 25:35-37 "If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain
                        himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger
                        and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. (36) Take no interest
                        from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live
                        beside you. (37) You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor
                        give him your food for profit.

                        This was not to be undertaken lightly. If a person took an
                        interest-free charitable loan and defaulted on it, he had to be
                        willing to go into bondservice for up to six years. And the courts
                        were required to enforce this. It was this being willing to risk
                        bondservice that marked the loan as a charitable as opposed to a
                        commercial loan. "Accepting such a loan was a last resort. It was this
                        degree of poverty, and only this degree of poverty, that created a
                        moral obligation on the lender to lend." (North, Commentary on
                        Leviticus, ch.29).

                        Consider this, in our context, where very few people in our lands have
                        credible professions of faith and so are not within the
                        covenant-community of the brethren, we have no obligation whatsoever
                        to them to lend usury-free. That stipulation only applies to the
                        brethren, and I submit, only to the desperately poor (through no moral
                        fault of their own) who we have an obligation to help--and how in
                        return become obligated to repay us or become for a limit time our slave.

                        In response to your points,

                        Pursuant to points one and two, as you yourself admit it doesn't work
                        that way if they encountered the institution in their practise. Your
                        reasoning only applies if this controversy didn't arise and so there
                        is historical silence on this matter. However commercial loans are not
                        a novel phenomenon, new to our modern industrial life. They go way
                        back to ancient times. The Reformers were confronted with the topic
                        and, as evidenced by the fact that the faithful Reformed Churches in
                        their purer times did not forbid their members from loaning money at
                        usury, (contra the Romish Church's law for its members), that is proof
                        positive they rejected your view. Your view is certainly traditional
                        in some quarters and has a long pedigree so I definitely don't want to
                        make it sound like it is not worthy of consideration, but that it has
                        been considered and was considered by the faithful contending
                        church... and reject.

                        There is no question (pursuant to your third point) that the
                        Prereformation Church taught your position, beginning in a limited
                        form in 325 AD at the Council of Nicea (clerics were prohibited from
                        making interest-bearing loans) to later total prohibitions in the
                        Second Lateran Council (1139) and the Council at Vienna (1311-12) (cf.
                        http://www.entrewave.com/freebooks/docs/html/gnbd/Chapter29.htm -
                        footnote #2). However, within the Reformed Church, the view of the
                        medieval Schoolmen was not unanimous and many Reformed pastors and
                        ministers spoke against Rome's view that all usury is prohibited in
                        all contexts. So I strongly dispute your claim that your view is the
                        traditional view of the Reformed Churches. It is not. You only need to
                        look at the Geneva Bible's comments and Matthew Henry's to see the
                        Reformers speak out against your view/the scholastic view.

                        With regards to point four, while you say many things that I can agree
                        with, I think you changed John Gill's polemic against extravagant and
                        exorbitant usury to the poor, to just exorbitant interest per se. I
                        can't say I endorse Gill's whole idea (I am more aligned with North)
                        but I just wanted to show you a theologian from 400 years ago who is a
                        representative Calvinist commentator who opposed the medieval
                        scholastic view. I perhaps can reply more to this later when I have
                        more time, but I have to make preparations for worship now. I'll talk
                        to you later Julian, have a good sabbath day.

                        Chris Tylor
                        Edmonton AB
                        RPNA
                      • multiplose
                        Dear Chris, With regards to your positive argument for the charging of interest on money lent, I believe that the text of Deuteronomy 23:19,20 does not support
                        Message 11 of 11 , Apr 19, 2006
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                          Dear Chris,

                          With regards to your positive argument for the charging of interest
                          on money lent, I believe that the text of Deuteronomy 23:19,20 does
                          not support your cause, and for two reasons:

                          1. Since strangers and sojourners are already described and dealt
                          with in the Law of Moses as being protected from interest on loans
                          (Lev. 25:35), I think the best interpretation of this text is that
                          the "strangers" referred to here are the nations whom Israel was to
                          drive out of Canaan. God had promised to destroy these nations
                          little by little, over a long period of time, and to accomplish this
                          utter destruction he permitted the Israelites to charge usury on
                          loans lent to these nations. This was God's specific judgment on
                          those nations. I highly recommend Calvin Elliot's which I mentioned
                          and provided a link to in a previous post. The third chapter deals,
                          in my opinion, effectively with this issue.

                          2. Even if this passage allows us to charge interest from
                          strangers, it does not necessarily follow that we can charge
                          interest from non-Christian countrymen. The prohibition of usury in
                          its context of Deuteronomy 23:19,20 was annexed to the political
                          economy, not religion, as is clear from the blessing promised to
                          ensue upon its being adhered to. It would appear from this that the
                          commandment was not intended for the Israelites as God's covenant
                          people from a religious standpoint, but of God's covenant nation.
                          This means that intra-usury in God's chosen nation is prohibited on
                          political grounds, and therefore, the same applies today through the
                          same reasoning. What I am trying to say is, we would not be
                          permitted to charge interest from fellow countrymen, even if they
                          were non-Christians.

                          And since at that time, Israel was God's chosen nation, and now, all
                          nations are welcomed and invited to the Gospel, it would seem that
                          interest charged on any loan to whomever it be, is contrary to the
                          Gospel principles.

                          If you need any clarification of what I am trying to say, please ask.

                          Secondly, I find your argument from Deuteronomy 15:6 inconclusive.
                          In my opinion, it is referring to the utter destruction of the
                          Canaanite nations, as I described before. But I could also see it
                          referring to charitable zero-interest loans.

                          Furthermore, you made the point that loans for the poor were to be
                          charitable, but that this should not be a limit to commercial
                          loans. I must disagree, however. The prohibition in Deuteronomy
                          23:19,20 makes no qualification, and neither does Ps. 15:5.
                          Stealing from the rich is not lawful even though stealing from the
                          poor might be much worse. If it can be shown that usury is a moral
                          evil, as I have endeavored to show, it being placed among the
                          abominations of the Israelites (Ezekiel 18), then it does not matter
                          to whom money is being lent. It only matters that something is
                          being lent at all. Besides, the law is to be taken at its spirit,
                          and its letter. No one would suppose that because the Ten
                          Commandments prohibit murder, that is therefore lawful for me to
                          beat someone as long as I don't kill them. Neither should we think
                          that the prohibition of charging interest on loans should be limited
                          to the poor, but to all lending for any purpose (btw, to clarify, I
                          consider loans to be only charitable, so the idea of a "commercial
                          loan" is not present in my vocabulary, it being a violation of
                          economic justice, although I understand the concept full well).

                          I hope you are able to make some sense out of my scrambled
                          thoughts. I will await your reply to my other points.

                          Thanks,
                          your humble servant in our Lord Christ,
                          Julian R. Gress


                          --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, "forisraelssake"
                          <c_tylor@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > Hello Julian
                          >
                          > You raise a number of interesting criticisms of my position which I
                          > will endevour to answer in a biblical way, time permitting. However
                          > first I would like to present a positive biblical argument
                          justifying
                          > usury in some (but not all) contexts.
                          >
                          > Defintion of usury: usury is any positive rate of return taken
                          from a loan
                          >
                          > There is no universal prohibition in the Bible against interest.
                          This
                          > is clear from the text in Deuteronomy that authorizes covenant-
                          keepers
                          > to make interest-bearing charitable loans to covenantal strangers.
                          >
                          > Deuteronomy 23:19-20 "You shall not charge interest on loans to
                          your
                          > brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on
                          anything
                          > that is lent for interest. (20) You may charge a foreigner
                          interest,
                          > but you may not charge your brother interest, that the LORD your
                          God
                          > may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are
                          > entering to take possession of it.
                          >
                          > This text means your position (viz. that interest is always
                          > prohibited) cannot be correct. V.20 authorizes usury on people
                          outside
                          > of the covenant people, which is unfathomable if usury is a moral
                          evil
                          > like murder, adultery or stealing. We need to explore exegetically
                          the
                          > distinction being set up by Moses here between the two groups and
                          the
                          > motivation for it, but it is plain that usury cannot be an
                          > *unconditional* moral evil but one conditioned on a specific set of
                          > circumstances.
                          >
                          > Next, God positively commends the institution of loans as an
                          example
                          > of how blessed and rich he will be making the commonwealth of
                          Israel:
                          > Deuteronomy 15:6 For the LORD your God will bless you, as he
                          > promised you, and ***you shall lend to many nations***, but you
                          > shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they
                          > shall not rule over you.
                          >
                          > To make your point, you would have to argue this verse speaks only
                          of
                          > charitable zero-interest loans to foreigners (for when interest is
                          > prohibited, all legal loans become charitable). Yet the Moses texts
                          > are clear, "covenant-keepers do not owe interest-free charitable
                          loans
                          > to those who are not under the jurisdiction of either God's
                          > ecclesiastical covenant or God's civil covenant." (North.) Since
                          God
                          > in Deut 23:20 authorizes commercial non-charitable legal loans to
                          > foreigners, and it likewise does not obligate you to charitably
                          loan
                          > (interest-free) even if they are desperately poor when they are
                          not a
                          > brother (i.e. fellow covenant-keeper), it does suggest the loans in
                          > this verse are interest-carrying commercial loans being used as a
                          tool
                          > of dominion.
                          >
                          > Usury being forbidden is always most strongly tied to the concept
                          of
                          > taking interest on morally obligatory charitable loans to the
                          severely
                          > distressed brother. For instance:
                          > Leviticus 25:35-37 "If your brother becomes poor and cannot
                          maintain
                          > himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a
                          stranger
                          > and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. (36) Take no
                          interest
                          > from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live
                          > beside you. (37) You shall not lend him your money at interest,
                          nor
                          > give him your food for profit.
                          >
                          > This was not to be undertaken lightly. If a person took an
                          > interest-free charitable loan and defaulted on it, he had to be
                          > willing to go into bondservice for up to six years. And the courts
                          > were required to enforce this. It was this being willing to risk
                          > bondservice that marked the loan as a charitable as opposed to a
                          > commercial loan. "Accepting such a loan was a last resort. It was
                          this
                          > degree of poverty, and only this degree of poverty, that created a
                          > moral obligation on the lender to lend." (North, Commentary on
                          > Leviticus, ch.29).
                          >
                          > Consider this, in our context, where very few people in our lands
                          have
                          > credible professions of faith and so are not within the
                          > covenant-community of the brethren, we have no obligation
                          whatsoever
                          > to them to lend usury-free. That stipulation only applies to the
                          > brethren, and I submit, only to the desperately poor (through no
                          moral
                          > fault of their own) who we have an obligation to help--and how in
                          > return become obligated to repay us or become for a limit time our
                          slave.
                          >
                          > In response to your points,
                          >
                          > Pursuant to points one and two, as you yourself admit it doesn't
                          work
                          > that way if they encountered the institution in their practise.
                          Your
                          > reasoning only applies if this controversy didn't arise and so
                          there
                          > is historical silence on this matter. However commercial loans are
                          not
                          > a novel phenomenon, new to our modern industrial life. They go way
                          > back to ancient times. The Reformers were confronted with the topic
                          > and, as evidenced by the fact that the faithful Reformed Churches
                          in
                          > their purer times did not forbid their members from loaning money
                          at
                          > usury, (contra the Romish Church's law for its members), that is
                          proof
                          > positive they rejected your view. Your view is certainly
                          traditional
                          > in some quarters and has a long pedigree so I definitely don't
                          want to
                          > make it sound like it is not worthy of consideration, but that it
                          has
                          > been considered and was considered by the faithful contending
                          > church... and reject.
                          >
                          > There is no question (pursuant to your third point) that the
                          > Prereformation Church taught your position, beginning in a limited
                          > form in 325 AD at the Council of Nicea (clerics were prohibited
                          from
                          > making interest-bearing loans) to later total prohibitions in the
                          > Second Lateran Council (1139) and the Council at Vienna (1311-12)
                          (cf.
                          > http://www.entrewave.com/freebooks/docs/html/gnbd/Chapter29.htm -
                          > footnote #2). However, within the Reformed Church, the view of the
                          > medieval Schoolmen was not unanimous and many Reformed pastors and
                          > ministers spoke against Rome's view that all usury is prohibited in
                          > all contexts. So I strongly dispute your claim that your view is
                          the
                          > traditional view of the Reformed Churches. It is not. You only
                          need to
                          > look at the Geneva Bible's comments and Matthew Henry's to see the
                          > Reformers speak out against your view/the scholastic view.
                          >
                          > With regards to point four, while you say many things that I can
                          agree
                          > with, I think you changed John Gill's polemic against extravagant
                          and
                          > exorbitant usury to the poor, to just exorbitant interest per se. I
                          > can't say I endorse Gill's whole idea (I am more aligned with
                          North)
                          > but I just wanted to show you a theologian from 400 years ago who
                          is a
                          > representative Calvinist commentator who opposed the medieval
                          > scholastic view. I perhaps can reply more to this later when I have
                          > more time, but I have to make preparations for worship now. I'll
                          talk
                          > to you later Julian, have a good sabbath day.
                          >
                          > Chris Tylor
                          > Edmonton AB
                          > RPNA
                          >
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