He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.
Here is a rule for your financial success. Usury is interest, or the time value of money. Wicked men overcharge interest and take financial advantage of the poor. God will take the assets of such men and give those assets to men that help the poor (Pr 22:16,22-23).
Interest serves an honest purpose as the time value of money. It is the price of having money or assets today and repaying in the future. It is the reward for loaning your money and receiving it back some time later. There is nothing intrinsically wrong or immoral about interest (Deut 23:20; Matt 25:27). It is the cost of capital. It is the price of money.
In a stable economy without a central bank, unlike America and most nations, interest rates are consistently very low over long periods of time. There are no inflationary pressures to charge high interest to protect against declining purchasing power. The fear and risk of financial fraud by a central bank are not present. Interest is generally low, and men can loan and borrow without great concern for time value or protection of capital.
Consider Israel. There was no central bank or paper money. Their money supply was not manipulated to cause the boom-and-bust of economic cycles and transfer wealth from creditors to debtors, as in America and most nations. They had no Federal Reserve System or any other central bank. They had gold and silver and gold and silver coins. It is very difficult to manipulate such money, since mining is a very expensive proposition.
Israel had no paper money. They were 3000 years ahead of America’s Constitution’s Article 1; Section 10 protection of the nation’s financial integrity. Israel’s money was weighed (Gen 23:16; 43:21; Job 28:15; Ezra 8:25), which is why there are many proverbs about honest balances (Pr 11:1; 16:11; 20:23). Give God the glory. Moneychangers in Israel converted foreign coins to Hebrew coins; Jesus found Caesar’s inscription on a coin; and Judas betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver. There was no paper money other than written receipts for real money, just like Federal Reserve notes of 60 years ago.
Every tribe and family had significant debt-free capital. The LORD God had given them their capital by taking it from the seven nations of Canaan. He also assigned them their property by inheritance, which they could not transfer from tribe to tribe. Fully capitalized in settled estates with cities built, wells dug, and vineyards planted, there was little borrowing. Any such need would have been an emergency, a single growing season exigency, or a case of poverty due to sickness, death, or other act of God.
The LORD had financial laws for His people and the poor among them. He condemned charging the poor interest (Ex 22:25; Lev 25:35-37), for this could further their poverty, and it showed a spirit of greed or cruelty. He also condemned charging interest to an Israelite (Deut 23:19), for the nation was to help each other, not get rich off one another. Israel could charge usury to a stranger (Deut 23:20), which indicates interest itself is not an immoral or oppressive thing, for they were not to oppress a stranger (Ex 22:21; 23:9).
Furthermore, there is a presupposition that wise men recognize in the Law of Moses that applies strictly to the poor (Deut 15:1-6). The poor were to be supplied and protected liberally, without regard for financial protection of the giver (Deut 15:7-11). As Solomon the Preacher taught elsewhere, liberal giving is most rewarding to the giver (Pr 11:24-26).
This proverb’s wisdom condemns charging interest to the poor. This interpretation and application is by comparing Moses’ Law and reading the second clause of the proverb. The lesson is about the poor. It also condemns any other means of taking financial advantage of the poor, such as overcharging in selling, underpaying in buying, delaying payments, keeping items put up as collateral, or paying wages on a delayed basis.
When dealing with a poor person, are you conscientious to pay market price voluntarily? Are you generous and careful about not coming close to underpaying? Do you clearly reveal everything you know about any item you sell them? Do you avoid any and all aspects of intimidation or extortion to influence their decision? These are questions that honest men with godly integrity can answer easily, and they get ahead financially for it.
If your business plan involves the poor, be careful and wise. If you try to take advantage of them, you are wicked and stupid. Because a financial transaction is legal does not make it right. Because a financial transaction is at “market price” does not make it right. There is a God in heaven that measures and weighs all transactions Himself. Beware!
Can a Christian work in a bank, where interest is charged to poor people on loans? Yes, or most every profession in this ungodly world could be condemned. Can a Christian work in a grocery store where wine is sold to drunkards? Can a Christian be a roofer that repairs a school building where evolution is taught? Can a Christian be an hotelier where the strange woman does her work? Banking as a profession is as legitimate as any.
Sanctified common sense is what Proverbs should give you. If a poor neighbor comes asking for a loan until he gets paid in two weeks, a good man would loan him the money without interest. He would do the same if he needed to repair his only means of transportation. However, if a poor neighbor wanted to finance his child’s toys or start a hobby-business through you, interest might be appropriate. The rich do not need interest-free loans, especially for business, or you are as guilty as robbing the poor (Pr 22:16).
God takes care of the poor, and He will severely judge those who try to take advantage of them. When you see oppression in a province, especially against the poor, there is higher than they (Eccl 5:8). He is a Father of the fatherless and Judge of the widow (Ps 68:5). He hears their cry when you have hurt them financially (Ex 22:25-27). Beware!
The LORD considers your treatment of the poor as treatment of Him (Pr 14:31; 17:5). If you pity the poor and lend to them, He will surely repay you (Pr 19:17). If you neglect the poor, He will neglect you in your time of need (Pr 21:13; 28:27). Good men take care of the poor (Pr 29:7,14; 31:9,20); wicked men abuse the poor (Pr 28:3; 30:14). A man who is generous to the poor will be blessed (Pr 11:24; 22:9; 28:27) and happy (Pr 14:21).
As the proverb warns, the man who takes advantage of the poor may get ahead financially for a moment. But the LORD will take his gain away and give it to the man who has tender regard for the poor. Jesus said, regarding the man who did not wisely use his one talent, “Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents” (Matt 25:28). The rich get richer, when they fear the LORD and obey Him.
You have just been given another rule for financial success. Be on the lookout for the poor, and be generous to them. Never think of protecting your assets. Give, and it shall be given to you (Luke 6:38). Give generously, and God will open the windows of heaven for you (Deut 28:12; Isaiah 32:8; Mal 3:8-10). Give fearlessly, and He will providentially take care of you (Eccl 11:1-6). Scatter your money, and it will bring financial increase.
Do you tip generously in restaurants, where the poor find jobs as waitresses, busboys, and dishwashers? Do you tip generously in hotel rooms, where the poor find jobs as maids? Do you consider the poor at all times in all transactions and encounters? God takes care of each one of the persons in these distressed jobs. He is a benevolent Father to the poor, and you prove you are His son when you do the same. This proverb is for God’s glory, the protection of the poor, and your pleasure and profit. It is win-win-win. Do it!
The love of money is the root of all evil (I Tim 6:6-10), and loving it will cause you to take advantage of the poor. The man who fears the Lord instead is ready to distribute his assets and help the poor (I Tim 6:17-19). And this is the evidence of eternal life, which God will never forget but will rather announce to the universe (Matt 25:31-46; Heb 6:10).
The great and glorious God of heaven, Who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and whose riches can never be exhausted, has chosen some of the poor in this world as the object of His love and largesse in saving them (I Cor 1:26-31; Jas 2:5). Carefully copy Him and show the same generous spirit (Matt 5:43-48; Jas 2:1-10; I John 3:16-19).