Question: It is intimated that under the law of God as laid down in Holy Scripture usury is not permissible. Can you kindly explain what is really meant by the term “usury”? In the Concise Oxford Dictionary the word is defined as the practice of lending money at exorbitant interest, especially at higher interest than is allowed by law; but Nuttall’s Dictionary gives also the definition: “The practice of taking interest.” If the latter definition be correct, its abolition would seem to be utterly impracticable; but the abolition of exorbitant interest would be not only practicable but obviously desirable.
Reply: Usury represents that interest which is extracted whether the person or enterprise concerned is capable of paying it or not. This is quite distinct from an increase. That is to say, we are entitled to the profit or surplus or “increase” upon an enterprise if such a profit or surplus is made. But we are not entitled to extract interest from an enterprise if no increase is available, because to do so puts a burden upon the enterprise, which ends in killing the enterprise itself. In reality, usury results in killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Interest becomes usury when it represents a fixed charge upon an enterprise, which has to be paid whether that enterprise is prospering or not. If interest only represents a share in the distribution of any surplus made then it is justified, because we are entitled to enjoy the increase which God gives us as a result of our creative energy and work.
Editor’s Note: To gauge the real impact of usury, let’s say one dollar was borrowed at simple interest at the time the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States came into existence.
$1.00 at 7% – takes $505.00 to pay back
$1.00 at 10% – takes $6,428.00 to pay back
$1.00 at 18% (avg. credit card rate) – takes $4,103,407.00 to pay back.
Is there any wonder why God prohibited usury? Or why the banks just keep getting bigger and more powerful?
Courtesy The National Message