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B1. Lending Money without Interest to Our Needy Brother    [Make a Comment]

We are to lend money to our brother, sufficient for his need and without regard for the Sabbatical Year. In such a loan, interest must not be charged nor given, and brothers are to take no part whatsoever in interest-bearing loans involving other brothers.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):

Exodus 22:24 [25] (Maimonides RP197, RN237; Meir MN53, MP62; Chinuch C66, C68)
If you loan money to one of my people who is poor, you are not to deal with him as would a creditor; and you are not to charge him interest.

Leviticus 19:14 (Maimonides RN299; Meir MN76; Chinuch C232)
Do not speak a curse against a deaf person or place an obstacle in the way of a blind person; rather, fear your God; I am Adonai.

Leviticus 25:35 (Maimonides RP195; Meir MP38; Chinuch C479)
If a member of your people has become poor, so that he can't support himself among you, you are to assist him as you would a foreigner or temporary resident, so that he can continue living with you.

Leviticus 25:36-37 (Maimonides RN235; Meir MN54; Chinuch C343 [only Lev. 25:37])
Do not charge him interest or otherwise profit from him, but fear your God, so that your brother can continue living with you. Do not take interest when you loan him money or take a profit when you sell him food.

Deuteronomy 15:7 (Maimonides RN232; Meir MN62; Chinuch C478)
If someone among you is needy, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which Adonai your God is giving you, you are not to harden your heart or shut your hand from giving to your needy brother.

Deuteronomy 15:8 (Maimonides RP197; Meir MP38; Chinuch C479)
No, you must open your hand to him and lend him enough to meet his need and enable him to obtain what he wants.

Deuteronomy 15:9 (Maimonides RN231; Meir MN56, MP62; Chinuch C480)
Guard yourself against allowing your heart to entertain the mean-spirited thought that because the seventh year, the year of sh'mittah is at hand, you would be stingy toward your needy brother and not give him anything; for then he may cry out to Adonai against you, and it will be your sin.

Deuteronomy 23:20[19] (Maimonides RN236; Meir MN55; Chinuch C572)
You are not to lend at interest to your brother, no matter whether the loan is of money, food or anything else that can earn interest.

Deuteronomy 23:21[20] (Maimonides RP198, RN236; Meir MN55; Chinuch C572, C573)
To an outsider you may lend at interest, but to your brother you are not to lend at interest, so that Adonai your God will prosper you in everything you set out to do in the land you are entering in order to take possession of it.

Luke 6:34-36
What credit is it to you if you lend only to those who you expect will pay you back? Even sinners lend to each other, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing back! Your reward will be great, and you will be children of Ha'Elyon; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Show compassion, just as your Father shows compassion.

This commandment touches a number of principles, as can be seen from the large number of Scriptures and mitzvot of Meir, Maimonides, and Chinuch that are involved. It affirmatively requires that we lend money to our brother if he is in need, and to not charge him interest on the loan. Although historically commanded only to Israelites concerning their lending money to other Israelites, strangers, and sojourners who are in need, in the New Covenant, this mitzvah applies to all who are our brothers in Yeshua, regardless of where they live or the faith community with which they affiliate. While we have no obligation under this mitzvah to lend money to persons other than these, if we do lend money to other poor or needy persons, this mitzvah strongly suggests that, out of compassion for their poverty, we not charge them interest either. Also, this mitzvah's reference to the Sabbatical Year warns us that we must not decline to lend money to needy brothers prior to the Sabbatical Year, even though the debt will be legally discharged and may never be repaid. It should also be noted that Deuteronomy 15:7 (referenced above) implies an obligation to give charity (tzedakah) as well as to loan, and Exodus 22:24(25) not only prohibits being a usurer of the needy, but also participating in it as a borrower (even as a needy borrower), a surety, a witness, or in any other way.

Luke 6:34-36 tells us that if we loan money to someone (presumably someone in need), we ought not to expect anything in return; rather, our loan should be motivated by compassion and not by the hope of profiting from the transaction either directly or indirectly. In my opinion, several English translations of the Scripture (including the CJB) render verse 34 incorrectly by suggesting that the lender should not expect the loan itself to be repaid. Not only is such a notion inconsistent with other Scriptures, it contradicts the very nature and definition of a loan as distinguished from a gift.

Deuteronomy 23:21(20) does not apply to loans made to needy persons; we know this because it allows an Israelite to charge interest to a stranger, whereas Leviticus 25:35 prohibits it if the stranger is poor. Nevertheless, it is included here because it indicates that an Israelite brother may not charge interest to another Israelite, even in the case of a general loan, e.g. a business loan. This is in direct conflict with the modern-day practice of charging interest for commercial loans, mortgages, and credit cards. It is possible that, in this anonymous, mixed, and credit-dependant society, this prohibition is no longer applicable because it would prohibit Jews from becoming bankers of any kind, and would prevent Jews from borrowing for business, and from acquiring mortgages from banks whose officers were Jewish.

Commentators:
Regarding Deuteronomy 23:20(19), HaChinuch states that, not only are we not to lend money at interest to a brother, but we are not to borrow money at interest from a brother either, thereby making it clear that the lender in such a transaction is not the only guilty party. It is also noteworthy that Meir's mitzvot limit this obligation to lending to Jews, while Maimonides' mitzvah does not contain this limitation; Meir states that his MP62 is greater and more of an obligation than mere charity. It is also noteworthy that other mitzvot deal differently with lending money in circumstances that do not involve poverty.

Chill (p 85) references the three-year tithe (Deuteronomy 14:28) because it is used for the needy. He also references Deuteronomy 15:3 (Maimonides RP142) that allows an Israelite to charge interest to a Gentile on a loan and RN234 (Exodus 22:25(24)).

It is noteworthy that this is part of a whole genus of laws that provide a humane society - a society that does not reward laziness, but helps those in genuine need and leads to a gracious caring for one another. It is related to the more clearly social welfare rules to be discussed in other mitzvot, such as a planter providing for the poor by not harvesting the corners of his corn field, not double-thrashing olive trees, and not picking up fallen fruit from other trees. A biblically humane society does have a welfare structure. It may not be in taxes and redistribution, and that is a big debate. However, it is clearly contained in rules that foster widespread charity and responsibility for oneself, one's family, and others.

NCLA: JMm JFm KMm KFm GMm GFm

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