So, is it biblical to lend and earn interest? As always, with stuff like this, I do not have all the answers, but I will happily share what I’ve learned and my current understanding in hopes that it might help someone else study this out. So here goes:
Proverbs 28:8 specifically mentions earning interest from the poor
If we look at Proverbs 28:8 NIV:
“Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.”
So, as we see all through scripture, God has a soft spot for the disenfranchised, and I believe it is clear that He doesn’t want to see them taken advantage of.
This might look like a payday loan shop (with abusively high interest rates) strategically placed in the lower-income part of town.
What the Bible says about charging interest to the poor
“Where in the Bible does it say lend money without interest?”
Now that we started there, let’s dive into a bunch of other verses I found that address this issue of charging or earning interest.
The Bible has several verses that address the topic of charging interest, particularly in the context of loans.
These verses can be found across both the Old and New Testaments.
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.”
Again, we see the specific mention of “the poor.”
And these next verses echo that as well…
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. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest nor give him your food for profit.”
Psalm 15:5 – “Who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. Whoever does these things will never be shaken.”
And Ezekiel 18:8, 13, 17 all echo this instruction to not lend money at interest to the poor.
What about charging interest to fellow Christians?
Now, interestingly, in Deuteronomy, we see some instructions that God gave to Israel about who NOT to charge interest to.
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. To a foreigner, you may charge interest, but to your brother, you shall not charge 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.”
Additionally, we see something similar in Nehemiah 5:7 and 10 as Nehemiah rebukes the nobles and rulers for charging interest to their own people.
As I read this, it sounds like God is saying “don’t charge interest to each fellow Israelites, but it is okay to charge interest to everyone else”.
So the question becomes, how do you interpret these Old Testament instructions to Israel and their application to us today?
Personally, I have chosen to avoid situations where I would be lending money to a fellow believer and charging interest.
As a follower of Jesus under a New Covenant, I don’t view this as a “law” that I must abide by, but rather as a principle that God laid out that I suspect might still benefit me today.
What did Jesus say about earning interest?
Now, flipping over to the New Testament, we don’t see as much written on this topic, but if you recall, in the Parable of the Talents (that Jesus shared), the land-owner was rebuking the lazy steward for NOT putting the money that he had been entrusted with in the bank to earn interest:
Matthew 25:24-28 – “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers so that when I returned, I would have received it back with interest.
“‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have, will be taken from them.
It’s important to note that putting money in a bank to earn interest is very different from abusive lending practices towards the poor. And from what I have found in the Bible, I believe God views them as very different as well.
The article excerpt appeared originally here.
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