Usury in Scripture

The word “usury” is often defined in the modern world something like this: “The practice of charging, taking, or contracting to receive excessive or illegal rates of interest for money on loan.” Up to the sixteenth century, however, the word was generally used to mean any kind of interest charged for a loan of money or property. This essay will examine what Scripture teaches on this subject. The thesis of this essay is that the Old Testament universally condemns usury on money or property loaned out to fellow Israelites, but that it does so out of a specific historical context. To some degree that context had begun to change even by New Testament times, and even more so as agrarian economies gave way first to mercantilism and then to free market approaches. At the end of the essay, there will be a brief word on Church history and on the applicability of these specific biblical texts to the modern world.

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Chad Brand serves as a Senior Research Fellow for the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics. He is also Associate Dean of Biblical and Theological Studies at Boyce College and Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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