Financial Crisis - Lend, Expecting Nothing in Retu

In last week’s article concerning the current financial crisis, we considered our nation’s extensive debt.  Debt is a way of life for our nation’s government, businesses, and citizens.  This has resulted in a multitude of problems that compound as the debts grow larger.

Presently, let us consider the practice of lending and how it is governed by the Scriptures.  The current state of indebtedness in the nation would not be possible without willing lenders, so we must understand lending in order to get a complete view of the problems and the solutions.  We will take a cursory look at some Bible passages pertaining to the topic of lending and then summarize the overall and practical meaning for us.

As we noticed last week, there is much to be learned about these matters in the Old Testament.  Regarding the practice of lending, the Law of Moses prohibited the Israelites from charging interest (usury) to one another (they were allowed to charge interest to foreigners – Ex. 22:25-27; Deut. 23:19-20).  Those who loaned money at interest to their countrymen were violators of the Law and were warned by passages such as Proverbs 28:8 – “He who increases his wealth by interest and usury gathers it for him who is gracious to the poor.”  The idea behind this prohibition seems to be that it prevented greedy men from taking advantage of poor people who were desperate (an example of such a situation is found in Nehemiah 5:1-13).  A person who loaned money at interest was classified with those who took bribes against the innocent and perverted justice (Ps. 15:5; Ezek. 18:8-17).  On the other hand, a person who was gracious to give and lend was called righteous (Ps. 37:21, 25-26; 112:5-6).

In the New Testament, we find that Jesus addressed the topic of lending in the sermon on the mount.  Jesus said, “Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you” (Matt. 5:42).  Luke 6:34-35 gives greater insight into these instructions:

“If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”

Let us glean a few important points from these instructions.  First, notice that the words “lend” and “borrow” are translated from a single Greek word daneizō.  This word means to lend money or to take a loan of money with the understanding that the money is to be repaid to the lender by the borrower.  Next, notice that the Lord commended the practice of lending, but He indicated that the lender should expect nothing in return.  (The ASV actually gives the more literal translation of this, which is, “Lend, never despairing.”  It means to lend without despair, without regret, without expectations of return, etc.)  Understand that the Lord was not addressing the responsibility of a borrower to repay his debts (we will consider the subject of borrowing next week – see Ps. 37:21; Rom. 13:8).  The Lord was speaking in terms of the spiritual reward of the lender.  There is no spiritual reward for one who lends for the purpose of being repaid, but there is a great spiritual reward from God for one who lends for the purpose of doing good to others.

So then, what does all of this mean for us?  Let us summarize:  (1) It is a blessing to be a gracious lender.  Such a person lends without charging interest or even expecting repayment (although the borrower should repay him if he can).  The motivation of such a lender is the love of his God and the love of his neighbor.  (2) It is clear that God has a disdain for those who use their wealth to take advantage of others.  Predatory lenders find victims among those who are broke, desperate, and/or stupid.  People of God have no business engaging in either side of such situations.  (3) It is necessary for each of us to examine our business practices carefully in light of these principles concerning lending.  There is no New Testament prohibition against charging interest, and even the Israelites were allowed to charge interest to foreigners, but let us be careful.  Interest payments are an integral part of our nation’s economy, but Christians must not participate in any corrupt dealings that exploit others.

Certainly, the financial crisis is a difficult topic because our nation’s economy, banking system, and laws are such a convoluted, tangled, incomprehensible mess that it is nearly impossible to make any sense of it.  The system is such that it nearly forces citizens to speculate and take risks just to maintain what they have.  It is easy for Christians to get caught up in all of this, but we must not get carried away.  Instead, let us trust in God and consider Psalm 37:25-26 – “I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.  All day long he is gracious and lends, and his descendants are a blessing.”

Next week, we will continue these thoughts with a look at the topic of borrowing.  Understanding what is right and wrong about lending only tells us half of what we need to know.  Understanding what is right and wrong about borrowing will help us understand the rest.  Whether it is lending or borrowing, may we always do what is right!

Stacey E. Durham


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