THE BIBLE, USURY, AND DEBT FORGIVENESS

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Why am I writing this post? Well, I read Want to Talk About Usury? (insanitybytes2.wordpress.com), and I decided I did.

When some people think about banks and other lenders, I would imagine the picture above comes to mind. I think that is true of insanitybytes22 and the lady whose post (“Nobody Cares About My Political Opinions, part 1”) caused insanitybytes22 to write her own. Do I disagree with insanitybytes22 and her inspiration, jilldomschot? Because the subject is complex, I don’t adamantly disagree, but, yes, I do disagree. Instead of clarifying a difficult matter, I think they are adding confusion.

What is the subject of the disagreement? Remember those student loans President Joe Biden wants to cancel. Well, insanitybytes22 and jilldomschot want to leave lenders holding the bag, not the taxpayers. I don’t think what Biden wants to do is constitutional, and I don’t think insanitybytes22‘s and jilldomschot‘s solution is constitutional either. Like it or not, we don’t want our government just arbitrarily canceling anyone’s debts.

Are the people who conduct business in this country today honorable? Do we have the same concern about the welfare of others that Americans once had? That is something to think about, is it not? Consider an old movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It%27s_a_Wonderful_Life and https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038650/). Note that this old but still popular movie makes an important point about private enterprise. We can be a selfish skinflints, or we can conduct business with honor and concern for the welfare of others.

Does the Bible say usury is wrong? Yes. Does the Bible prohibit charging a reasonable interest rate, one a client can afford to pay back? The Bible does not specifically address that subject. It gets complicated because the Jews were prohibited from loaning money to each other, but they could loan money to foreigners. Why the difference? Well, maybe God does not want us to be either borrowers or lenders, but here is an alternative explanation.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites were forbidden from charging “usury,” or interest, on loans to fellow Jews (Deuteronomy 23:19), but they were permitted to charge interest on loans to foreigners (Deuteronomy 23:20). A mention of this usury law in Leviticus 25:35-38 makes it apparent that it applied to loans made to fellow Israelites who were in poverty. Having to pay back the loan with “usury,” or interest, would only put them further into debt and was not beneficial to the economy. Loans to foreigners, however, were considered international business and approved. This law served as a reminder to the Jews that helping those in need is something that should be done without requiring anything in return.

https://www.christianity.com/wiki/christian-terms/what-is-usury-what-does-the-bible-say.html

To gain some context, read Nehemiah 5. Here Nehemiah shames the nobles and the leading people for their greed. Why? Nehemiah was trying to build a wall around Jerusalem in the middle of a famine, and the nobles and leading people were using the situation to enslave their debtors. That is, instead of helping needy Jews who could not pay back loans, the nobles and the leading people required the freedom of these Jews and their families as collateral. It seems loans to foreigners did not ordinarily require such collateral.

Were the people who took out student loans charged an unreasonable rate of interest? Consider What Happens If You Don’t Pay Student Loans? (forbes.com). It is not wise to refuse to pay off a student loan, but few argue that student loans come with absurdly high interest. The important thing is getting a degree that is worth the money spent getting it.

We also don’t throw people into debtor prisons anymore, and we certainly don’t enslave people when they cannot pay off their loans. Still, the Bible is not entirely clear about charging interest. So, why would it be morally justifiable to charge interest? Here is the problem. Any financial scheme to help needy people must generate a profit, or that scheme eventually runs out of steam. Otherwise, we call it charity.

Consider how mortgages work. Unless borrowers pay lenders for the use of their money, lenders cannot routinely loan people money to buy houses. In time, lenders run out of money. That is because not everyone will pay off their mortgage. Moreover, it takes time and effort to find qualified buyers who can pay off a mortgage. So, lenders deserve to be paid for the use of their money.

Consider how Muslims handle the issue of usury.

Islamic personal loan or Islamic finance is a loan based on the Sharia law, the Islamic religious law, as stated in the Quran, Hadith, and Sunnah. The personal loans are preferred means of short-term credit in countries where Islamic banking applies. But the whole process is different than conventional loans.

Unlike conventional loans where the money is a commodity in Islamic financing, there is no money to be borrowed. Instead, the bank “purchases” the item for the borrower, i.e., client, and sells it at a higher price.

https://www.blogtrepreneur.com/what-is-islamic-personal-loan-and-how-does-it-work/

Essentially, Muslim “lenders” charge interest when the client agrees to pay the higher price to the lender. Thus, we have a distinction without any real difference.

So, what is real issue? If nobody preparing to throw student loan borrowers into slave labor camps if they don’t pay up, why is Biden cancelling their loans? The answer, of course, is he is the using taxpayer’s money to buy votes.

Why are we allowing this sort of nonsense? When we know we cannot trust politicians with our money, why have we let our leaders drag us into the student loan business? Is that even constitutional? No. Our government has no business either loaning money to students or guaranteeing their loans. Why would we want our government to encourage young people to borrow money?

Additional References

40 thoughts on “THE BIBLE, USURY, AND DEBT FORGIVENESS

  1. If it’s unconstitutional for the federal government to be in the lending business, then the only real answer is to have 100% debt erasure and to put a stop to universities living off the largesse. It was my contention in my blog post you linked to, and still is, that we put the universities out of business for their part in strapping young people to huge amounts of debt.

    1. jilldomschot

      I agree with your sentiment, but what you call debt erasure just compounds the problem. The people who took out those loans have an obligation to repay. They owe the money, not someone else.

      If the Federal Government ends the student loan program, colleges and universities will suddenly experience a dearth of students, employers would have the employees they need.

      Whereas I see all that as a much needed correction, the education establishment would see it as a horrible punishment. Considering all the investments they have made in what would then be suddenly unneeded buildings, it would probably best to leave it at that. Vengeance belongs to the Lord.

  2. Interesting position, and one that I happen to agree with. I was raised with the belief that you never “loan” anyone money. You provide it as a gift and never require payment back. It took many years of teaching through life experience for that to sink in, but when it did, it really made the joy of giving more fruitful.

    1. Irtfyblog

      Agreed! If you think the Bible speaks against loaning money, then it is best you don’t. Gifts and charity do bring joy.

      There is a time, I think, when we should expect repayment and interest on a loan. There is a tiime we should avoid charity. That is because we need to learn the value and the satisfaction of work.

      2 Thessalonians 3:10-11
      New American Standard Bible
      10 For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11 For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.

      Unless we work, we cannot learn the joys of work and giving.

  3. Nothing really to add here except the government should be entirely out of the business of loans. Both in giving them and canceling them. That’s why we are in such an awful position financial position to begin with.

    1. Our government, Congress and the President, now routinely do things the Constitution never authorized. Because we are letting them get away with it, we now risk losing our freedom.

  4. Tom,
    Anything the government becomes involved in winds up costing more than private industry.
    The government got involved in student loans and college tuitions spiraled up.
    Far too many students who go to college wind up being overqualified for the jobs they wind up performing.
    Another reason more young went to college is the manufacturing industry was outsourced and private industry uped their qualifications for any decent paying jobs to college students instead of high school students.
    Obama approved government to take over student loans programs which now are in the trillions vs the 385 billion Biden wants to forgive.
    As for usury, every look at what credit cards charge and you will understand why so many people are in financial do do. Wonder if anyone in the credit card industry ever read or heard about the Bible.
    Regards and goodwill blogging

    1. Children need to be taught NEVER to borrow money using a credit card.

      If we went to school vouchers and let parents pick the schools they want, I suspect school teachers in math classes would soon be explaining the stupidity of borrowing money with a credit card. Then they would point to the Bible for confirmation.

  5. Oh, I forgot one more thing! Dividing up the national debt puts us all as individuals at about 45,000 in the hole. Every man, woman, and child, carries that much debt just living in this nation. Well pffftt, I ain’t paying, I didn’t accrue it, I didn’t authorize it, but of course it doesn’t work that way. That’s the debt we have simply for tolerating decades of out of control spending and an out of control government borrowing on our behalf. Just something for us all to think about.

    1. Part of the problem is that Capitalism and laissez-faire economics were theories developed in a pre-industrial era where monopolies could only exist through government power (like Royal Charters). It was impossible back then that any one man or group could control entire economic or financial sectors in a free country. That changed with mass-production, mass-transportation, and mass-communication came about.

      By the 1930s, it was evident that if we were going to maintain a free society, we had to limit economic concentrations of power just like our Constitution limited political power of Government. The only two alternatives were Fascist Plutocracy (which we practically are now and many on the Right conflate with Free Enterprise) or Communist Bureaucracy (which the Whacko Left thinks they’re getting because Corporations pretend to be ‘woke’).

      There’s nothing unbiblical about loaning money at interest nor speculating in the stock market. It IS unbiblical to concentrate wealth to the point where people have no freedom left (c.f. Isaiah 5:8)

      1. If we real capitalism we’d be much better off. I’d say what we have now is more asking to corporate welfarism. Large companies pay big bucks in donations to both parties who cares out special favors for them in the tax code, worth subsidies etc…Really makes it difficult for mom and pop shops to grow as they don’t have teams of lawyers to deal with he Byzantine regulatory system this creates.

  6. Glad you’re talking about it, Tom. Interesting you bring up, “It’s a Wonderful Life, ” because Mr Potter was the bad guy, the banker exploiting the downtrodden. He’s the robber baron. It’s George Bailey who owns the Building and Loan Company and is so distraught over how the game is rigged against the people, that he contemplates suicide. That’s how he meets his angel. So “It’s a Wonderful Life” is not exactly a pro usury movie glorifying the goodness of lenders and financial institutions.

    I do agree, this is total vote buying scheme and pure politics. The Gov created the mess decades ago, made a lot of people rich, and now they’re going to rescue you…from the mess they made in the first place. Why in the world people fall for that is beyond me.

    I do have an issue however, with what often comes across as resentment, pride, arrogance, earned grace perhaps? Not necessarily here, but I mean all over social media and the news. We need to remember as Christians that our debts were paid, through no fault of our own. So that’s a poor representation of the gospel, implying people are unworthy, lazy, irresponsible, etc.

    If people are mad at Biden and they should be, don’t take it out on young people who are still trying to figure out which party represents them best. That’s the biggest payoff going on here, portraying conservatives as out of touch, disinterested in your struggles, and hostile towards your concerns.

    1. Are there some people who borrowed money for school who have legitimate reasons for not paying. Yes, but that has almost nothing to do with Biden’s cancelation of student loans. Almost all these people have a moral obligation to pay off the debt they voluntarily accepted, and relatively few don’t have the capacity to pay.

      So, what does the news media do? They find the people with the best sob stories. How many years has that been going on? Isn’t it time we felt a bit sorry for the hard working people who are being asked to pay off the debts of selfish people who demand we spend trillions we don’t have?

      What about “It’s a Wonderful Life”? There is such a thing as Crony Capitalism, and it obvious that Crony Capitalists own most of the news media. Think about that.

      Some Conservatives are doing a great job of portraying conservatives as out of touch, disinterested in the struggles of others, and hostile. Why?

      We love to hate and blame others. It is how we justify ourselves; I suppose. That is hardly a problem exclusive to Conservatives or Christians. However, I think most people are just aggravated that some people don’t want to pay off their loans. What is wrong with the expectation that we expect healthy, capable young people to pay their own bills? We are not good at messaging? Or is the problem that we don’t own 90 percent of the mass media?

  7. The Islamic System works more like a pawn shop. It’s really not a credit system, but more collateral-based,

    I’m not in agreement that Usury should be abolished either; but I do think it needs responsible regulation. When you have a monopolistic banking system like we have and interest rates are fixed by Government-Business combines, needing to borrow money and being giving interest rates one can never possibly pay off isn’t Usury; it’s extortion.

    But capping interest rates would mean that consumer credit would be harder to get; abolishing the student loan scam would mean closing most diploma mills (I mean colleges) and giving scholarships based on merit through a subsidy. It would also mean that real estate prices and medical care would have to be affordable again through hard cash. Given the entitlement mentality that most Americans have today, I don’t think that any of that would ever get enacted.

    1. I think you need to rethink Islamic System. When any businessman lends money, he wants collateral of some sort. Otherwise, he fears losing his money just because the borrower does not have anything to lose.

      Not sure about the rest of your comment. Lots of sarcasm there.

  8. No one can forgive a loan except the person to whom the money is owed, and the folks who took out student loans did not borrow the money from Joe Biden. Therefore Joe Biden cannot “forgive” the loans. Every time I hear the issue framed as “student loan forgiveness” it’s like fingernails on a blackboard.

  9. I don’t see any reason why we should treat money any different than other things like cars, machines and houses. If people rent cars they are used to give the car back plus paying a rent. The rent is the equivalent of the interest. Leaving aspects of morality aside, if there was no profit (rent or interest) who would lend a car or money or anything else. Would the world would be a better place? No!
    Isn’t it great that you can fly to a place 2,000 miles away without having to take a car with you?
    You can rent a car an drive it when you need it.
    If you work hard for your money why would you lend your money instead of buying nice things for yourself or keeping it to buy nice things in the future?
    It’s the incentive of profit that produces all the wealth in a free society. Does anyone work for free?
    Don’t we want to not just get by but to have something left of our wages (a profit) that we can spend or save?

    All debts are payed either by the borrower or by the lender. If the borrower doesn’t pay back the debt it is still payed by the lender. If the goverment “forgives” loans the debt doesn’t disappear it was payed by the tax payer.

    All this “loan forgiveness” business is nothing but a bribe for the purpose of buying votes.

      1. Thanks.
        It just crossed my mind that even if one wanted to lend without interest one would go out of business in a few years because, thanks to inflation caused by our goverments, the money one would get back from the borrower would have less value then the money that one gave to the borrower. Unless the lender does want to go bankruppt he has to demand interest. The higher the inflation, the higher the interest.
        Thanks, goverment.

        1. Artaxerxes: It’s not so much the government as it is the banking cartels who want high interest and inflation. The bigger the debt load and the higher the inflation rates, the more power that these syndicates have over the economy.

          If we switched back to deflationary policies, government would borrow money at a lower valuation and pay it back with higher valuation which benefits everyone. When we had that kind of a system, all of our debts from FDR’s New Deal, WW2, the Marshall Plan, the Korean War and the Interstate Highway System were paid off and we had a balanced budget by 1962.

          1. As it is, with the current system, when the goverment spends more than it takes in taxes it has to borrow the money which with the current system means effectively expanding the money supply which leads to inflation.

            The main culprit is the goverment.

          2. Artaxes
            The Night Wind

            Not sure I understand The Night Wind’s theory, but I do understand one thing. To longterm produce deflation, the government must spend less than it taxes. The only way that will happen is if Congress stops spending so much. That would be good because the Federal Government uses lots of resources that would be better invested in the private economy.

            Who is responsible for all that spending? Congress would not spend all that money if we didn’t vote for the big spenders.

          1. That depends on how one defines ‘government.’ If you mean what used to have—a representative republic—then what you say is true. But we currently have a token government that does the bidding of the Financial Oligarchy that holds these debts. Four transnational financial cartels currently not only hold most of the government debt; they have controlling stock interest in every company in the S&P 500. Three of those four are wholly on board with Klaus Schwab’s radical ideals to return us to Feudalism and Mercantilism.

            These banking firms have interlocking corporate boards, BTW. Financial institutions make up a huge share of the WEF Top 100 Strategic Partners, and combined they control more wealth as the entire GDPs of every country except the United States and China. The WEF openly brags about it’s members holding high positions in national governments (e.g. Justin Trudeau). Pete Buttigieg, whom the Democrats are grooming (no pun intended) to be Biden’s eventual replacement and Elise Stefanik (who took over for Liz Cheney as GOP Chair) are both WEF members. Nearly every Cabinet Member of the last six administrations have revolving-door positions with major Wall Street players.

            We basically have the same political system that we had in Colonial America where a few landed ‘Elites’ dictate policy. They’re expanding this system into economics and using debt and inflation to turn us back into vassals.

          2. I think you give these people a bit more credit for brains than they deserve.

            I don’t know much about WEF. So, I won’t say you are flat wrong. However, I will share an observation, an old truism. People who live off capital and people who live off wages have contrary interests, at least in the short term. People who live off capital tend to think themselves richer if they can reduce the pay of their employees. Employees, of course, want to earn as much as they can. Inflation effectively reduces employee pay.,

            Rich people, people who own lots of capital, have a lot of influence on politicians. If they are wise, rich people promote republican (little r) government. If you want to keep the government away from your wealth, then you want limited government. Rich people, unfortunately, are not any wiser than anyone else. So, they don’t necessarily want limited government.

            What do rich people want from government? Favors. First, they buy off politicians to protect what they have. Then they buy off politicians to gain competitive advantages.

            Whether the politicians or the capitalist have the upper hand is debatable. I sure don’t know. However, it is fairly obvious that some foreign powers have been bribing our elected leaders, including our president.

            So, I think the mess in Washington DC is kind of complex. Nevertheless, I think we should all be wondering. If Biden is not working for the CCP, what would he have done differently?

          3. “I think you give these people a bit more credit for brains than they deserve.”

            TBH, I think they’re a collection of very stupid and corrupt men. They have the advantage, though, of a weak and degenerate populace who is fairly easy to deceive and dominate. Unfortunately, today it doesn’t require much cunning or threatening to gain the compliance of a majority of Americans.

            “Whether the politicians or the capitalist have the upper hand is debatable. I sure don’t know. However, it is fairly obvious that some foreign powers have been bribing our elected leaders, including our president.”

            That’s part of the problem: the WEF and the corporations supporting it are supranational entities. A lot of the foreign money used for lobbying is actually laundered through subsidiary corporations controlled by Western-based interests. George Soros was the one who really started that technique which others have since copied.

            “I think we should all be wondering. If Biden is not working for the CCP, what would he have done differently?”

            That’s basically my point though I believe that the impetus is coming from Davos rather than Beijing. Theodore Roosevelt made the same point when he was criticized for enforcing anti-trust laws: he flatly asked how having a few hundred men in an economic combine controlling the national economy was any different than a few hundred bureaucrats controlling it under Communism. Either way, the people are dependent upon unelected and unaccountable overlords. In a free society, the only entity that should be ‘too big to fail’ is the government.

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