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?


2 Answers 2


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.

  • 4
    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.
    – user3331
    Dec 3, 2012 at 2:08
  • 1
    @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, 2015 at 15:50
  • According to some dictionaries "interest" and "usury" are the same thing merriam-webster.com/dictionary/usury
    – algiogia
    Mar 16, 2015 at 15:55
  • @algiogia: a high amount of interest, an unconscionable or exorbitant rate or amount of interest, and especially : the lending of money at exorbitant interest rates are not the same thing as simply interest.
    – Flimzy
    Mar 16, 2015 at 17:57
  • 1
    Yes, that the original meaning (in the old times) was "interest". And the Bible wasn't translated yesterday...
    – algiogia
    Mar 17, 2015 at 15:08

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?

  • 3
    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.
    – user3331
    Dec 3, 2012 at 1:56

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