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This article presents the view that Christians should not charge interest on loans. As evidence, it cites Nehemiah 5:9-10:

9 Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?

10 I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.

In light of this, why do many Christians think it is not a sin to charge interest?

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The verse your article talks about is Nehemiah 5:10 which says:

I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.

Some translations also say "interest" in place of "usury." This is an important distinction... A prohibition against usury is only a prohibition against "exorbitant interest" in modern English. This would be one reason the verse is not interpreted as forbidding the charging of interest.

However, I think the more important thing is to take the verse in it's larger context. The verse comes in the middle of a story about a famine, where people were literally in danger of starvation. They were mortgaging their "fields, vineyards, and homes" to be able to afford to buy grain. These people were hanging on by a thread, and in desperate need of help.

The response of many of the Jews was to lend money, at an interest rate (of 1% according to verse 11, although 1% per what time period?).

Nehemiah's anger appears not to be at the specific fact that they were charging interest, but at the fact that these Jews were not being charitable.

Not only did Nehemiah demand that they stop charging interest, but also that he give back their collateral--and with no mention of being repaid. The people's response is (verse 12) "And we will not demand anything more from them." This also seems to indicate that they did not demand repayment of their loans.

If we are to apply the principles of this story to every situation, then not only should Christians not charge interest, but they also should not even ask to be repaid when they make a loan.

I hope it is apparent that this is not the intention of the story, but rather the intention is not to take advantage of people in need.

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+1: This is what I was hoping to see on Christianity.SE. Answers that make sense. –  Robert Harvey Aug 30 '11 at 23:05
+1 for looking at the context of the verse. Very important IMHO. –  James Khoury Aug 31 '11 at 1:41
Deuteronomy 23:19-20 prohibits charging interest (usury) against brothers (fellow sons of Israel) but allows charging foreigners interest (usury). (Other verses probably exist.) I seem to recall that the western European medieval church prohibited charging interest, while Jews could charge interest to Christians but not to each other. Also, Mere Christianity presents charging interest as something questionable which demands analysis by well-ground Christian economists. –  Paul A. Clayton Dec 3 '12 at 2:08
@PaulA.Clayton you are right, but Jesus taught us the real meaning of "neighbour" (brother) [Luke 10:29-37] and to go beyond technicality [Matthew 5:21, Matthew 5:27]. –  algiogia Mar 16 at 15:50
According to some dictionaries "interest" and "usury" are the same thing merriam-webster.com/dictionary/usury –  algiogia Mar 16 at 15:55

The article cited is bogus when it claims:

And the Gospels weren't any help at all. Jesus did not merely reinforce the prohibition against usury, he reached past it — forbidding lending with the expectation of repayment.

This sermon on the mount reference applies to the individual Christian who has someone approach him with a request for money. All the sermon on the mount instances are for personal application, just as with the 10 commandments. For instance, thou shalt not kill and turn the other cheek both apply to a personal situation and not for when one is fighting in an army. So, I can go to war and kill, but if I go to the chow hall and somebody hits me upside the head, I should turn the other cheek. Otherwise, all the wars the Israelites were in would be contradictions, but they aren't. You just have to rightly divide the word.

Now to apply that to usury, I can conduct a business lending money at interest. Yet, if some individual approaches me at home and has a need, I'm obligated to help. And just in case you don't believe me, there's always:

Matthew 25:27 KJV Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

Luke 19:23 KJV Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?

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It is dangerous to take a specific action from a parable as moral justification for the action. E.g., the parable of the unjust manager (Luke 16:1-8) is not meant to suggest that falsification of one's employer's financial records is commendable. Nor is Jesus' presenting himself as a burglar (against Satan) in Matthew 12:29 a good defense for tying people up and taking their possessions. –  Paul A. Clayton Dec 3 '12 at 1:56

We should not charge interest, as stated in numerous places in the Bible:

Luke 6:34-35

And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

Deuteronomy 23:19-20

You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest, that the Lord your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.

Exodus 22:25

If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him.

Proverbs 28:8

Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor

You may note that the Old Testament prohibits lending on interest to "brothers" or "neighbours", but Jesus teaches us the EVERYONE is our neighbour [Luke 10:29-37]. Arguing about the context is "playing the Pharisee". Jews came out with any sort of quibble to get around the law (like any good lawyer today) and Jesus rebuked them for their twisting the law.

See Matthew 5:21, Matthew 5:27 for an example on how to interpret the commandments.

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It's very interesting to see that this view is still extant, but I don't think this post truly serves as a response to the question asked. –  TRiG Mar 16 at 14:45
I had not noticed the post was so old :) –  algiogia Mar 16 at 15:11
Age is just a number! Though, actually, they were less strict about question quality in those days. I should probably spruce up the question a little bit. Welcome to the site and see you around. –  TRiG Mar 16 at 15:18
It's good practice to explain downvotes. Downvoting alone adds nothing to the answer and doesn't give the user a way to improve it. –  algiogia Mar 17 at 9:02

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