Yikes, the new pump for our below ground bathroom will cost $1000 if we can’t find a part to fix the old one. It’s not quite an arm and a leg, though, the phrase we use to say something is terribly expensive. Usury is a word we don’t use much these days, but it also describes cost, specifically the cost of interest on loans.
Usury is interest that is too high, and it’s not just an old problem in the Bible. California has usury laws today stating that 10% is the most an unlicensed lender can charge.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Wow, all those credit card bills in California must be less, right, since credit card companies with good rates start at about 15% and go on up to 26% or more. I found out it doesn’t work that way. Licensed lending institutions can charge more as can real estate agencies and others.
Loan sharks are already violating the law before they start busting knee caps, because they charge usurious interest. You and I could get into trouble too just helping a friend out if we charge more than our state usury laws allow.
He who increases his wealth by interest and usury, gather it for him who is gracious to the poor. (Proverbs 28:8 NASB)
In case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God… (Leviticus 25:35-36)
A Psalm of David. O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart… who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.(Psalm 15:1,5)
In the Bible usury is condemned and charging interest from a fellow God-follower is blasted. What strikes me in that last scripture above? Lending money for interest is included in a list right next to taking bribes to condemn innocent people. Yowser! I didn’t see that coming.
Larry Burkett, founder of Christian Financial Concepts, sums up the usury principle this way:
The vast majority of interest charged regularly in America is probably usurious, meaning it is an exorbitant or abusive rate of interest….Obviously you can’t call your creditors from whom you’ve borrowed and say, “I’m sorry you’ve broken God’s principle of usury, therefore I don’t owe you any money.” What you can do,if you have charged others usurious rate…is to tell them they don’t owe you any more than one percent a month, because that’s what God allows…”
In college I loaned a friend money and quickly learned how easy it is to start second guessing how they spend. Did she really need all those movies on her bookshelf? I caught myself thinking that and realized I was allowing the loan to twist my attitude within our friendship. I had to take those feelings to God, to ask him to help me be gracious instead of judgmental. Lending even piece of yard equipment or a book and having issues can become a stumbling block.
Am I really listening when I pray the Lord’s prayer saying “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors?” (Matthew 6:12).
My prayer for you and me this day is to let us “excel in the grace of giving.”
Since you excel in so many ways–in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us–I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. (2 Corinthians 8:7 NLT)