Exodus 22:25, “If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them.”
Leviticus 25:36-37, “Do not take interest in advance or otherwise make a profit from them, but fear your God; let them live with you. You shall not lend them money at interest taken in advance, or provide them food at a profit.”
Context: God instructs the Israelites to treat family members who fall on hard times as they would a resident alien.
Deuteronomy 23:19,20, “You shall not charge interest on loans to another Israelite, interest on money, interest on provisions, interest on anything that is lent. On loans to a foreigner, you may charge interest…”
Ezekiel 22:12, “In you, they take bribes to shed blood; you take both advanced interest and accrued interest, and make gain of your neighbors by extortion; and you have forgotten Me, says the Lord.”
Context: Numerous, unrelated laws are listed in Exodus 22 & Deuteronomy 23. Ezekiel 22 prophecies against Jerusalem.
Analysis: Israelites were not to charge interest when lending to one another. Charging interest to one’s own countrymen for necessities and consumer products does nothing to benefit the national economy. It only makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. It’s the rich who have the excess money to lend, and it’s the poor who lack funds and need to borrow. Over time, as the poor continue to pay interest, their limited income is transferred to the rich who collect that interest.
Does this mean that we should eliminate charging interest in America? First of all, doing so would be a tremendous shock to our economy and would probably collapse it. The country would have to have been set up as interest-free from its inception. Second, these passages only address lending to those in need, not those who seek to buy non-necessities despite lacking the money to do so.
By modern American standards, God’s rules on interest are unfair, because the lenders lost real dollars if inflation increased while the debt was owed. Lenders were only to lend money as a charitable act, not as an effort to profit from those in need. God expects the rich to make sacrifices for the poor, because He wants the poor to enjoy a quality lifestyle, since they too are created in His image.
Matthew 25:27-28, “Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents.”
Context: In verses 14-30, Jesus tells the parable of the talents in which a man gave three of his servants money to invest for him while he went away, and when he returned, the two men to whom he had given the most returned the money with interest, while the man who had only been given one talent had buried it in the ground and returned it without interest. Verses 27-28 are the man’s response.
Analysis: Most Christians interpret this parable as a directive for us to use our God-given gifts (talents) to serve His purposes. We follow this interpretation, because the word “talent,” which once described a monetary denomination, now means ability. I won’t dispute this interpretation, because serving God with our abilities is a good idea. But let’s not ignore this parable’s literal interpretation.
When we make money and desire to give more than the required 10%, we should invest the money and grow it for God’s purposes, rather than turn around and give it right back to Him. If Christians had done this over the centuries, the money available for ministering to others would be exponentially more than it now is.
So why haven’t Christians invested for future giving? Many have avoided it because they believed that Jesus’ return was imminent. They didn’t invest in the future, because they didn’t believe in a future. That’s one of the dangers of proclaiming that Jesus will return within the next few years or decades (the other danger is that people will lose faith in Jesus when He fails to return within the predicted time).