Usury, Interest, and Loans: A Brief Summary of Biblical Teaching, With Bibliography

Gary North

Vine & Fig Tree

  In the left-hand column is an article by Christian Economist Gary North, a defender of usury (interest). In this column is a response written in terms of the Vine & Fig Tree worldview, described more fully here.

Today's "American Dream" is to own your own home, where "own" means a 30-year fixed rate mortgage, with a low interest rate provided by government manipulation of the credit system, with the regrettable but necessary possibility of losing the home for failure to pay exorbitant taxes or because a hotel or shopping mall developer promises to pay more in taxes than you can ("eminent domain"). This is a nightmare, not a dream. "Vine & Fig Tree" is the original American Dream: Everyone "dwelling safely under his own vine and fig tree." No threats from princes, pirates, lawyers, regulators or bureaucrats. The Vine & Fig Tree vision is a world where we
  • obey God's commandments,
  • experience His great blessing, and then
  • "there will be no poor among you" (Deuteronomy 15:4)

For background on the Vine & Fig Tree position on usury, see:

To justify the charging of interest on loans is to ignore the verses which seem to prohibit that, but also to ignore the entire vision of a world where loans and usury are unnecessary.

Christians have some vague awareness that the Bible prohibits interest-bearing loans, but they cannot find all of the passages that refer to this, and they have bank accounts and mortgages. They do not feel guilty, but a few may feel uneasy. Nave's Topical Bible lists the following:

Exodus 22:25; Leviticus 25:35-37; Deuteronomy 23:19; Psalm 15:5; Proverbs 28:8; Jeremiah 15:10; Ezekiel 18:8; Ezekiel 18:13; Ezekiel 18:17; Ezekiel 22:12

Exodus 22:25
25 “If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest.
Leviticus 25:35-37
35 ‘If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. 36 Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you. 37 You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit.
Deuteronomy 23:19
19 “You shall not charge interest to your brother—interest on money or food or anything that is lent out at interest.
Psalm 15:5
5 He who does not put out his money at usury,
Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
Proverbs 28:8
8 One who increases his possessions by usury and extortion
Gathers it for him who will pity the poor.
Jeremiah 15:10
10 Woe is me, my mother,
That you have borne me,
A man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth!
I have neither lent for interest,
Nor have men lent to me for interest.
Every one of them curses me.
Ezekiel 18:8
8 If he has not exacted usury
Nor taken any increase,
But has withdrawn his hand from iniquity
And executed true judgment between man and man;
Ezekiel 18:13
13 If he has exacted usury
Or taken increase—
Shall he then live?
He shall not live!
If he has done any of these abominations,
He shall surely die;
His blood shall be upon him.
Ezekiel 18:17
17 Who has withdrawn his hand from the poor [or iniquity, cp v. 8]
And not received usury or increase,
But has executed My judgments
And walked in My statutes—
He shall not die for the iniquity of his father;
He shall surely live!
Ezekiel 22:12
12 In you they take bribes to shed blood; you take usury and increase; you have made profit from your neighbors by extortion, and have forgotten Me,” says the Lord GOD.
I have good news and bad news. It is OK to deposit money in the bank and earn interest. That's the good news. It is unwise to borrow money to buy anything but investments and to meet emergencies. That is bad news for most Christians.
Using your money to earn interest from a bank is rewarding losers:
Usury and Rewarding the Wicked
But that might be a fine way to bring a loser into your sphere of influence.
On borrowing money (even for "investments), see:
What About Borrowing?
For well over a thousand years, Christian theologians debated the issue of interest on loans. They have relied too heavily on Aristotle, who prohibited interest, and not enough on the Bible. They have misquoted the Bible. They have misunderstood the Bible. They have also had no influence over loans and finance for well over three centuries. If Aristotle agrees with the Bible, it might be OK to refer to Aristotle. But if Aristotle seems to agree with the Bible but for all the wrong reasons, it's best to stay away from Aristotle. Christian theologians have not always done what's best.

Christians have no "influence" over the Mafia, the World Wrestling Federation, or the pornography industry. Hopefully.

They have gotten the story wrong. What qualifies me to say this? Because I have done what no one else has ever done. I have written 9,000 pages of verse by verse exegesis of the passages in the Bible that relate in any way to economics.
Others have written a total of 9,000 pages or more on the subject. I think I've read them.
For Further Reading
Gary North stands in the tradition of Calvin and the Reformers. "Vine & Fig Tree" stands more in the tradition of Dorothy Day and Dorothy Rushdoony.
I began this project in 1973. I have completed the exegesis of everything in the Old Testament except the Psalms and the historical works: Joshua to Second Chronicles. I have completed everything in the New Testament except John, which has only three verses, and Mark, which does not add anything to Matthew and Luke. You can download these commentaries free of charge here: Is this the "Bibliography?"
So, here is a summary of what the Bible teaches on usury, interest, and loans.  
The English word "usury" has nothing specific to do with the Hebrew and Greek words translated as "usury." This is because, historically, the word has been used in a specific way: "excessive interest."  
There is not one verse -- not one hint -- in the Bible that taking excessive interest is wrong. The Bible seems to say that taking any interest is wrong. All interest is "usury."
What is prohibited in Deuteronomy 15:1-7 and Deuteronomy 23 is interest on any loan, in any form, that has been extended to a poor brother in the faith. It is perfectly all right to lend at interest to someone not in the faith. Here, I quote from the King James (1611), since its terminology -- "usury" -- is the familiar source of the debate over usury.  

Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury: Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it (Deuteronomy 23:19-20).

Nothing in this verse says anything about "the poor." The distinction is not between the poor man on Main St. and the rich man on Wall St. The distinction is between "brother" and "stranger."
The Hebrew word translated here as "usury" is nawshak, meaning "bite." Examples:  

Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward (Genesis 49:17)


And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died (Numbers 21:6).

The word in no way implies "excessive." It means any extra payment at all.  
The prohibition applied only to charitable loans to poor brethren in the faith and to a special category of resident aliens, men who had submitted to the Mosaic law. The texts are quite specific. Which verse says "charitable loans?"

If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury (Exodus 22:25).

Why would you lend money to a rich person? Why would a rich person want a loan?

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender. (Proverbs 22:7 KJV)

Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. (1 Corinthians 7:23 KJV)

The borrower is a slave; we are not to be slaves; therefore we are not to borrow. The logic is inescapable.

Why would a rich person want a loan from you?

And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase (Leviticus 25:35-37).

R.J. Rushdoony has concluded:

The believer must seek to avoid debt as far as possible: Debt is for the Christian a violation of the commandment, "Owe no man anything, save to love one another" (Rom. 13:8). The normal life of the covenant man is to be debt-free, to owe no man anything save the obligation of rendering tribute, honor, fear, and custom wherever due, and of rendering that love which is the fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13:7-8).

More here: What About Borrowing?

The Hebrew word here translated as "stranger" is different from the Hebrew word for "stranger" in Deuteronomy 23:19. Deuteronomy's stranger was a temporary resident, probably a businessman. I think verse 20 is intended.

Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury (8686) ; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury (8686) :

Would a poor person from another nation be traveling to Israel with an intention to leave soon? A poor person from another country would be more likely to be emigrating from a pagan nation and immigrating to Israel, likely with an intention to stay in Israel and to become an Israelite.

  Here are the occurrences of nokri ("stranger").

Genesis 31:15 Are we not counted of him strangers? for he hath sold us, and hath quite devoured also our money.

Businessman, or poor?

Exodus 2:22 And she bare him a son, and he called his name Gershom: for he said, I have been a stranger in a strange land.

Exodus 18:3 And her two sons; of which the name of the one was Gershom; for he said, I have been an alien in a strange land:

Exodus 21:8 If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.

Deuteronomy 14:21 Ye shall not eat of any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that is in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God.

Note the distinction between "stranger" (resident?) and "alien."

Deuteronomy 15:3 Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release;

Deuteronomy 17:15 Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.

Deuteronomy 23:20 Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it.

Deuteronomy 29:22 So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the LORD hath laid upon it; ‘The whole land is brimstone, salt, and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow there, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in His anger and His wrath.’

Judges 19:12 And his master said unto him, We will not turn aside hither into the city of a stranger, that is not of the children of Israel; we will pass over to Gibeah.

Ruth 2:10 Then she fell on her face, and bowed herself to the ground, and said unto him, Why have I found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me, seeing I am a stranger?

2 Samuel 15:19 Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile.

1 Kings 8:41-43 Moreover concerning a stranger, that is not of thy people Israel, but cometh out of a far country for thy name's sake; 42 (For they shall hear of thy great name, and of thy strong hand, and of thy stretched out arm;) when he shall come and pray toward this house; 43 Hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for: that all people of the earth may know thy name, to fear thee, as do thy people Israel; and that they may know that this house, which I have builded, is called by thy name.

1 Kings 11:1 But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;

1 Kings 11:8 And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods.

The emphasis in these passages seems to be on faith, not wealth.

2 Chronicles 6:32-33 Moreover concerning the stranger, which is not of thy people Israel, but is come from a far country for thy great name's sake, and thy mighty hand, and thy stretched out arm; if they come and pray in this house; 33 Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for; that all people of the earth may know thy name, and fear thee, as doth thy people Israel, and may know that this house which I have built is called by thy name.

Ezra 10:2 And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing.

Ezra 10:10-11 And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. 11 Now therefore make confession unto the LORD God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.

Ezra 10:14 Let now our rulers of all the congregation stand, and let all them which have taken strange wives in our cities come at appointed times, and with them the elders of every city, and the judges thereof, until the fierce wrath of our God for this matter be turned from us.

Ezra 10:17 And they made an end with all the men that had taken strange wives by the first day of the first month.
Ezra 10:18 And among the sons of the priests there were found that had taken strange wives: namely, of the sons of Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren; Maaseiah, and Eliezer, and Jarib, and Gedaliah.

Ezra 10:44 All these had taken strange wives: and some of them had wives by whom they had children.

Nehemiah 13:26-27 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin. 27 Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?

Job 19:15 They that dwell in mine house, and my maids, count me for a stranger: I am an alien in their sight.

Psalm 69:8 I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children.

Proverbs 2:16 To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words;

Proverbs 5:10 Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labours be in the house of a stranger;

Proverbs 5:20 And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger?

Proverbs 6:24 To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.

Proverbs 7:5 That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words

Proverbs 20:16 Take his garment that is surety for a stranger: and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.

Proverbs 23:27 For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit.

Proverbs 27:2 Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.

Proverbs 27:13 Take his garment that is surety for a stranger, and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.

Ecclesiastes 6:2 A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.

Isaiah 2:6 Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.

Isaiah 28:21 For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.

Jeremiah 2:21 Yet I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?

Is Israel being criticized because they became like businessmen?

Lamentations 5:2 Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens.

Obadiah 1:11 In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them.

Zephaniah 1:8 And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD'S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.

How did a charitable loan differ from a commercial loan? A charitable loan had the following features:  
1. There was no interest payment.  
2. It was morally mandatory. This is an interesting claim. For how much was the loan mandated? Which verse says this?
3. If the borrower defaulted, he could be sold into slavery.  
4. It had a six-year limit, as did the term of slavery.  
5. The creditor had to supply tools of production to the indentured servant at the end of the period of slavery.  
6. The day of release was on the day of atonement [yom kippur] in the nation's seventh (sabbatical) year  
7. It was not mandated by the civil government. Find "civil government" in Israel before 1 Samuel 8. If it was "mandated" at all, there had to have been a penalty attached. Does it matter if you get 40 lashes from a priest rather than a politician?
This is laid out in Deuteronomy 15:1-7 and Leviticus 25:1-9.  

Deuteronomy 15

Debts Canceled Every Seven Years
1 “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts. 2 And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the LORD’s release. 3 Of a foreigner you may require it; but you shall give up your claim to what is owed by your brother, 4 except when there may be no poor among you; for the LORD will greatly bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance— 5 only if you carefully obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe with care all these commandments which I command you today. 6 For the LORD your God will bless you just as He promised you; you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow; you shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you.
Generosity to the Poor
   7 “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.

Leviticus 25

The Sabbath of the Seventh Year
 1 And the LORD spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give you, then the land shall keep a sabbath to the LORD. 3 Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather its fruit; 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. 5 What grows of its own accord of your harvest you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine, for it is a year of rest for the land. 6 And the sabbath produce of the land shall be food for you: for you, your male and female servants, your hired man, and the stranger who dwells with you, 7 for your livestock and the beasts that are in your land—all its produce shall be for food.
The Year of Jubilee
8 ‘And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land.
A non-charity loan could be collateralized by a piece of rural land. The borrower could lose his land for up to 49 years if he defaulted. The 49-year limit was established in terms of the sabbatical periods of seven years: seven times seven. This is discussed in Leviticus 25, the chapter on the jubilee year.  
A non-charity loan was not under any restriction with respect to interest. A person who defaulted on a commercial loan that had not been collateralized by land could be sold into slavery, but a unique kind. He had to be paid. Also, he did not receive tools of production at the end of his term of service. This term could be up to 49 years.  

And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant: But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile: And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return (Leviticus 25:39- 41)

I have written two versions of Leviticus: the Reader's Digest version (750 pages) and the full version (4 volumes), called Boundaries and Dominion.  
Jesus Annulled the Jubilee Laws  
Jesus annulled the Jubilee laws He announced liberation.  

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears (Luke 4:16-21).

If He did not annul Leviticus 25, then the Mosaic law of slavery is still in effect. This is the only passage in the Bible that authorizes inter-generational slavery.  

Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever: but over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour (Leviticus 25:44-46).

See my comments on this passage in my commentaries on Leviticus 25 and Luke 4:16-21. See also Chapter 4 of my book, Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus.  
He who denies that Jesus annulled the Jubilee laws owes it to his followers to explain why the Mosaic law's authorization of inter-generational slavery is not still in force. Leviticus 25:44-46 was widely was cited by defenders of the South's slave system prior to 1865. I think it is wise not to attempt to resurrect it now. Except for Jesus' words in Luke 4, there is no explicit or implicit annulment of inter-generational slavery in the New Testament.  
In short, a Christian who cites the Mosaic laws governing the prohibition against interest has a lot of explaining to do. He had better understand the implications of his position.  
The Mosaic laws governing interest-taking on charitable loans were aspects of the national sabbatical year, including the crucial provision, the six-year term of slavery. This all ended when Israel disappeared as a nation in 70 A.D. These laws were not re-established by the New Testament.  
Conclusion: the Mosaic laws governing charitable loans are defunct. There is no more national sabbatical year and no more jubilee year.  
Jesus Authorized Interest Not true.
In the parable of the talents, which dealt with the Final Judgment, Jesus told of three stewards. A rich man puts them in charge of his money. Then he leaves town. On his return, he requires an accounting. One steward had multiplied his five talents by two to one. The second had multiplied his two talents by two to one. The third had buried his coin in the ground, which he returned to the owner. Here was the response of the owner, who is symbolic of God on judgment day. This is a parable told to those who were prone to sit on their duffs waiting for the Kingdom to be ushered in full-blown. In this parable, the nobleman entrusts talents to his servants and orders them to "do business till I return" (Luke 19:13). One servant did absolutely nothing, and the nobleman says he should have at least put the money in a bank to get interest.

Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:27-30).

(1) The Old Testament texts on interest, combined with the texts on false weights and measures (i.e., a debased currency system), create an economic world-and-life view totally at odds with all ancient empires as well as our own. It would not be hermeneutically sound to expect an entire cultural perspective to be overturned by the words of an ambiguous character in a Parable.
If charging interest were not legitimate, why would Jesus have used the example of money-lending as a legitimate way to increase capital? Why would He have attributed to God such words of condemnation for not having lent at interest? (2) But the Parable itself is not inconsistent with the economic perspective of the Old Testament. Usury is still seen to be ethically suspect. It's important to include Luke's parallel account of the parable in our study.

(a) If we believe the words of the last slave, the master cannot represent Christ. He is said to be a harsh and unfair man who generates fear in those under his authority by requiring of them that which he has no right to require (reaping where he did not sow, gathering where he scattered no seed). If this characterization is true, we should not be surprised to find him advocating the "biting" of others by the charging of interest, but we ought not impute his words to our Lord.

(b) If, on the other hand, we believe the words of the master, the last servant is a "wicked and lazy slave." He was wicked for characterizing his just master as harsh and unjust. He was also lazy for not even acting in terms of his own professed beliefs by at least biting others and getting a minimal return on his cruel master's principal. But this would still be a judgment made in terms of the perspective of a wicked and lazy slave, not the Prince of Peace.

(c) The parallel account in Luke's Gospel would have us accept the interpretation in (b). The master does not agree with the slave's perspective, he simply says "By your own words will I judge you, you worthless slave" (19:22). Thus, given the servant's belief in the evil character of the master, he should have charged interest. We are thus on most unstable ground to attribute this recommendation to God.

Those Christian commentators who say that usury is prohibited, meaning all interest on loans, prefer not to mention the existence of this passage, let alone explain it. (3) This is hardly the kind of passage we would want to rely on to overturn a larger number of clearer Old Testament texts and the entire non-violent anti-interest world-view of the Old Testament.

In some ways, we're uncomfortable trying to align our lives with a Holy Book which seems so primitive and out-of-touch with the modern world. Jesus' words to the wicked and lazy slave (Matthew 25:27) come to us almost as a relief.

But we would not want to overturn God's Law in the Old Testament if we understood God's gracious purposes and the beneficial effects Biblical Law would have in society. The Biblical prohibition against usury (interest) is part of a complete social system designed to produce justice, harmony, prosperity, health, and a whole complex of conditions which are behind the Biblical word for "salvation."35 Remove any part of God's system and you invite injustice, conflict, and destitution. Further, the removal of one Biblical principle will inevitably give rise to demands for the removal of others, piece by piece, until the entire Kingdom of God is replaced by the Empire of Man.

Interest is Rooted in Covetousness

Life in God's Kingdom can be summed up as A Productive Life in the Service of Others. The Edenic ideal is a society in which all are producing for the needs of others, freely, spontaneously, anxious for nothing. The City of Man, on the contrary, embodies itself in Covetous Consumption in the Service of Self. This consumptive mentality, this "I-want-everything-the-TV-says-I-need-to-have-and-I-want-it-NOW" mentality, is the idolatrous worship of self (Colossians. 3:5). It is the mentality of slaves (Proverbs 22:7; Romans 6:6).

When people commit themselves to the worship of self they reverse, one by one, the characteristics of Godly Civilization.

Rather than working36 they prefer getting "something for nothing."

Rather than taking personal responsibility, they seek a life without risk.37

Rather than delighting in face-to-face opportunities to exhort others in their locale, they seek an impersonal system in which decisions are made in a capitol far away, in which we need only perform the most routine and faceless of tasks to "get along." Distrust of all other people and a class-war perspective soon emerge.

In the fullness of Biblical Civilization, interest-taking would never take place. God promises that a culture obedient to His Law will not lack anything (Deuteronomy. 28:1-14; Isaiah. 55:1-2). We are able to devote our lives to God's Kingdom, knowing that our security comes from above, not from the banker's investment portfolio (Matt. 6:33). It is only when we reject the Providence of God as inadequate that (ironically) we end up with less than we would have had being obedient to God. As an economy becomes more Godly, prices decline; we have no need to gain any "competitive advantage" over our neighbor in a quest for a dwindling quantity of goods and services. Productive Christians are content with what they have, and see a surplus as an opportunity to give, as image-bearers of their Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:45).

The Usurious Economy is Rooted in Violent Money

To support the charging of interest, banks inevitably resort to another popular way to obtain wealth without work: they falsify weights and measures.

I have often been told that trying to get our society to return to Biblical culture is "naive," and "impractical." The modern economists are to be trusted and followed, not Moses and Isaiah. Our whole economy is predicated on the state turning our debts into dollars, and our paying interest on the dollars to the bankers. Break this chain, and the whole Military-Industrial-Complex would crumble. Then where would we all be?!? "Be realistic!!"

And the pattern set by the government is emulated by citizens. Thus, to use the Biblical examples, if a person has only enough silver to mint ten coins, but needs twenty to trade for a desired object, he simply mints 20 (or 3038) out of a cheaper metal, coats them in silver, and passes them off as being full value.

"He has gained an advantage over his competitors!"
"He has obtained something for nothing!"
"He has shown himself to be a man of 'practical wisdom.'"


He has declared war on the Kingdom of God (Leviticus. 19:35-37; Deuteronomy 25:13-15; Proverbs. 11:1).

A quick glance at the coins in your pocket or purse will reveal a culture which has also declared war on a righteous social order. Some historians and economists have observed that the financial powers that be often believe that it is "necessary" to debase the currency in order to facilitate easy payments of interest charges on society-wide debt. In our society it would in fact be impossible to make all interest payments without a false money system. But it is a nation of consumers which has demanded easy access to the purchasing power needed to satiate our lusts. Inflation - which is caused by this unGodly monetary system - steals from the poor and fuels the fires of interpersonal conflict and social fragmentation.

The Mosaic law prohibited interest on a narrow class of loans: charitable loans to fellow Israelites and resident aliens. It did not prohibit interest on all other loans. There is no Biblical distinction between "charitable loans" and "business loans."
Charitable loans were to be annulled in the seventh year, at one time. Loans collateralized by rural land were to end in the seventh seventh year, or jubilee year. The land reverted to the heirs of the conquest generation.  
The sabbatical year and the jubilee year system were annulled by Jesus and ended when Israel ceased to exist as a nation.  
Jesus authorized interest-bearing loans. Nope.
Posted: September 14, 2008  

I don't know where Gary North's "Bibliography" is.  Perhaps he means here.
Mine is here: For Further Reading