In this Sermon from Samoa I explain how the Parable of the Talents is a biblical story where Jesus is teaching AGAINST usury (the charging of interest) not an endorsement of it. It is a misconstruing of the nature of the Creator and His Son, AND runs totally contrary to the rest of scripture to believe that the profiting by money loaned at interest is good, rather than the evil it actually is. Enjoy.
There are only two direct references in the New Testament relating to the charging of interest – the first is Jesus’ direct instruction NOT to loan at interest, and the second, the Parable of the Talents.
A Direct Prohibition
In Luke 6, Jesus is quite clear that lending for gain is ungodly.
Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Nothing could be so clear as this.
Those that DO lend at interest (directly or indirectly through systems that include interest) simply do not consider this instruction worthy of obedience.
Christians who receive interest (or pay interest) have cognitive dissonance on this matter, having to explain away or justify their conduct with some form of contrary beliefs/teaching.
Parable of the Talents
The primary justification used in Christian circles is Jesus’ Parable in which it seems at first glance that He endorses lending at interest.
“For it is like a man going on a journey, who summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The one who had received five talents went off right away and put his money to work and gained five more. In the same way, the one who had two gained two more. But the one who had received one talent went out and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money in it. After a long time, the master of those slaves came and settled his accounts with them. The one who had received the five talents came and brought five more, saying, ‘Sir, you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’ The one with the two talents also came and said, ‘Sir, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more.’ His master answered, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You have been faithful with a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master.’
Then the one who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Sir, I knew that you were a hard man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered, ‘Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter? Then you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received my money back with interest! Therefore take the talent from him and give it to the one who has ten. For the one who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough. But the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. And throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
At first read, the Parable of the Talents certainly looks like an endorsement, especially if taken literally. Put into context however this interpretation is the total polar opposite of the point that Jesus was making . . . that the master in the Parable was a hard and brutal man, and not like Him.
Just pause and deprogram yourself from all a priori assumptions and Capitalistic Churchianity indoctrination and re-read the highlighted pieces of the story . . . the slave risked nothing and actually returned what was his to the Master after holding it safe for him [how many people can you trust to do that, and especially in Jesus’ town and country?] . . . the slave was fearful of the master [how many of Jesus’ ‘slaves’ are fearful of Him like this slave was of his master?] . . . the slave knew that the master was a hard man [essentially a thief] . . . the master didn’t argue at this claim [Don’t you think Jesus would have objected if He was the object of such a claim? I do!] . . . and then he advised the slave to deal with the bankers [since when did Jesus ever endorse the bankers?] . . . then to receive interest [which He had taught against directly in accordance with Old Testament teaching in Luke 6] . . . and then he called the slave worthless [according to biblical teaching or according to greed?] . . . and threw him out . . . [why?] . . . simply because he didn’t aid and abet a crime against anything good, right and proper!
All of Jesus’ followers would have known immediately that the amazing, loving Preacher that they were listening to telling this story was the antithesis of the hard and brutal master in the parable. They would have instantly identified the master in the Parable as one of the hated Jewish money lenders – NOT the story teller!
The nature of Jesus, who demonstrated the nature of His Heavenly Father, is nowhere in Scripture seen to be a hard and brutal man. Not even His detractors even claim that of Him, so why would He talk of the master in his Parable in such a way that people would identify with Him, then instruct His followers to do something He elsewhere teaches directly against, based on the clear Old Testament guidelines?
The answer is that Jesus explained that only a hard and brutal master expects a Return On Investment. The way of the Kingdom (His way) is different – to lend in LOVE and not for a return, which is essentially GREED.
This Parable demonstrates the ways of the world and scoffs at it – it is not direct teaching that justifies something prohibited by a loving God!
The story must be read:
a) in the light of all other scripture;
b) Jesus direct teaching and
c) a sound understanding the world around us.
In this regard, (a) usury, the charging of interest on money, is prohibited in Scripture; (b) usury is taught against directly by the Master and (c) it is not a natural occurrence and is a tool of enslavement, consolidating wealth and power to those who profit at others’ expense.
When reading Scripture, we must interpret within proper context.
The Parable of the Talents should be read with the question in mind, “Who was Jesus referencing the master to – Himself or another?” Our interpretation of this Parable is conditional on our answer to this question.
If you believe that Jesus is a hard and brutal master, then by all means take this Parable of the Talents literally and profit from others by way of interest on your investments and feel free to submit to those who are hard and brutal masters and loan to you at interest. The West is awash with worship of the Capitalism Cult that encourages financial benefit to the elite, at the expense of others and you will then fit firmly within the mould of Western society.
I on the other hand, believe that Jesus spoke a direct instruction in Luke 6 that contains wisdom and truth. I have and encourage other ‘thinkers’ to deprogram themselves and choose to be obedient. There are far better alternatives than lending and borrowing at interest and when we extract ourselves from the interest-bearing systems foist upon us by way of deception, we receive a richness of life that exceeds that of the ways of the world.
As I have said previously, this is not always easy to achieve ‘cold turkey’ in a society where our lifestyle is largely managed for us, but obedience to God’s guidelines MUST bring blessing. Some areas to consider are:
- Mortgages are normally charged at interest. There a far better ways to secure housing and to live than enslavement to a bank. Just do the maths for a start!
- Attempting to secure profit from the stock markets which in the main are based on interest-bearing monetary systems is the same – an activity that in the end brings more pain than blessing. Just ask who pays at the end of the day.
- Personal loans, overdrafts and credit cards are all normally interest-based. Just face the facts – these are in direct conflict with Jesus’ commands.
- All Legal tender currencies are interest-bearing monetary systems. It’s a hard thing to digest but I’ve blogged about this reality extensively.
It’s a big subject with an ugly face and tentacles that reach into every conceivable corner of our lives but the repentance that Jesus sought from us wasn’t an option that included convenience – it was a demand that He knew and told us that it would cost us.
I believe that at some point, all genuine believers will have no choice but to face this reality, that the global monetary systems are created by the banking/business interests in tandem with the political leaders and that their nature is not the one of the Master.
I’ll repeat this for it is vital – if you receive or pay interest in any way shape or form you are living contrary to direct biblical teaching – mortgage, overdrafts, debt or investments at interest are all prohibited. Period.**
Most responses I get to this teaching is that, “We have no choice!”
Most of the time I reply, “Oh yes you do!” and then explain that we always have a choice to be obedient or not – it is whether we are prepared to pay the price or not . . . THAT is the real question most of us are dealing with!
Talk to me or leave a comment if you wish to engage on this matter.
* NET Bible®
** The oft-quoted Old Testament exception was for Israelites to use the charging of interest as an enslavement technique upon their enemies – that’s the correct context and should always be remembered when false preachers justify the charging of interest.