Usury: Lending Money at Interest is a Sin
In a lecture on the Christian and finances not long ago, the lecturer informed the listeners, of whom this author was one, that a Christian is perfectly free to engage in usury. This statement was one I took serious issue with, but out of respect for the lecturer and collegiate forum in which this lecture was delivered, kept my reaction to myself. What follows then is my response to that statement and my biblical reasoning. My opinion is that usury is a grave sin, and I believe my opinion conforms to that of both Biblical theology and early Christian belief on the subject. One definition of usury is "the practice or action of making unethical or immoral monetary loans that unfairly enrich the lender." Now, many modern theologians have changed this definition to read "charging unreasonable interest on loans." However, as we shall see, this is not how the Church has historically understood the topic. Allow me first to define usury in simple terms. Usury is "the making of loans at interest." Period. No qualifying statements.
Interestingly, while rebellious and apostate theologians and pastors teach that usury is okay, Christ clearly taught otherwise
"And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to get back the same amount. ......lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great..."- Luke 6:34-35
If, as Christ clearly says, we should lend without any thought of receiving anything in return, this implicitly demands we not expect interest on a loan! So with just this statement alone Christ hasn't left the door open to us for practicing usury. Nor has the common consensus of the Church left that door open.
How do we know this to be the case? We can examine the writings of various Church Fathers and clearly see this spelled out.
"Let it suffice to remark that the Law prohibits a brother from taking usury."
-Clement of Alexandria
-Clement of Alexandria
"You have lent on usury, taking twenty four percent! Yet, now you wish to bestow charity that you may purge yourself....The Almighty absolutely rejects such works as these."
"We must not take usury!"-Cyprian
"If a Christian has lent any money, he will not receive interest-so that the benefit that relieved necessity may be unimpaired...For it is his duty in other respects not to be sparing of his property, in order that he may do good. But to receive more than he has given is unjust!"- Lactantius
I think it is pretty clear that the historic teaching of the Faith is that charging interest on loans, the practice of usury, is forbidden and considered a grave sin. This is because it places an undue burden on the needy and poor, it removes the good done in lending by adding profit and greed to the equation, and is not something Christ condoned whatsoever.