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Usury, the charging of interest on loans, the incurring of debt. A sin, a violation of the law, an exploitation clearly discussed in the bible. I’ve long-held onto the idea that usury was wrong based on the bible alone, but never really understanding all the implications fully.

One would hope that today with our record-breaking nat’l debt, bankruptcy, skyrocketing cost of goods, home foreclosures, and general misery all around, the picture may be a bit clearer in our minds as to the hazards of usury. There is a reason why we put the payday loan people charging 25% interest right next to the liquor store and topless bar in the shader parts of town. Usury is a sin, and some part of us recognizes that.

Usury is fascinating to me in that sense, in the sense that “God said,” but being young and foolish way back when, having absolutely no concept of exactly “why” usury might be so problematic, I just did not understand. I remember trying to speak to pastors about it, trying to clarify what was being pressed on my heart and basically hearing, “don’t worry about it, that’s the old law and we aren’t under the law anymore.”

My husband was not much help either, having no idea what I was even taking about. I remember him teasing me, shrugging his shoulders as if to say, “don’t ask me, she has this weird thing about usury.” I truly did have this “weird thing” about usury.

I declined to go to four years of college on account of the fact that I was simply too poor to be able to do it without loans. I bought used cars. I was pretty faithful to my “weird thing” about usury, right into the early years of marriage. We lived within our means and we’ve always been pretty frugal.

Alas, after we had been married for a while we needed a home and there was just no way to get one without a mortgage…..or so I was lead to believe. It’s a bit of a deception to tell people, you could never afford a 100,000 dollar home, but with this bank loan and interest rates, we can make it possible for you to afford to eventually pay….. 350,000 for your 100,000 home! That is how interest rates work. You sell yourself to a bank for 30 years and when you are finished you own your 100,000 dollar home, but you have also bought the bank the equivalent of 2 1/2 other homes in the process.

Here you thought you couldn’t even afford one home, but you’ve  managed to pay for more than 3 of them!

Of course, once you have a home, you need a car to get to work to pay for the home. So now you need a car loan. With that interest you are actually now paying for the equivalent of 2 1/2 brand new cars. Then there are the emergencies, the child who must have her tonsils out, and the loan you need that covers the deductables insurance won’t.

Long story short, I am fairly smart about these things and yet I still fell into the usury trap. Of course, I am only one part of the marriage equation here and being poor, pressed on all sides by the culture, I simply lost the usury war. Hubby is a good guy, he’s worked very hard to keep us afloat, to pay off our debt, and I have worked throughout, too. But I lost the war itself.

Just the same, I still resent the heck out of the fact that we have now bought 3 1/2 homes, 3 or so brand new cars…..for other people, for bankers. I resent watching the fruit of our labors stolen, especially the fruit of my husband’s labors becasue he has now worked some 35 years trying to care for elderly parents, raise kids, keep a roof over our heads.  The fruits of our labors have been stolen with interest rates and in the end we really have nothing to show for any of it. Some equity in our home and some other debts paid off. That is the accumulation of a life time of work. Two life times, really.

It’s honestly not a tale of woe, not a sob story at all, I simply say these things becasue I know I am not alone, in fact many people are in far worse shape then we are. Ironically the Hebrew laws concerning interest on loans where very humane, the forgiveness of debt encouraged, and money was given to lift people up, rather than to exploit and profit off of their misfortune. It was the charging of excessive interest that was  illegal, perceived as shameful. A sin. Something else to take note of, the consequences of usury did not fall on individuals, it fell upon the whole, entire community, like when you begin mortgaging land and suddenly find yourself back in captivity, no longer having the Lord’s favor…

The allowing of usury was a collective, community crime against the poor. Just as it is today.

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