Thursday, 2 February 2017

Rebuttal of Got Question's Response on Usury

Got Questions has it totally wrong on usury. So, if you from Got Questions, listen up, I have some news for you. You are wrong on usury, if not heretical on usury. You make usury out to be totally legitimate, as it appears, "as long as it does not harm anyone". Your thinking on usury is no different from the world's view on morality, that there is nothing wrong with it "as long as it does not harm anyone".

I sent Got Questions the following feedback:

Hi there 

I am writing to enquire as to Got Questions' article called "What is usury in the Bible?" I note it says "While the Bible does not prohibit the charging of interest, it does warn against becoming too concerned with money, telling us that we cannot serve both God and money at the same time (Matthew 6:24)". I have been researching this topic of usury for a while, and have sought God for counsel and wisdom on it. 

In Luke 6:34, Jesus Himself says " And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full." It is to imply that a Christian should not expect to be paid back what is lent, that is, what we call the loan principal, let alone, charge usury. 

Also, in Luke 19:11-27 Parable of the minas, I think it that the master was ascribing the charging of usury to "hard men". This is indicated by Luke 19:22-23 where the maste r says that he judges the wicked servant by his own mouth, that if he thought he was a "hard man", why did that servant not deposit it for usury. It think it also implies that depositing money for usury is what lazy servants do, not what good servant do, who do not appear to charge usury. 

Thanks for reading my comment

A person from Got Questions responded with the following:

Jesus' context in Luke is about personal "good works." His point is that lending with a business-minded approach can't be considered a "good work." His meaning is that those who lend to another with an expectation of repayment are not doing something charitable, so there is no spiritual "credit" they can take. Jesus was not saying that expecting repayment was a sin, only that business-style "lending" is not an act of charity or sacrifice.

Regarding the ten minas, remember that the words and attitude of the nobleman are his own, not necessarily those of Jesus speaking in His own approach. Parables are meant to make a point, not to be literal or exhaustive explanations. The nobleman is chiding the servant for doing literally nothing with the money, when he could have at least let it sit in a bank and earned interest.

While there's no hard definition for usury, it generally involves making the rate of interest unfairly high. This is why we refer to loan sharks, who prey on those who are financially desperate in order to make money. If God considered all charging of interest a moral sin, He would not have allowed Israel to do it, as per Deuteronomy 23:20. The OT law viewed charging interest on a loan given to a poor or destitute fellow Israelite as "usury," not because of the interest itself, but because it was seen as taking advantage of the other person.

We appreciate the feedback, and hope this helps, as well!
Note in his answer, he does not back his answer with specific verses or passages in the Bible. He misses the true spirit of the commandment of Jesus in Luke 6:34, and simply indirectly accusing me of using a literal approach to understanding the Parable of the Minas, when he is the one doing that. He says "Parables are meant to make a point, not to be literal or exhaustive explanations", and then in the next sentence says, "The nobleman is chiding the servant for doing literally nothing with the money, when he could have at least let it sit in a bank and earned interest." Are you not just interpreting the Parable literally when you just previously rebuked someone (me) for doing the same thing?

Note how he simply adopts the modern, that is, perverted definition of usury, by saying "While there's no hard definition for usury, it generally involves making the rate of interest unfairly high. This is why we refer to loan sharks, who prey on those who are financially desperate in order to make money." That itself shows that he is not qualified Biblically to speak on usury.

I would also like to say to this person, I do not think you response helps at all. It was totally unbiblical and if not outright worldly, and heretical. 

So, I responded with the following detailed response. I received no reply from this person, probably, one could suspect, he had no way to rebut it. Please note that it is not in italicised as my initial feedback and his response were.

My response:

Thanks for your reply. I appreciate it very much.
Re: Luke 6:34
So, yes, I accept that in Luke 6:34, Jesus was referring to what it meant to do good works. He is saying expecting a repayment does not make one good, because to expecting repayment is what the unsaved do, what the unbelieving world does. You seem to be thinking that 'expecting repayment' means to simply uphold the principle in Psalm 37:21 that one must repay for one's debt as "the wicked borrow and do not repay".

Based upon my careful study of this topic, I believe that what it means by 'expecting repayment' in the context of Luke 6:34 is to have the legalistic mindset that one seeks after a repayment. It is referring to holding onto one's so-called "right" to be repaid, rather than lending generously. The world holds onto its "rights", including that to be repaid, legalistically demanding and expecting to be repaid when it loans. As Christians, however, we are not to hold onto our so-called "rights", having the legalistic mindset that one should receive what one lends.

So, what Jesus was saying is to not have the legalistic mindset. Although it is sin on part of a borrower to not repay (Psalm 37:21), it is also a sin on part of the lender, to expect repayment, in the sense of having that mindset that one has lent money, such that one is entitled to be repaid on one's part. 'Expecting repayment' does not mean to disregard the principle in Psalm 37:21, or ignore the sin of not repaying. It is referring to the lender on one's part of not demanding what one loans for that is of the spirit of legalism, which is sin.
So, if that mindset is a sin, therefore, it follows that charging usury ('interest' is a perversion of the term usury) is sin. Jesus was simply enforcing what was said in the Old Testament.

Even if expecting repayment was not a sin or a sin per se, and as you say, merely that business-oriented lending is not charitable, did Jesus not give the two Greatest Commandments to love God and love one's neighbour? So, is not  the failure to love a sin? So, would it not be the case that expecting repayment in the sense that Luke 6:34 means it, is a sin?

Re: Old Testament prohibition of usury
I don't know if you have read this verse, as seems to be overlooked by many Christians, but I would like to draw it to your attention: He lends at interest and takes a profit. Will such a man live? He will not! Because he has done all these detestable things, he is to be put to death; his blood will be on his own head (Ezekiel 18:13 NIV). Some translations use the word 'abomination', instead of 'detestable' such as ESV, KJV, and NASB, which is a very strong word. I think if you check the original Hebrew of the word 'usury' as used in not only Ezekiel 18:13, it refers to all interest on a loan, not just excessive interest: So, the word 'usury' does have a real definition in the Bible, that is, interest per se, not just "excessive interest".
That usury was called an 'abomination' as long side other sins, in Ezekiel 18:10-13, such as murder, idolatry, adultery, robbery by violence and oppressing the poor and needy. So, this is what usury is under the Old Testament Law, a violation of the Moral Law. Usury itself is a sin, because it is usury, and not because it was simply seen as 'taking advantage of someone'. This could not be the case because the heart of the issue of usury is how it enslaves people to debt, that is, money, so that people will not be able to fully serve God, as Jesus said that no one can serve both God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).

Thus, to view usury as wrong because it 'takes advantage of someone', is to view the rightness or wrongness of it based on the consequences to people, rather than that is a manifestation of the love of money, an abomination to God. This resembles humanistic ethical reasoning  which is based on consequences or how it may negative affect people. It focuses ultimately on man, and not God.  So, the moral Law, being of inspired by God, would not view usury based on the consequences caused to people. God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11), and so no Law of His is based ultimately on how something may be used against someone, but rather, whether it is a manifestation of love for Him, and of His Will.

So rather, the Old Testament views usury as that which furthers a person's bondage to money, which results from the love of money, which is against His Will.

Re: usury as a concept

The perversion of the word 'usury' to interest is the result of the push by secular anti-christ forces to legalise it in Europe during 1500s when Europe. Just like how people twist the word 'child sacrifice' and call it "abortion" or "termination of pregnancy", people likewise twisted the word 'usury' to justify it. Deception knows no bounds.
The idea that there is no hard definition of usury is to imply that what 'usury' is relative. If the meaning of 'usury' is relative, then the rightness or wrongness of usury is relative. Thus, it is akin to saying that abortion has no hard definition, and so whether it is right or wrong depends on, for example, the age of the baby (not "foetus") in the womb, the situation and the motive of murdering the baby. This may sound to you like a deliberate misrepresentation, or even mockery of what you are saying, but that is not at all my intention. So, please do not take it personally. I hope you do not.

Rather, what I am saying is that usury is a moral issue. If it is not a moral issue, what is it? A ritual? A economic process?
If usury can be viewed as 'taking advantage of someone', as you pointed out before then would not usury be a moral issue?
You refer to 'loan sharks', which is a term that is used in the modern context and borne of modern thinking, not Biblical thinking. I think if one reads the Bible, which I am sure you do very seriously, it does not refer to 'loan sharks' or any equivalent term, used to refer to people who charge "excessive interest" to "prey on vulnerable poor people". It simply says 'usurers', without distinguishing between people who have good or bad motives to charge usury, or between lending to the 'rich' or 'poor'.
While Exodus 22:25 may say, "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", this verse does not mean that all of a sudden, it is legitimate to charge rich people usury. I think the reason why it specifically refers to the poor is that loans were usually made to the poor. I think it is just like how the Old Testament specifically points out how orphans, widows and the sojourners are not to be oppressed because these were the specific groups who were oppressed by oppressors. This does not mean it is legitimate to oppress those who are neither orphans, widows or sojourners. Surely no one would say that because the Bible specifically says do not oppress the widow, orphan or sojourners, that it means that the Bible permits those who are neither orphans, widows or sojourners to be oppressed.

Re: the (apparent) usury "exception"
I note that you point out Deuteronomy 23:20 as a justification for the claim that not all usury is sin. God allows Israelites to charge those foreigners interest in that particular context because they were under God's judgment. The Hebrew word for foreigner in this verse was ' nokri' as opposed to 'ger'. The word 'nokri' carried a negative connotation, meaning 'strange', like for example, the 'strange woman' in Proverbs. He or she was under the judgment of God. A 'ger' was an immigrant of non-Jewish blood who was a sojourner, who was usually a convert of the Old Testament Jewish faith. A nokri being an unbeliever was therefore under the judgment of God, and not entitled to legal protections as a 'ger' was. So,the so-called usury "exception" applied, only because the ger was under the judgment of God. Just like how God told Israelites to kill  foreign nations because they were under God's judgment, the same applies here.

In the same way that God telling the Israelites to deliberately and wilfully kill foreign nations because of their wickedness does not make murder right, that God allowed the charging of usury against nokris, because of their wickedness in most likely charging usury themselves, does not make usury right.

Re: Parable of Minas
The meaning behind it was what I was trying to get at, which is based on the text. Despite Parables being that which are not to be interpreted literally, the text is still that which is what guides us Whether the words and attitude of the nobleman are his own, not necessarily those of Jesus speaking in His own approach, is not the issue. The issue is that charging usury is attributed to what a hard man does, whether it is Jesus' Words, or that of the master in the parable. While the master is condemning the servant for doing nothing with the money, he is also implying that charging usury is what a hard man does by judging the wicked servant in accordance to his own words. Notice how he, the master, said "If you think I am a hard man, why did you not, by your own standards, put the money on deposit for usury". He is not saying that he himself would like to receive usury.

Hope this helps. I have enjoyed discussing this topic with you. I hope you have enjoyed reading my thoughts and that you have learned something.
Grace and peace