Most people are aware that Jewish law forbade earning interest from the lending of money to another. As Christianity gained momentum in the early first and second century, many of the Mosaic laws were abandoned, although certain aspects remained in place - for example, punishments for parental disrespect were abandoned although Christians taught that a child ought to respect his or her parents.

Is this another case of the letter of the law morphing into the spirit of the law? Christians seem to generally believe that it's sinful to impoverish another by means of lending practices, but that doesn't really stop many forms of interest charging that were previously forbidden. Is there any relevant scripture or literature relating to usury after the death of Christ?

  • 1
    possible duplicate of To what extent does the Law of Moses still apply?
    – Flimzy
    Aug 28, 2014 at 23:17
  • It only forbade charging a fellow Israelite usury, not charging it to foreigners. (So if Christians were to follow the law as written they would charge atheists, Jews, Muslims, etc. usury but not Christians.) Its in Deuteronomy 23:20-21, "...Unto a foreigner thou mayest lend upon interest; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon interest;..." Aug 29, 2014 at 4:02
  • It's important to note, as well, that "usury" is not the same as "interest" in modern language, and there is debate about what this meant in the ancient language.
    – Flimzy
    Aug 29, 2014 at 9:22
  • At Nicaea the Church turned against usury. The history since is long and convoluted but it is easy to research. Aug 29, 2014 at 14:43

1 Answer 1


Taken from Wikipedia, but edited with passages from the NIV via Bible Gateway.

The New Testament contains references to usury, notably in the Parable of the talents:

Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
—Matthew 25:27

So interest was accepted, otherwise Jesus wouldn't have used that as an example?

"Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you."
—Matthew 5:42

"And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked." —Luke 6:34-35

This suggests that you shouldn't even accept repayment, never mind interest.

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
—Luke 6:38

So there is nothing absolving the rules, and abolishing them, but there is equally nothing that reiterates that they are wrong - to the contrary, there is a parable that speaks about it in a good light.

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    A couple of points: while the audience was likely Jewish, Jesus' parable does not state that the characters he was describing were Jewish. Second, in Jesus' time, the bankers cited in Matthew 25:27 may have been Gentiles, and thus not bound by the laws forbidding usury.
    – brasshat
    Aug 29, 2014 at 5:50
  • @brasshat Yes, however most of Jesus' parables were about the Jewish people, or hypothetical people who follow the laws that Jesus is teaching. But they are fair points, and this is quite an unclear topic in general throughout the bible - there is not much on the topic.
    – Tim
    Aug 29, 2014 at 7:21
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    The Master/Servant style parables are to show how we are taught to follow (or not to follow) the servant. The Master's conduct is not taught as the moral ideal (e.g. Jesus was not saying that we are permitted to torture those who owe us money just because the master in Matthew 18:34 does so).
    – schulwitz
    Dec 8, 2015 at 5:13

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