Condemning Usury


We live in an age of “rampant, tolerated usury”, involving a “widespread acceptance of legally permitted activities that cause spiritual, emotional, and physical harm” (Jesep, Credit Card Usury and the Christian Failure to Stop It, p. 26).

As the author of this book points out, both ancient Israel and the early Church condemned the practice of charging interest on a loan:

Historically, Judeo-Christian values were not ambivalent about the charging of interest. Rabbis of ancient Israel condemned those who charged interest on money to fellow Jews. A usurer “denies the God of Israel.” He commits an abomination comparable to the “shedders of blood.” “Blessed is the one” who loans without usury.

Basil of Caesarea (330-379), Gregory of Nyssa (330-395), and Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389) were among the early church leaders to speak against usury, defined more simply as the charging of interest. (pp. 81-82)

On the back cover of his book, he summarizes the problem with clarity:

Credit card usury is legal, widespread, and perceived as a legitimate form of commerce. Yet it causes despair, hopelessness, physical pain, emotional torment, and financial servitude. . . .

At a time when greed is at an all time high, Christians have consistently failed to use their pulpits to speak out against credit bureaus, collection agencies, and credit card companies. Christians have long advocated for social justice, but have overlooked the serious injuries this sector of the economy causes. It is time that credit card usury is added to the list of social injustices that must be addressed by Christian activists.

Well said.

Lord, have mercy on us!

About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
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