Forgive us our Debts

God seems focused on the welfare of the poor brother, not on the inherent sinfulness of borrowing and lending.

 

 

Debt can be a cruel master, but it can also be a powerful servant. Debt is a tool. And like any tool, debt can be dangerous to those who misuse it and a snare to those who rely on it too much. It can also harm others if used badly. As Christians, we should not fear or shun using debt any more than we should fear or shun weapons or fire or technology or power.

There are many perspectives on debt. From the hostility of Dave Ramsey to the embrace of Richard Kiyosaki, from the condemnation of usury (lending at interest) by Aristotle and Aquinas to the approval of usury offered by John Calvin, debt can be a complicated moral, financial, and spiritual issue. Although today people think of usury as “excessively high interest” debt, historically usury referred to all lending at interest—and that is how I will use the term in this essay.

Considering God’s purposes for humanity from the cultural mandate to the greatest commandments, historical treatments of debt, whether embedded in the Hebrew scriptures, discussed by ancient Greek philosophers and medieval theologians, or as used by men and women in a modern economy, will reveal that borrowing and lending at interest are morally permissible and can promote human flourishing.

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