Should Christians Charge Interest To Each Other?

20 04 2008

Should Christians charge interest to each other? In some denominations like the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, it is customary for members to “invest” in the Church Extension Fund, which pays a return (usury) to the members and uses the funds to build new churches. Many Christians view usury as an entitlement, and wouldn’t lend money for building churches unless they were promised a return on their loan.

But isn’t that sad?

In response to those who asserted that they ought to receive some form of compensation on loans (interest, aka usury), John Duns Scotus the Scottish scholastic replied:

‘If he does not wish to be injured, let him keep back the money he needs, because no-one forces him to do a merciful deed for his neighbour; but if he prefers to show mercy to the other, he is compelled by the divine law not to vitiate the divine law.’

In other words, if you can’t bear the risk of the loan, then don’t make the loan. The risk does not justify the usury.

These questions from the Westminster Larger Catechism are applicable:

Question 140: Which is the eighth commandment?

Answer: The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal.

Question 141: What are the duties required in the eighth commandment?

Answer: The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to everyone his due; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods; a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in it; frugality; avoiding unnecessary lawsuits and suretyship, or other like engagements; and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.

Question 142: What are the sins forbidden in the eighth commandment?

Answer: The sins forbidden in the eighth commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, theft, robbery, man-stealing, and receiving anything that is stolen; fraudulent dealing, false weights and measures, removing land marks, injustice and unfaithfulness in contracts between man and man, or in matters of trust; oppression, extortion, usury, bribery, vexatious lawsuits, unjust enclosures and depopulations; engrossing commodities to enhance the price; unlawful callings, and all other unjust or sinful ways of taking or withholding from our neighbor: What belongs to him, or of enriching ourselves; covetousness; inordinate prizing and affecting worldly goods; distrustful and distracting cares and studies in getting, keeping, and using them; envying at the prosperity of others; as likewise idleness, prodigality, wasteful gaming; and all other ways whereby we do unduly prejudice our own outward estate, and defrauding ourselves of the due use and comfort of that estate which God has given us.

Also, our Lord’s admonition is applicable:

And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. (Luke 6:34-35 KJV)

Some make the objection that inflation requires compensation for loans, for it is likely (certain?) that the “dollars” repaid are worth less (worthless?) than the “dollars” borrowed. Inflation is how the government/banks steal from us, by printing more money and devaluing the currency. Yet if one of my children tried to justify his stealing by saying that someone else was stealing from him – what would your fellow churchmen say? “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” Just because someone is stealing from you doesn’t mean you have justification to steal from someone else! The Bible actually speaks to this, because the prohibition of usury comprehended loans of anything, not just money. A lender of a commodity such as grain was never given an option to exact usury if the market price for grain dropped. And none can be argued for loans of currency.

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