Keith Hunt - The Law of Usury - Lending - Giving #2 - Page Two   Restitution of All Things

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The Law of Usury - Lending - Giving #2

What the heart of God says




Why do we lend something to another person? There seem to be two
basic reasons for lending: 1. Personal gain: To loan something
where there is an expectation of a return of whatever was loaned,
PLUS something added to it, which amounts to an increase.
Whatever the gain that is desired, this gain constitutes a
benefit to the person doing the lending. 2. Charity: To loan
something because of an outgoing concern for another's
well-being, with no motive for gain above the return of the thing

The first type of lending is a purely selfish act of lending, and
the second type is an unselfish act of lending. Of course there
can be a blend of both attitudes.

Leviticus 25:35-38

     "And if your brother becomes poor, and falls in decay with
     you [cannot maintain himself with you], then you shall
     relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner;
     that he may live with you. Take you no usury of him, or
     increase; but fear your God; that your brother may live with
     you. You shall not give him your money upon usury, nor lend
     him victuals for increase. I am the Lord your God, which
     brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the
     land of Canaan and to be your God."

To gain a clear understanding of this scripture, we need to know
who the brother, stranger and sojourner refer to.


The Hebrew word for brother is "ah" and can mean brother,
relative, fellow countryman or a friend. In this verse the
inference is that of a fellow countryman who is considered a
friend or brother.


The Hebrew for stranger is "ger" and can mean an alien, sojourner
or stranger. It referred to someone who did not enjoy the rights
usually possessed by a resident. The "ger" in Israel was largely
regarded as a proselyte. He was to be present for the solemn
reading of the law (Deut.31:12), and a circumcised "ger" could
keep the Passover. The Israelites were not to oppress them and
were to love them as they loved themselves (Lev.19:34).
The stranger mentioned here should not be confused with the
"stranger" mentioned in Deuteronomy 23:20. The status of these
individuals is quite different before God as will be explained
later in this paper.


The word for sojourner is "toshab" and means a sojourner - the
temporary landless wage earner, sometimes referred to as a hired
servant. This is in contrast to the term "ger" which refers to
the permanent resident alien. The "toshab" could not take the
Passover and his children could be sold as slaves. Although he
shared some of the same privileges as the "ger," his freedom was
not as great.

In verses 35-38 of Leviticus 25, it specifically states that the
law has reference to the poor, and moreover, to the poor
fellow-believers or covenant members. This scripture is in part a
summary of the law, and the point is that the command here is a
strict prohibition against lending money or food at interest to a
poor relative or countryman. This prohibition also included those
who were proselytes, and those who were under the authority or
within the service of an Israelite.

But why is the Creator so concerned about debt borrowing? Is
there some logical reason why He placed such stringent rules on
the lending of property or money to another person?

Yes, there are some very good reasons why God is concerned and
why He placed hard and fast rules on debt borrowing and lending.
God is extremely concerned about our welfare and these reasons
show His tremendous love, concern and compassion for humanity.


The parable of the wicked servant who would not forgive the debts
of one who owed him is an excellent example of the attitude with
which God is not happy. Read the account in Matthew 18:23-35.

Deuteronomy 15:1-3

     "At the end of every seven years you shall make a release.
     And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor lends
     any thing to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not
     exact it of his neighbor, or his brother; because it is
     called the Lord's release. Of a foreigner you may exact it
     again: but that which is yours with your brother your hand
     shall release."

Deuteronomy 23:19-20

     "You shall not lend upon usury unto your brother: usury of
     money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent
     upon usury: Unto a stranger you may lend upon usury; but
     unto your brother you shall not lend upon usury, that the
     Lord your God may bless you in all that you set your hand to
     in the land whither you go to possess it."

Here we see the example of lending to foreigners and strangers.
Why did God allow the Israelites to lend at interest to them, and
not to those of their own nation? It is apparent from the
scriptures that if a foreigner or stranger obeyed God, he could
and would receive many of the blessings the Israelites received.
One of these blessings was that he could not be charged interest
on a loan of necessity. This blessing came directly because of
his obedience to and/or submission to the laws of God. But those
not of the nation of Israel or under the authority of an
Israelite could not partake of this blessing, the reason being
that blessings come from obedience to the laws, principles and
precepts of God.

     "Citing their deliverance from Egypt, 'And you shall
     remember that you were a bondman in the land of Egypt, and
     the Lord your God redeemed you: therefore I command you this
     thing today' (Deut.15:15). God reminds His people that the
     purpose of His law is to deliver man into freedom, even as
     He delivered them from slavery to freedom. The purpose of
     the laws governing interest, and the purpose of the whole
     law, is man's freedom under God. To speak of deliverance
     from the law is to speak of deliverance from freedom. The
     law cannot be freedom to the sinner, but rather a sentence
     of death for his failure to keep it. The law-breaker is a
     man in slavery to his sin, a man unable to live in terms of
     freedom. The law therefore is a continual indictment and
     death sentence to him, in that he underscores his impotence
     and his inability to rule himself' [Institute of Biblical
     Law (I.B.L.)].

     "The unbelieving are excluded from the charity required by
     this law, both interest-free loans and the termination of
     the debt in the sabbatical year. The ungodly are already
     slaves to sin by nature; the true slave cannot be weaned
     from slavery, and it is foolish to treat him as a freeman.
     The godly are free men by the grace of God and in times of
     need, they need relief to retain their freedom. Freedom
     cannot be given to a person who loves slavery, and it is
     foolish to attempt it by means of money. Regeneration is the
     only solution" (ibid., I.B.L.).


Should a person keep lending to someone who will not repay or
refuses to work? God says if a man will not support his family,
he is worse than an infidel: "But if any provide not for his own,
and especially for those of his own house, lie has denied the
faith, and is worse than an infidel" (1 Timothy 5:8).
The principle is that a person who is capable of earning his own
way and does not, should not be given assistance until his
attitude changes. The scriptures are abundant with examples of
what God thinks of a lazy person, and what the end result of
physical and spiritual laziness is. 

But there are those who because of circumstances and real
emergencies cannot provide for themselves or their families. And
these are the ones who are worthy of loans without interest, and
in many cases outright gifts if their situation warrants it.
Some could say that an unscrupulous person could use the law of
usury to take advantage of the lender. And they are absolutely
right. The lender can be taken advantage of by the dishonest
borrower. However, we must remember that the third party involved
in the transaction between the lender and borrower is the Creator
God who knows the thoughts, intentions, and motivations of all
people. God inspired the Psalmist to write: "The wicked borrows,
and pays not again; but the righteous shows mercy, and gives"
Just because a person is poor does not cancel his responsibility
to pay back what he owes to another, that is if it is at all
within his power to do so.


1 Corinthians 6:6-9

     "But brother goes to law with brother, and that before the
     unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among
     you, because you go to law one with another. Why do you not
     rather take wrong? Why do you rather not suffer yourselves
     to be defrauded? No, you do wrong and defraud, and that your
     brethren. Know you not that the unrighteous shall not
     inherit the kingdom of God?... "

The Creator wanted Israel to prosper and to be an example to the
other nations around them. He wanted to show through the example
of the Israelites that obedience to His laws, principles and
precepts would bring tremendous blessings. During the reign of
King Solomon Israel prospered and reached the zenith of physical
wealth as a nation of that age. The people were very happy and
prosperous as long as they were in obedience to God.

Deuteronomy 24:10-13

     "When you do lend your brother any thing, you shall not go
     into his house to fetch his pledge. You shall stand abroad,
     and the mart to whom you do lend shall bring out the pledge
     abroad unto you. And if the man be poor, you shall not sleep
     with his pledge: In any case you shall deliver him the
     pledge again when the sun goes down, that he might sleep in
     his own raiment, and bless you: and it shall be
     righteousness unto you before the Lord your God."

The context surrounding these scriptures seem to be centered
around the theme of being equitable and fair to another in a
given situation. These particular verses speak to the lender,
who, for some reason or another, has some concern as to whether
the borrower will pay back or return the thing lent. Therefore he
requires something of value to be held by himself as a surety
bond until whatever is lent is paid back or replaced.

Notice the lender cannot go into the borrower's home to procure
the pledge. This insures the privacy of the borrower and prevents
a multitude of other problems that could arise from a
not-too-trusting lender being allowed to wander around the
borrower's home. Also notice that when a lender performs the
letter of the law, God counts it as righteousness to him.

Exodus 22:25-27

     "If you lend money to any of my people that is poor by you,
     you shall not be to him as an usurer, neither shall you lay
     upon him usury. If you at all take your neighbor's raiment
     to pledge, you shall deliver it unto him by that the sun
     goes down: For that is his covering only, it is his raiment
     for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to
     pass, when he cries unto me, that I will hear; for I am
     gracious. "

To avoid misunderstanding at this point, the American Revised
Version of 1901 will be used here.

Exodus 22:25-27

     "If you lend money to any of my people with you that is
     poor, you shall not be to him as a creditor [usurer];
     neither shall you lay upon him interest [usury]. If you take
     your neighbor's garment to pledge, you shall restore it unto
     him before the sun goes down: for that is his only covering
     it is his garment for his skin; wherein shall he sleep? and
     it shall come to pass, when he cries unto me, that I will
     hear; for I am gracious."

In this situation the borrower is so poor that the only thing of
value that he has are the clothes on his back. If all a person
has are the clothes on his back, he is very poor. In fact, he is
destitute by all civilized standards. Because of this situation,
the lender is even prevented from keeping the pledge overnight.
Here God imposes upon the lender the Godly attribute of kindness
and mercy, and says when the lender obeys the injunction it will
be counted as a righteous act by him.

     "While charity is clearly the purpose of this law, charity
     is not confused here with a gift, a loss or foolishness. A
     pledge or security can be taken, although it is not
     required. This means that the borrower's security item
     cannot be used to negotiate a second loan, in that it is
     held by the lender during the day. The pledge requirement
     was a protection against irresponsibility on the part of the
     poor worker. If the poor worker was a trustworthy person,
     the employer would not require the pledge. The pledge or
     security was thus insurance against failure to repay, or to
     work out the loan. The charity in this case is thus a gift
     of interest, not one of the loan" (ibid., I.B.L.).

Deuteronomy 24:6

     "No man shall take the nether [mill] or the upper millstone
     to pledge: for he takes a man's life to pledge."

Deuteronomy 24:17

     "You shall not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of
     the fatherless; nor take a widow's raiment to pledge."

Job 22:5-6

In the book of Job we find references to the wrongful taking of
the pledge as being a sin. Eliphaz accuses Job of sin by saying:
"Is not your wickedness great? and your iniquities infinite? For
you have taken a pledge from your brother for nought, and
stripped the naked of their clothing."

Job 24:3,9

Speaking of the wicked Job says: "They drive away the ass of the
fatherless, they take the widow's ox for a pledge. They pluck the
fatherless from the breast, and take a pledge of the poor."

Notice these scriptures indicate that it is wrong to take
advantage of those who are fallen into misfortune.


It should be easy to grasp the implications of the charitable
loan that comes under the usury prohibition. The lender faces a
sure loss on his loan. First, he bears the risks associated with
loans to the impoverished, for he can ask no extra payment as a
risk premium attached to the rate of interest. Second, he
receives back goods in the future, but future goods are less
valuable to a man than the goods in the present. He therefore
forfeits the use of his goods over time without any compensation.
He receives back less-valuable goods, for he has lost one thing
that creatures cannot restore: time. Third, during inflationary
times, he also forfeits the loss of purchasing power if his loan
is one in terms of money. He therefore bears two and possibly
three costs of the loan. That is the extent of his charity. He
suffers loss for the sake of the needy brother.
This loss is required by God, but it will be balanced by other
benefits to the lender.

Here again if one perceives things in a purely physical sense and
discounts the influence of God, the lender is truly the loser.
But we cannot discount God, because these are His rules and He
says we must live by His words and He promises to return more
than what is given away.

Deuteronomy 7:11-14

     "You shall therefore keep the commandments, and the
     statutes, and the judgments, which I command you this day,
     to do them. Wherefore it shall come to pass, if you harken
     to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that the Lord
     your God shall keep unto you the covenant and the mercy
     which he swore unto your fathers: And he will love you, and
     bless you, and multiply you: He will also bless the fruit of
     your womb, and the fruit of your land, your corn, and your
     wine, and your oil, the increase of your kine [cattle], and
     the flocks of your sheep, in the land which he swore unto
     your fathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all
     people: there shall not be male or female barren among you,
     or among your cattle."

Proverbs 19:17

     "He that has pity upon the poor lends unto the Lord; and
     that which he has given will He [God] pay him again."

Psalm 37:26

     Speaking of the righteous, the Psalmist says: "He is ever
     merciful, and lends; and his seed is blessed."

Psalm 112:5

     "A good man shows favor, and lends; he will guide his
     affairs with discretion. "

Matthew 5:24

     "Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow
     of you turn not you away."

Luke 6:32-36

     "For if you love them that love you, what thank [reward]
     have you? For sinners also love those that love them. And if
     you do good to them that do good to you, what thank have
     you? For sinners also do even the same. And if you lend to
     them of whom you hope to receive, what thank have you? For
     sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But
     love your enemies, and do good, and lend hoping for nothing
     again; and your reward shall be great, and you shall be the
     children of the highest, for he is kind to the unthankful
     and the evil. Be you therefore merciful, as your Father also
     is merciful. "

God says it is more blessed to give than to receive. One reason
this is true is because if one is in a position to give a gift to
another, it means that they themselves have been blessed with an
abundance so that they are able to lend to another. Or, it means
that they have the attitude of love and self-sacrifice which is
an attribute of God.

Blessings Deuteronomy 28:12-13

     "The lord shall open unto you his good treasure, the heaven
     to give the rain unto your land in its season, and to bless
     all the work of your hand; and you shall lend unto many
     nations, and you shall not borrow. And the Lord shall make
     you the head, and not the tail: and you shall be above only,
     and you shall not be beneath; if you harken unto the
     commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this
     day, to observe and to do them."

Deuteronomy 28:44-47

     "He shall lend to you, and you shall not lend to him; he
     shall be the head, and you shall be the tail. Moreover all
     these curses shall come upon you, and shall pursue you, and
     overtake you, till you be destroyed; because you harkened
     not unto the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his
     commandments and his statutes which he commanded you: and
     they shall be upon you for a sign and a wonder, and upon
     your seed forever. Because you served not the Lord your God
     with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the
     abundance of all things."


In the fifth chapter of Nehemiah we find that many of the poor
Jews had borrowed money to buy food because of a drought and
tribute [tax] payments to the king. These people were in such
dire circumstances that they even mortgaged their lands and sold
their children into slavery to buy food and pay taxes (Neh.
When he heard of this tragic state of events, the prophet
Nehemiah became angry and condemned the lenders for their
hardness of heart and exacted a promise from them to return to
the debtors their pledges.

Nehemiah 5:7-13

     "Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and
     the rulers, and said unto them, You exact usury, every one
     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 you 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 you do, ought you 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 you exact of them."

Jeremiah 15:10

     "Woe is me, my mother, that you have born me a man of strife
     and a man of contention to the whole earth! I have neither
     lent on usury, nor have men lent to me on usury; yet every
     one of them doth curse me."

Jeremiah is condemning his brethren for their persecution of him,
and pointed to his innocence of the crime of usury, a crime which
he seems to be ascribing to his persecutors by inference.

Psalm 15:5

     "He that puts not out his money to usury nor takes reward
     against the innocent. He that does these things shall never
     be moved [waver, slip or fall]."

Proverbs 28:8

     "He that by usury and unjust gain increases his substance,
     he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor."

Isaiah 24:2

     "And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as
     with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid so
     with the mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as
     with the lender so with the borrower; as with the taker of
     usury, so with the giver of usury to him."




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