Usury — a Universal Sin

Study No. 50

  From the Biblical viewpoint, usury is a heinous sin. Let us examine what the Bible says about usury and see how prevalent this sin is in today’s society.

The main Hebrew words used for "usury" are nashak or neshek, meaning "to strike with a sting like a snake, bite, lend with usury, exact interest on a debt." (See Strong’s Concordance, #5391, and 5392.)

In modern parlance, "usury" has come to mean "an exorbitant rate or amount of interest in excess of a legal rate charged to a borrower for the use of money." However, "usury" in King James English meant "a premium or increase paid or stipulated for a loan of money or goods, interest; the lending out of money with an interest charge for its use; the taking or practice of taking interest." (See Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, "usury.") As we shall see, this latter definition is also the intent of Biblical Hebrew.


No Usury to God’s People

Exodus 22:25 says, "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."

Leviticus 25:35-38 is more specific. It states that we are to relieve our poor brethren, taking no usury or increase from them. Verse 37: "Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase." Why? Verses 38-39, because God brought Israel out of Egyptian slavery. Therefore, we are not to put our brothers into slavery to us. There is to be no increase at all when we loan to our brethren.


You May Lend With Usury to Strangers

However, Deuteronomy 23:19-20 adds another dimension: "Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of anything that is lent upon usury. 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 thy hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it."

Who is your stranger? Who is your brother? In the physical nation of Israel, the Israelites were brothers and Gentiles were strangers. Today, it applies in the spiritual sense: fellow believers are brethren and non-believers are strangers.

Lending can be a blessing, Deuteronomy 28:12, and borrowing a curse, Deuteronomy 28:43-44. Those who are blessed of God will be lending interest-free to their brethren, and even at times with usury to strangers.

Proverbs 28:8, "He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor." Even though some pray and fast, and seem to be following God, they exact all their labor, Isaiah 58:3.

Because people have transgressed God’s laws, the land shall be utterly emptied and spoiled, "as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him" Isaiah 24:1-6.

Usury creates ill feeling: "I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me" Jeremiah 15:10.

A mark of a just man is one that "hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man" Ezekiel 18:7, 8, and also 16-17.

Contrariwise, a mark of an unjust man is one that "hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live; he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him" Ezekiel 18:13.

In Ezekiel 22, those that have taken usury and increase (verse 12) are placed in the same category as Sabbath breakers, adulterers, those that engage in bribery, and extortion.

Jesus told the publicans to "exact no more than that which is appointed you" Luke 3:12-13.


Does God Require Interest?

The parable of the talents (Matthew 25) and pounds (Luke 19) show the Lord telling the wicked servant, who did nothing with what was given to him, "Thou oughtest therefore [at least] to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury" Matthew 25:27, and "Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?" Luke 19:23. Modern translations render "usury" as "interest."

Does this mean that God requires interest? In the spiritual sense, yes indeed! The "talents," spiritual gifts given to us from God, are not given for nothing. He expects a return on His investment. God has chosen us and ordained us that we should go and bring forth fruit that remains and lasts, John 15:16.


Mortgage Usury Produces Bondage

Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary, article "Usury" states that the "practice of mortgaging land, sometimes at exorbitant interest grew up among the Jews during the [Babylonian] captivity in direct violation of the law [of God]."

Nehemiah 5:1-13 shows the effect of mortgage usury. Some of the Jews who returned from captivity, had mortgaged their property so that they could buy corn during a drought, and others had borrowed money to pay the King’s tribute, with their property held on mortgage. Those under the yoke of mortgage were under bondage and many had lost their property. Truly as Proverbs 22:7 says, "the borrower is servant to the lender."

Nehemiah was angry when he heard about this. He said "ye exact usury, every one of his brother" Nehemiah 5:7. Calling an assembly to stop this practice, Nehemiah demanded the restoration of foreclosed property, the 1% interest on money charged, along with the produce counted as interest. To do these things to the brethren is a great sin! There should be no increase required.


Is a Little Interest Not Usury?

There are some who say that God only condemns excessive interest. Until recently, laws of several states forbid interest rates above 12%. Anyone who charged more was guilty of "usury."

Even Adam Clarke in his famous Bible Commentary agrees with this view. In his note under Exodus 22:25 he states, "It is evident that what is here said must be understood of accumulated usury, or what we call ‘compound interest’ only; and accordingly neshech is mentioned with and distinguished from tarbith and marbith . . . . ‘interest’ or ‘simple interest’ . . . . Perhaps usury may be more properly defined ‘unlawful interest,’ receiving more for the loan of money than it is really worth and more than the law allows."

Strong’s defines tarbith as "multiplication; i.e., percentage or bonus in addition to principal; increase, unjust gain." The related word marbith can mean "increase, or "interest on capital." Tarbith and marbith do not have the bite or sting as does nashak interest. Tarbith is used along with nashak (usury) in Leviticus 25:36, Proverbs 28:8, Ezekiel 18:8, 13, 17 and 22:12, as is marbith in Leviticus 25:37. The point Clarke misses is that God condemns them both! Any interest or increase from your brother is wrong. However, as we have seen, it is permissible to charge interest to outsiders.


Lend to Your Brother

Because interest or any gain cannot be exacted from one’s brethren, the tendency might be not to lend them anything at all. God commands us to lend to our brethren when they are in need.

Deuteronomy 24:10-13 assumes we will loan [nashak] things to our brethren. When we do, we must not take as pledge anything away from them that will leave them destitute. There is also a responsibility on the borrower to give of some of his time and energy in helping the lender out of thankfulness for the loan.

Deuteronomy 15:1-18 describes the year of release. Every creditor that lends (the word is nashak, "takes usury") unto his neighbor or his brother shall release it at the end of every seven years. If the loan is to a foreigner, it may be exacted again. Verses 7-11 command us to liberally lend to our brethren sufficient for their need, not thinking that we shouldn’t give him anything because the seventh year release is near. This statute adds another dimension to the Bible’s lending law: No loan with a brother is to be for more than a seven year period. It is to be released at the end of the seventh year.

See also Nehemiah 10:31.


A System of Slavery

Debt usury is one of the vilest forms of slavery. Every one that had a creditor (nashak) joined themselves with David, I Samuel 22:1-2. The widow with the oil begged Elisha to help her pay her dead husband’s creditor lest her two sons be taken as bondmen, II  Kings 4:1-7.

David prayed that the extortioner (usurer) would seize all that his wicked enemy had, Psalm 109:1-20. On the other hand, God said in a vision to David that his enemy would not exact (extract usury) upon him, Psalm 89:18-24.

The Eternal said to rebellious Judah, "Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away" Isaiah 50:1.


Debt Money the Foundation of Today’s Society

Like Israel of old, today’s Israel has likewise sold herself to her creditors. Interest and debt is the foundation of this world’s economic system, especially the Western world.

Many books and articles have been written about the Federal Reserve system, the Illuminati, the Bilderbergers, Council of Foreign Relations, Tri-Lateral Commission, Rockefeller’s and Rothschild’s, the big bankers who control most of the world through debt money. An excellent simplified short booklet is "Billions For the Bankers — Debts for the People. How Did It Happen?" by Sheldon Emry.

Article 1 of the United States Constitution states that "Congress shall have power to coin money and regulate the value thereof." Instead, since the 1913 Federal Reserve Act, Congress has abdicated this power to a private corporation of bankers, the "Federal" Reserve. No new money ever comes into the economic system without interest and debt.

Here’s how it works: If the Federal Government spends more money than it takes in, say $1,000,000, Congress authorizes the Treasury Department to print $1,000,000 in Federal Reserve notes, which are delivered to the Federal Reserve, which pays the cost of printing, perhaps only $500. The Government receives the paper money in exchange for its agreement to pay it back — with interest.

The government spends the money into circulation which eventually ends up in the hands of banks in the form of deposits. Then the banks of the Federal Reserve System can lend out another $10,000,000 to private and commercial customers with interest. They are required to keep only 10% as reserve. The Federal Reserve Board sets the interest rate charged to the citizens. Neither the chairman nor any of the Reserve Board members are elected. They are appointed by the President. This is an example of how the evil system of usury (debt money) works.


Righteous Lend — At No Interest!

Unlike the usurers who are in charge of this world’s economic system, the righteous will mercifully lend to those in need, expecting no gain or interest. Psalm 37:21, 26 (Living Bible): "Evil men borrow and ‘cannot pay it back’! But the good man returns what he owes with some extra besides . . . . the godly are able to be generous with their gifts and loans to others, and their children are a blessing." Psalm 112:5, "A good man shows favor, and lends."

Luke 6:27-38 outlines the basic instructions regarding lending: Give to every man that asks of you. If you lend to them of whom you hope to receive, you haven’t performed an act of mercy. As you are merciful to others, God shall be merciful to you. Matthew 5:42, "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away." Matthew 6:12, "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Luke 11:4, "And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us." The parable of the unjust steward, Luke 16:1-12, doesn’t show that it is all right to cheat, but that we ought to be faithful in even the little things.

Let us not be like the unmerciful servant, who was forgiven by his master for a huge debt, and refused to forgive a fellowservant who owed him a small debt, Matthew 18:23-35.

Luke 7:41-43 shows that those who are forgiven the most should be the more thankful.

People in Jesus' time tried to get out of debt falsely, saying that unless they swore by the gold of the temple, they didn’t owe a debt, Matthew 23:16.

Those who have pity upon the poor are in reality lending to the Eternal. He will repay them for sure, Proverbs 19:17.


Avoid Debt, or Being Surety For Someone Else’s Debts

Proverbs 22:26-27, "Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts. If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee?" See also Proverbs 20:16, 17:18, 6:1-2, 11:15. Judah was surety for Benjamin, Genesis 43:9, 44:32. Job was so down and out that nobody would loan him anything, Job 17:3. We need God to be our surety, Psalms 119:122.


Against Man’s Law Not to Have Interest!

Suppose a Christian brother has a house that he wants to sell to another believer. Attempting to follow God’s law, he wants to sell it under a "no interest" contract. Does the U.S. Internal Revenue Service accept zero interest loans? Believe it or not, NO!

One can initiate a zero interest real estate contract, but the Internal Revenue Service will impute "unstated interest." Recently, the imputed interest rate was ten percent. That is, if you sold a $50,000 house at no stated interest rate and the buyer makes $500 per month payments, you would have to declare interest income at 10% annual rate on the unpaid principal balance.

The Internal Revenue Service under Section 483 of the tax code, says that when there is no stated interest or unreasonably low interest, then in reality there is "interest" that is unstated. Unless one charges the statutory minimum interest rate (recently, 10%) the Internal Revenue Service says you must impute interest up to the minimum. Our whole society is based upon interest. It is illegal NOT to charge interest in today’s society!

Few real estate agents have ever heard of the law forbidding true "no-interest" loans. The fact that such a law exists shows the utter degeneracy of our debt-money society.


Relieving Our Spiritual Debts

Romans 4:4, "Now to him that worketh [tries to gain salvation by works] is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt."

Galatians 5:3, "For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law."

Romans 1:14-15, "I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also."

Romans 8:12, "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh." Instead, we must be led by the Spirit, verse 14.

The Macedonian and Achaian churches made "a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things" Romans 15:26-27.

We have great spiritual debts that must be paid. Our sins have produced a great liability, or debt: death for all eternity. Unless the penalty is paid, our life will be forever quenched. But, praise the Almighty! The Savior died to set us free from our debt to sin. He rose that we might have a new life free of debt to sin and Satan.

God will forgive us of our debts only as we forgive our debtors, Matthew 6:12. We cannot expect the Eternal to forgive us our debts if we are guilty of usury. Psalms 15 answers the question: who shall dwell in the Lord’s holy hill? He that walks uprightly, does not backbite or do evil to his neighbor, keeps his promises even to his own hurt, puts not his money to usury, nor takes from the needy. He that does these things shall never be moved.

NOTE: We recommend that you obtain the booklet, "Billions For the Bankers: Debts For the People" by Sheldon Emry, by sending $1.50 to: America’s Promise Ministries, P.O. Box 157, Sandpoint, Idaho 83864. W

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