Usury and Bank Accounts
NCW 69: August 2000 - January 2001
Q. I have a question about usury. I understand that we are not to charge interest when we lend people money. But it's almost impossible to avoid it, especially if you have a bank account. What should I do with the money earned by interest from the bank? What about an elderly widower who has no pension and who relies on the monthly interest earned from her savings in order to live?
A. The revelation we have on usury (Olive Branch, NC&C 97 is an amplification of the Tanakh (Old Testament) teaching (Dt.23:19-20; Ex.22:25) which says: "If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest" (Ex.22:25, NIV). Also, "Do not charge your brother interest whether on money or on food or anything else that may earn interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but not a brother Israelite, so that Yahweh your Elohim (God) may bless you in everything you put your hand to in the land you are entering to possess" (Dt.23:19-20, NIV). Finally, "If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so that he can continue to live among you. Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countrymen may continue to live among you. You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food for a profit" (Lev.25:35-37, NIV).
The key principles are (a) protecting the poor against exploitation (Ezek.18:8-13), and (b) not charging interest to any Israelite. The revelation in the Olive Branch confirms these principle saying that the qodeshim - saints or fellow believers - are not to lend with interest to one another (v.2). If they have ever charged interest, they are to return it to the person they expropriated it from (v.4). We are not to make ourselves the victims of the Babylonian system of financial exploitation by taking out loans on which we pay interest (vv.5-6).
In general the revelation counsels us to avoid every kind of usury if possible because the millennial Zionic system will have no system of usury. So whilst usury is condemned, there does not seem to me any ban on interest being charged on commercial loans, but with an important caveat. The Olive Branch revelation goes further than the biblical restriction by warning rich countries not to exploit poor ones, and this whether they are "Israelite" or not (vv.12ff). But in many countries usury is virtually a way of life and is almost impossible to get away from it - here the revelation counsels the qodeshim (saints) to separate from it as quickly as possible (v.31, fn 204).
I suppose the real question to answer here is whether there is any distinction between "Israelite" and "gentile" in the New Covenant. There are many who believe that there isn't and that the usury statutes apply to our dealings with everyone, no matter what they believe. What of those who believe that Israelites are believers, and gentiles are those who are not, as we do? How does one establish who a true believer is given the cult problem? And should we take interest from a bank?
A bank account is a commercial loan. It is a part of the Babylonian system to be sure but there is a question as to whether bank interest is usury or not. When you put money into a bank you are investing it with a view to getting a return. The case of the widower is clear cut - she must survive in a fallen Nimrodian system and it is unlikely she is exploiting someone who is poor, though one can widen the question by asking whether the bank is exploiting the poor by, for instance, lending money to a poor nation at a large interest rate - does one become guilty by association? These are not easy questions. The best solution is, of course, to be free of the Babylonian system altogether in order to avoid such problems. So on one level a pensioner receiving interest on a bank loan is OK, but it would be better if she were out of the Nimrodian capitalist system altogether and in a firstborn community. The question can only be answered circumstantially, therefore. Receiving commercial interest is "OK" within certain parameters, but a Christian really ought not to be involved in that sort of business at all, because it inevitably leads to exploitation somewhere along the line, and even someone in the position of the widower could unknowingly be exploiting someone else in order to survive.
In many respects, therefore, your questions are unanswerable. To say "yes" to limited usury that does not involve exploiting the poor - assuming one can be sure one is not exploiting given the complex web of financial investments that exist - implies that the Babylonian system is acceptable when it is not. Of course it would be foolish for the widower to refuse all interest and starve to death. What she must do is ask herself some bigger questions and seek the path of holiness, extricating herself from Babylon and being reliant on usury to survive, as she is freed to do so. If she is not a believer, her priority is believing first, and dealing with the more temporal matters as she is able. We need to be sensible and not, for instance, put such a lady under pressure, letting her instead work things out at her own pace, having respect for her age and, possibility, the fragility of her health. I am always perturbed by the zealots who insist on rapid adherence to the letter-of-the-law and neglect the spirit. Problems must be worked out from the inside outwards and in freedom of the spirit. It is the responsibility of the Eldership to ensure this happens and not yield to the pressures of the Deaconate whose occupation and stewardship is more with the temporal. The ministry of both is needed, but let us remember that the Eldership presides and is the higher path.
I don't think, in this regard of spirit vs. letter, that it is any accident that the second New Olive Leaf revelation followed four days after the one on usury (NC&C 99) which speaks much on ahavah (love). In the case of the elderly widower my counsel to you is to tread lightly, remembering her vulnerable position in terms of health, energy, and ability to effect major life changes.
As for yourself and the interest you earn on your bank accounts I think it must be a matter of personal conscience. There are those who think nothing of taking interest from the bank and there are those who think it should be recycled amongst the poor. If we have been enriched by interest earned on a bank account, being satisfied that the bank is not exploiting the poor somewhere (I suppose we will really never know), then NC&C 97:19 hints that imparting that interest to the poor mightn't be a bad idea at all, and v.24....well, that's a bit stronger, isn't it?. In the end, interest is something you have earned for doing no work at all. If this is your principal means of earning a livelihood (through speculation and the like) then I would suggest that you may well be too involved in the Babylonian system for your own spiritual good and that a more worthy pursuit is needed. However, this must, in the end, be a question between you and Yahweh. The Messianic Community (Church) would only be "interested", vis-à-vis your Kingdom stewardship, should it be known that you were knowingly exploiting the poor, whether believer or unbeliever, and particularly if you held a priesthood office, for such a practice is not commensurate with Yahweh's representatives.
"Let all employ the intelligence of heaven, neither serving the children of immorality nor taking the food from the mouths of their own children ... Flee from usury as ye become able, laying not again the foundation of such, but uprooting yourselves therefrom that ye may be free indeed" (vv.23,31).
This page was created on 22 January 2001
Last updated on 6 July 2014
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