You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. Deuteronomy 23:19
“Debt is the fatal disease of republics, the first thing and the mightiest to undermine government and corrupt the people.”
Wendell Phillips in Day’s Collacon, compiled and arranged by Edward Parsons Day (New York: IPPO, 1884) 166.
God’s design for His people is that they lend freely to one another. God made this point clearly to Moses in the Deuteronomic Law.
Phillips explains why debt is so dangerous. It undermines government, corrupts the people, and ultimate destroys republics.
As today’s post is short, I will add an excerpt from C.S. Lewis, posted previously, from his classic work, Mere Christianity, which connects usury (lending at interest) and generosity.
“There is one bit of advice given to us by the ancient heathen Greeks, and by the Jews in the Old Testament, and by the great Christian teachers of the Middle Ages, which the modern economic system has completely disobeyed. All these people told us not to lend money at interest; and lending money at interest — what we call investment — is the basis of our whole system…
Some people say that when Moses and Aristotle and the Christians agreed in forbidding interest (or ‘usury’ as they called it), they could not foresee the joint stock company, and were only thinking of the private money-lender, and that, therefore, we need not bother about what they said. That is a question I cannot decide on. I am not an economist and I simply do not know whether the investment system is responsible for the state we are in or not.
This is where we want the Christian economist. But I should not have been honest if I had not told you that the three great civilizations agreed (or so it seems at first sight) in condemning the very thing on which we have based our whole life. One more point and I am done.
In the passage where the New Testament says that everyone must work, it gives as a reason ‘in order that he may have something to give to those in need’ [Ephesians 4:28]. Charity — giving to the poor — is an essential part of Christian morality: in the frightening parable of the sheep and the goats it seems to be the point on which everything turns.
Some people nowadays say that charity ought to be unnecessary and that instead of giving to the poor we ought to be producing a society in which there were no poor to give to. They may be quite right in saying that we ought to produce that kind of society. But if anyone thinks that, as a consequence, you can stop giving in the meantime, then he has parted company with all Christian morality.
I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them. I am speaking now of “charities” in the common way.
Particular cases of distress among your own relatives, friends, neighbours or employees, which God, as it were, forces upon your notice, may demand much more: even to the crippling and endangering of your own position. For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear — fear of insecurity. This must often be recognised as a temptation. Sometimes our pride also hinders our charity; we are tempted to spend more than we ought on the showy forms of generosity (tipping, hospitality) and less than we ought on those who really need our help.”
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) in Mere Christianity (New York: Harper One, 1980) 85-87.
Much to think about! Admittedly, it’s hard to live generously in a world where the whole system is based on usury. For us, we endeavor at all costs to avoid the latter so we can practice the former. It’s God’s design in the Scriptures.