Sunday, November 01, 2009

Lending to the poor: Dt 23:19-20

"You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess." (Deuteronomy 23:19-20)
God's rules on lending without usury apply primarily to lending to the poor. These rules do not, however, forbid the lending of money as an investment in some business venture or lending for a commercial desire rather than an absolute need, for example lending money for a car, a house, or some other purchase. God is here primarily concerned with our treatment of and response to the poor. "If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest." (Ex 22:25) "He who increases his wealth by interest and usury gathers it for him who is gracious to the poor." (Proverbs 28:8)

The Hebrew term translated here as "loaned at interest" is an interesting word. It literally means to strike with a sting or to bite. It is the same word used to describe the bites of the serpents send to punish the nation of Israel while they were in the desert. "The Lord sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died." (Numbers 21:6) The term here for "they bit" is the same word used for "loaned at interest". It is God's intention that we pity the poor rather than see them as an opportunity for gain. God desires us to have hearts of compassion, hearts that reach out to help those in need, hearts that think of other more than ourselves and how we might be increased. God identifies with the poor and, when we lend to the poor, it is as if we are lending to Him. "One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, and He will repay him for his good deed." (Proverbs 19:17)

David Robison

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