Is "faith" in the biblical sense, blind? If you listen to most people you would think it was! In the popular vernacular "faith" is little more than a wild stab in the dark. It is belief without evidence... And while this understanding of "faith" might be true for any number of the world's religions, it is certainly not true for Christianity. Christianity has never been about belief apart from reason. If it were do you think God would have given His people a 1,500 page book comprised almost entirely of objective truth claims? It's highly unlikely.
Ever heard of it?
It used to be considered a pretty big deal for Christians. Moses outlawed it (Exodus 22:25), Jesus called it robbery (Matthew 21:12-13). King Edward I of England compared it to blasphemy. Historically many Christian (and Islamic) countries outlawed it. Roman Catholics have excommunicated those who practice it. Protestants have condemned it (e.g. 19th-century Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.) And yet it is - and it remains - one of the driving forces behind the modern U.S. economy.
So what is it?
The word usury simply refers to a monetary loan with interest. In the Western World interest (not to be confused with necessary banking fees) was, until relatively recent times, deemed immoral and sinful as it always enriched lenders and frequently impoverished, exploited, and even enslaved borrowers.
So what position should the modern American Christian take on the common practice of usury in our society? Furthermore, in light of our culture's historic stance against it and the numerous biblical prohibitions against it - how should we respond? (see Leviticus 25:36-37, Deuteronomy 23:19-21, Ezekiel 10:17, Psalm 15:5)
These questions are made all the more relevant when one pauses to consider that 80% of all Americans are in debt according to CNBC with 12% of those expecting to die in debt. According to nerdwallet.com overall U.S. household debt has increased 11% in the past ten years alone with current indebted households owing $134,924 on average. This means that in the U.S. (where the real median household income is $55,775) interest payments cost the average American household more than $6,600 per year or roughly 12% of total household income.
Coupled to these alarming statistics are a number of ethical questions regarding the policies of modern lending practices. According to the Catholic academic, Dr. M. Oliver Heydorn, in an article entitled Usury, Social Credit, and Catholicism, "The conventional financial system centralizes wealth, power, and privilege in the hands of those who have acquired monopoly control over financial credit (the lenders). The policy... is self-serving..."
Despite the fact that usurious loan practices have become both legally permissible and commonly practiced today (not to mention central to our national economy) shouldn't the handful of statistics cited above at least give Christians pause to think? Shouldn't the widespread indebtedness of our fellow citizens (not to mention ourselves) at least encourage us to think critically about whether usurious loan practices really do impoverish, exploit and enslave borrowers just as previous generations of claimed? And if so... shouldn't the American church have something to say about it?
It is certainly a complex situation to address and as with all complex situations the question is 'where do we start?'
Some Thoughts About Truth
John Lennon once sang a song, the chorus of which said:
"All I want is the truth!
Just give me some truth!"
Clearly John Lennon was raising a very important issue, namely, if there is truth where can it be found?
Allow me to offer a twofold answer that is so simple you might be prone to dismiss it:
1) I believe truth exists
2) I believe that the purest of all truth is to be found in God's Word, The Bible.
Why do I believe these things? I believe them because Jesus Christ believed them. In one of His great prayers for his followers Jesus made the following request of God the Father followed by an objective truth-claim about the nature of the Bible:
"Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth"
Perhaps you might respond - but if it's really true then why is the Bible considered so controversial? Why do so many otherwise intelligent and rational people dismiss it as a collection of fairytales from the childhood of our species?
One way to answer this is to make the observation that genuine truth has always been controversial. Even the pagan philosophers of the ancient world realized this - take this quote from Plato for instance:
Did you notice in the above quote how Plato, inadvertently aligns himself with a couple of the constant drumbeats of the Bible? Plato, not only acknowledges that truth exists but that those who believe in the truth and disseminate the truth will encounter mocking opposition.
Let me encourage you to ignore the opposition - whether that opposition comes from outside of you or inside of you. Read the Bible. Pray that the Lord would help you to understand His truth. And as you do so, be encouraged that God's Word declares:
"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."
Rev. R Crabtree
"...a son, a husband, a father of 6, a friend, a Presbyterian