Basil of Caesarea: Kindly Relationships or Usury

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Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done. Proverbs 19:17

“If all the same you are looking for some profit, be content with what the Lord will give you. He will also give the interest on your gift to the poor. So wait for the benevolence of the one who is truly benevolent.

The profit that you gain from the poor surpasses all bounds of cruelty. You are profiting from misfortune, you are squeezing money out of tears, you are persecuting a defenseless being, you are belaboring someone who is starving.

You think the profit you make out of the poor is just. But ‘Woe to those who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!’ [Isaiah 5:20] ‘Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?’ [Matthew 7:16] or kindly relationships from usury?”

Basil the Great in On Psalm 14 (PG 31, 277) in Drinking from the Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary, Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World, ed. by Thomas Spidlik (Kalamazoo: Cistercian, 1994) 298.

Basil was addressing the issue of charging interest and making a profit at the expense of the poor. Sadly, this is a common practice in modern times. It’s the opposite of justice in God’s eyes. Rather than kindly relationships that help, we charge interest and extort usury from them.

If you are reading this and you have more than enough resources to live, find someone in need and assist them. God is watching. Give them a hand up to build them up as a disciple. Don’t engage in financial practices that prey on the poor. Though legal, God sees them as unjust.

Instead, use the wealth you have to be kind to the poor. This is what it means to be compassionate. Trust God to give you the interest on your gift. This form of accounting makes no sense in the world, but it will benefit all who follow it now and for all eternity.