Usury?

NathanH83

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The Bible says Usury is wrong.
 

Andrew

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I wish my bank would agree!! ;)
Same for a school I attended but due to unfortunate circumstances never got to complete, looks like I'm forever paying back the loan plus incredible interest with a job I never got til I die :/
 

jsimms435

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Same for a school I attended but due to unfortunate circumstances never got to complete, looks like I'm forever paying back the loan plus incredible interest with a job I never got til I die :/
I told my wife yesterday that I think my student loans should be paid off about 5 or 6 years after I die at the rate I am going. Unfortunately my story is not unusual.
 

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A usury is usually about excessive rates for paying back loans. Sometimes in the bible we find that loans are forgiven completely but there are other times when the loans are just reduced.
 

tango

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A usury is usually about excessive rates for paying back loans. Sometimes in the bible we find that loans are forgiven completely but there are other times when the loans are just reduced.
I know what usury is, just n ot sure what purpose it serves to simply make a one-line statement.

It's the kind of thing that tends to end up being great for tubthumping but not very good for useful discussion. In a discussion about "excessive" rates we first need to figure out what counts as "excessive" and whether it changes based on the circumstances. We might argue that charging someone 8000% APY on a $25,000 loan for six years is excessive, but charging someone $5 to borrow $50 for a week probably works out at a higher theoretical annual interest rate. It's also worth considering whether something is "excessive" when compared to the alternatives it might help prevent - paying $10 to borrow $50 for a week might theoretically be a truly eye-popping annual interest rate but it beats paying a late payment fee on a credit card and having your entire credit balance shifted to a penalty interest rate.
 

NathanH83

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The Bible says Usury is wrong.
Usury is condemned in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Proverbs, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah.

But people think Jesus' parable in Luke 19 is saying that Usury is OK.

Thoughts?
 

tango

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Usury is condemned in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Proverbs, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah.

But people think Jesus' parable in Luke 19 is saying that Usury is OK.

Thoughts?
I don't think the parable in Luke 19 has any bearing at all on the issue of usury. In Luke 19 ten servants are given 10 minas each although we only hear the results from three of them. One got a 100% return, one got a 50% return, and one got no return at all because he didn't do anything with it. The text shows the master saying "do business until I return" and then asking what profit they received by trading. If anything this suggests the text is nothing at all to do with acceptable interest rates where lending is concerned.

As far as usury is concerned the crucial elements in determining interest rates are the size of the loan and the duration, and the creditworthiness of the borrower. If someone has a track record of borrowing money and not repaying it we can hardly be surprised if the lender wants an increased interest rate to cover the increased risk they won't see their money again. The overall effect of trying to crack down on "excessive" interest rates (whatever that term is taken to mean) is that the people at the bottom of the credit spectrum will be excluded from the credit market completely.
 

NathanH83

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I don't think the parable in Luke 19 has any bearing at all on the issue of usury. In Luke 19 ten servants are given 10 minas each although we only hear the results from three of them. One got a 100% return, one got a 50% return, and one got no return at all because he didn't do anything with it. The text shows the master saying "do business until I return" and then asking what profit they received by trading. If anything this suggests the text is nothing at all to do with acceptable interest rates where lending is concerned.

As far as usury is concerned the crucial elements in determining interest rates are the size of the loan and the duration, and the creditworthiness of the borrower. If someone has a track record of borrowing money and not repaying it we can hardly be surprised if the lender wants an increased interest rate to cover the increased risk they won't see their money again. The overall effect of trying to crack down on "excessive" interest rates (whatever that term is taken to mean) is that the people at the bottom of the credit spectrum will be excluded from the credit market completely.
Biblically, any interest is Usury, even as low as 1%.

Is Jesus saying it's ok?
 

tango

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Biblically, any interest is Usury, even as low as 1%.

Is Jesus saying it's ok?
So you're never going to get a car loan or mortgage because you disagree with the concept as a Christian?
 

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The parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14-28) is about a servant who acts honorably by burying money given in trust, courageously denouncing an exploitive master, and as a result is consigned to extinction for his audacity.

Most people understand the story as Matthew has (cf. Lk 19:12-24). But his concluding editorial, "To all those who have, more will be given, but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away" is at odds with everything else Jesus says on the subject of haves and have-nots (Mk 10:25/Mt 19:24/Lk 18:25; Mt 6:19-21/Lk 12:33-34; Mt 19:30; Mt 20:16; Lk 6:24; Lk 16:19-31); and Jesus was obviously no capitalist. Matthew's editorial implies that the first two servants are the heroes of the story, which Jewish peasants would have found outrageous.(1)

As Richard Rohrbaugh and William Herzog have demonstrated -- though in very different ways, as we will see -- the third servant is the hero of this parable, because he acted honorably and refused to participate in the rapacious schemes of the master. Contrast with the agenda of the first two servants:
"First things first: the master's initial investment must be secured, then doubled; after that, the retainers can make their profit. They are always walking a tightrope, keeping the master's gain high enough to appease his greed and not incur his wrath while keeping their own accumulations of wealth small enough not to arouse suspicion yet lucrative enough to insure their future. The master knows the system too, and as long as the retainers keep watch of his interests and maintain a proper yield, he does not begrudge their gains. In fact, he stands to gain a great deal by encouraging the process. Not only do the retainers do his dirty work, exploiting others for profit, but they siphon off anger that would otherwise be directed at him." (Herzog, Parables as Subversive Speech, p 160).
The first two servants do exactly as expected of them, doubling the master's money and presumably making some "honest graft" on the side, as all retainers did in agrarian empires. But the third servant acts completely out of character -- this alone is the tip-off that he will be the story's hero -- by digging a hole and burying the master's money to keep it intact, acting in accordance with Jewish law.(2)

When the master (naturally) rewards the two servants, the third servant acts stunningly by blowing the whistle on him (as Herzog puts it), while at the same time giving him back the money he had buried in trust: "Master, I know that you are a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, gathering where you did not scatter." This retainer says what every peasant has always wanted to say.

An alternate version of this parable was preserved in the Gospel of the Nazorenes (now lost), reported by Eusebius. Here the third servant is accepted with joy, while the other two are condemned. In "A Peasant Reading of the Talents/Pounds", Rohrbaugh notes the chiastic structure:

The master had three servants:

A one who squandered his master’s substance with harlots and flute girls
B one who multiplied the gain
C and one who hid the talent;

and accordingly,

C’ one was accepted with joy
B’ another merely rebuked
A’ and another cast into prison.
(Eusebius, Theophania; from Hennecke & Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha 1:149)

Though I'm eternally suspicious of arguments based on chiastic structures, this one is powerful. Here we have an ancient author who rejected the Matthean judgment on the third servant, while modern critics insist on vilifying him.

Like many of Jesus' parables, the Talents ends on dark ambiguity. "The whistle-blower is no fool," says Herzog. "He realizes that he will pay a price, but he has decided to accept the cost (p 167)." The question is who his friends are after banishment. Will peasants acknowledge and respect his honorable course of action, or would the fact that he was a retainer make such meeting of the minds impossible? Listeners are left pondering the fate of an unlikely hero.


Endnotes

1. The ways in which critics have followed Matthew's (and Luke's) demonizing of the third servant are astounding. C.H. Dodd thinks that the third servant's "overcaution" and "cowardice" led to a breach in trust. T.W. Manson believes that the punishment for the third servant's "neglected opportunity" was a complete "deprivation of opportunity". Dan Via says the third servant's "refusal to take risks" led to repressed guilt and the loss of opportunity for any meaningful existence. John Donahue thinks that out of "fear of failing", the third servant refused even to try to succeed. The list could go on and on. (See Herzog, p 153.)

2. According to the Mishnah, money could be guarded honorably only by placing it in the earth: M.B. Mes. 3:10; B.B. Mes. 42a.

Bibliography

Eusebius: Theophania (from Hennecke & Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha, Westminster, 1963.)

Herzog, William: Parables as Subversive Speech, Westminster John Knox, 1994.

Malina, Bruce & Rohrbaugh, Richard: Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, Second Edition, Augsburg Fortress, 2003.

Rohrbaugh, Richard: "A Peasant Reading of the Talents/Pounds: A Text of Terror", BTB 23:32-39, 1993.
 

tango

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You don't have to argue about capitalism or socialism or any other economic or political system to discuss the parable. The interpretation you have presented here is certainly one possible interpretation but it rather flies in the face of the idea that "to whom much is given, much is expected".

When Jesus said we were to love God with all our hearts, all our minds, all our strength etc the key term is "all". I loosely know a guy (I'll call him Fred for the sake of a name) who is mentally subnormal. I'm sure there's a more politically correct term these days but the simple reality is that he can't look after himself and in most senses can't be considered a "functioning adult" the way most of the rest of us can be. For him to love God with all of his mind doesn't require the kind of deep thought that the Einsteins among us would be capable of performing. Those with sharper intellects are expected to use their skills and more is expected of them than is expected of something like "Fred". The people God has blessed with an abundance of resources will have higher expectations placed upon them where sharing is concerned than the people who have to juggle every month if they have the crazy idea they'd like to pay their rent and also have something to eat. With that in mind I'm not inclined to agree with the interpretation of the parable you have presented here - I see the third person as the one who God has blessed with something that could have been used for good but who decided not to bother.

With all that said, I think we also have to be a little careful with parables because it's easy to try and dig ever-deeper into something that was never intended to be analysed in such detail.
 

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The dollar bill has interest in it, it's very odd but rather fair.. hypothetically if I print a dollar for you then you must repay me that dollar plus another since I am also a working man printing money all day for you... I could just say "don't worry it's on me" and print out all the money I want for myself rendering your dollar worthless..

Hope that makes sense.. I don't like that our taxes don't cover the interest, I believe it's because taxes go to the government but the federal reserve that prints our money is completely independent.. the problem is that it has created a master and slave situation where the one side owns most of the money and the rest of the world lives off of the the small remainder..
Economy is from a greek word that basically means steward, this steward has a master and I do believe the bible has used an example of a steward who handled his Masters money and misused it and knew he would lose his job so he fudged the numbers of his debtors so that they only pay back half of what they owe, he basically knew he would eventually get fired and lose all of his wealth so he "betrayed" his master by forgiving the debtors in exchange for their friendship and hospitality so that instead of becoming a beggar on the streets he would be invited into his friends homes..
I probably got some of that wrong but the point is that the Master forgave him and was pleased.. Thus Jesus is our master and through your forgiveness of others he has forgiven you and you have inherited the Kingdom on his behalf :)

That specific parable is beautiful but it isn't meant to be tried on the actual global economy, it's meant for understanding his loving forgiveness and mercy if you forgive others

[Edit]
Ah! Here it is

"And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light"
Luke 16:1-8
 
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popsthebuilder

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It is interest on a thing loaned. But we are taught to give without expectation of return or reward.

That is to say that if I find one in need then I should help them in whatever capacity I have for their sake, and not as a favor or in hopes that they will owe me.

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With all that said, I think we also have to be a little careful with parables because it's easy to try and dig ever-deeper into something that was never intended to be analysed in such detail.
The main audience that Jesus addressed were Jewish peasants and they would have heard the parable in question in a Jewish context. We no longer live in a Jewish context and the vast majority of us are unfamiliar with Jewish customs and laws. That is the issue being addressed in the article I posted. This is why Biblical scholarship is so important.
 

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It is interest on a thing loaned. But we are taught to give without expectation of return or reward.

That is to say that if I find one in need then I should help them in whatever capacity I have for their sake, and not as a favor or in hopes that they will owe me.

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The thing about loaning money is that it's often done for things that aren't needs. We might argue that we need a car in order to get to work (although it wouldn't have been a relevant concept at the time Jesus spoke) but the chances are we don't need a new car, or a luxury car, or indeed anything more than a device with four wheels and an engine to get us where we are going. Big difference between meeting a genuine need with a gift and lending money so someone can effectively spend next month's pay this month.

That said, if credit weren't so easy to come by a lot of prices would have to adjust downwards and a lot of things would become a lot more affordable or simple disappear from the market.
 

popsthebuilder

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The thing about loaning money is that it's often done for things that aren't needs. We might argue that we need a car in order to get to work (although it wouldn't have been a relevant concept at the time Jesus spoke) but the chances are we don't need a new car, or a luxury car, or indeed anything more than a device with four wheels and an engine to get us where we are going. Big difference between meeting a genuine need with a gift and lending money so someone can effectively spend next month's pay this month.

That said, if credit weren't so easy to come by a lot of prices would have to adjust downwards and a lot of things would become a lot more affordable or simple disappear from the market.
Oh, I wasn't really meaning the credit or banking system. You do make some good points though. I meant on a more personal basis.

peace

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