Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lending Money, Terms and Conditions -- Exodus 22:25-27

--> “If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest.  If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body.  What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious.”
 
We note there is no commandment to lend anyone money here.  More specifically the instructions are intended for the times God’s people do lend to God’s people.  And it basically covers lending which is intended to help the poor get up on their feet.  And such lending shall be without interest.  (Some commentators who have studied the Hebrew text carefully argue that this was only a prohibition on “compound” interest, or extortion in lending, as compared to “simple” interest.  I prefer to go with the literal translation of “no interest period”.)
But what about lending to non-Christians?  How about lending to the rich?  This passage does not forbid it, but it appears to leave us at our own discretion of whether or not to charge interest, and how much, and how to deal with the risk and/or consequences involved in any non-repayment.  So, lenders beware.
Returning to our passage, it appears that pledges may be taken in exchange for a loan at no interest. Working much like how a pawnshop works. But here’s the catch – we must not accept a pledge that exposes the borrower in a harmful way.  The example God gives can be thought of us follows: You cannot withhold a person’s coat as collateral for a loan when it is his only outer garment and he would otherwise freeze because it’s cold outside.  If we take that kind of a pledge from someone, we are to realize our mistake and make things right before the sun goes down that same day.
And I love how God reasons with His people here as He does elsewhere in Scripture.  But this passage is special because it gives us another glimpse of God’s character that we do no think of very often – His logical mind.  He basically says, “Look, if you take the man’s coat and it’s cold, and he has nothing else to keep him warm, what else will he sleep in?  How will he survive?”  I love that.  God wants us to be logical too.  We are not to “kick a person when he is down”.  It is sad enough that he is in this state of needing to borrow to survive, so we must be careful not to take advantage of him.
We would do well to think about all our lending activities from God’s perspective.  Lending to our children, our families, the church, and friends.  Under what conditions and expectations do we lend money?  Some of our so-called investments are indeed a form of lending to someone so they can do something that will bring them and the lender financial rewards – commercial ventures.  We need to be careful of how and why we do that.
The last sentence of the passage is related to the logic He outlines just before it.  God is saying three things with it.  First, He cares for the poor.  Second, He will hear their cry for help.  And third, we must remember that we ourselves either have cried, or will someday cry, to God for relief.  We are to treat those in need of borrowing with this in mind.
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