Borrowing and lending: What Jesus tells us about lending money?

Moneylending is a serious issue since time immemorial. It is painful, to know how people are enslaved in numerous ways by moneylenders. Many times poor people spend their entire life or even generations to pay off their interests. Usurers extract land, labour, assets, farm produce etc in return. This money lending business is killing many poor people and enslaving many for life. Money lending with interests always worsens the plight of the poor.

When I come across such cases of exploitation, I always think what Jesus said about lending and borrowing. How God commanded Moses to tell His people to lend?

Mosaic Law tells, “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest” (Exodus 22:25). In Deuteronomy 23:19, it prohibits charging interest in any form such as food, money or anything else.   Mosaic Law tells us this, basically for two reasons, first: interest bearing loan would aggravate the difficulties of the poor and secondly: God promised a blessing on the gracious lender that would far surpass any interest he would make. Moreover, this law strongly encourages community living by proposing, every creditor must cancel their debts every seven years (Deuteronomy 15:1). However, the law does tell borrowers to work to return their debts (Psalm 37:21) but it does not encourage lenders to impose interest or forcefully collect the loan.

When the Mosaic Law of 3500 years tells not to lend with interest, what Jesus tells us about this? He says “do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42). He then tells us to lend freely without expecting a return. He goes one step further by telling even don’t expect any return from the needy. He not only tells us to give to our friends but also to enemies in need. He says, “But love your enemies and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great” (Luke 6:35). He strongly emphasizes to give freely, without interest and even in worse cases give without even expecting anything in return. Jesus tells “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).

It encourages to give freely and promises a return of our gracious giving from God.  By giving He tells us, we will not become poor rather he tells us our ability to produce wealth comes from God (Deuteronomy 8:18) and it is God who sends both poverty and wealth; He humbles and He exalts” (1 Samuel 2:7).

When we live in a community we should live interdependently and equality and justice help us all live joyful and meaningful lives rather than living lavishly at the cost of others.  When we are connected to God vertically and to people horizontally in love, it sums up everything. As He blesses freely, it is expected we too bless others freely.

But how far have we gone in the other ways? I wonder where the increasing individualism would take us.

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