Our interest in interest and other rates

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At my request, a friend suggested a column about inflation’s effect on interest rates. I did not think the Bible addressed that, so I countered with the morality of high interest rates. The banker agreed that the Bible prohibits usury (Ezekiel 18:8), and asked if I would target payday lenders. As the discussion broadened to include a Pilgrim economics professor, we all learned something.

The Gospel Reading that many heard last Sunday, Matthew 25:14-30, is one of only two places that the New Testament mentions an investor’s making interest from bankers. The Roman Empire reportedly capped borrowers’ rate at 12%, but, after bankers took their cut, investors’ rate was no doubt less, especially subject to inflation.

The Bible does not, per se, name “inflation”, but a case can be made that governments’ policies, regarding both their own borrowing and their printing money, have moral aspects, at least for those in government, if not also for everyone else. The policies arguably result in an insidious transfer of resources and in pressure on bankers’ earnings, and so they may violate, for example, the U.S. Constitution, if not God’s Commandment against stealing. We may speak out against such violations, but we must also pay what we owe, to the government, to bankers, and to the like (Romans 13:7).

If not by failing in those ways, then by failing in other ways, we all sin. The Bible is less about such rates and more about our sin. But, the Bible is chiefly about the forgiveness of our sin available by grace through faith in Jesus, the God-man Who was crucified as payment of what we all owed to God (Matthew 20:28). When, enabled by God, we are sorry for our sin and trust God to forgive our sin for Jesus’s sake, then God forgives all our sin, whatever it may be.

Then, our good works naturally follow, as an effect follows a cause, and so we are ready for God’s final judgment on the basis of those good works’ giving evidence of our faith, which is the topic of tomorrow’s Gospel Reading, Matthew 25:31-46.

The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore. You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.

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