Thursday, February 5, 2009

Credit Card (and other) Interest - None dare call it all Sin

One of my cards has a high balance due to some big family medical bills. I have paid on time and, as our situation has been improving, have been paying more than the minimum each month.

Well, the interest rate just jumped into outer space, almost doubling the expected monthly minimum.

I'm sure I'm not alone in this experience. And I've commented before on God's view of excessive interest - usury.

While the Bible certainly encourages financial prudence and avoidance of debt (here's a Proverb or two), God places heavier responsibility on those who lend. The Law of Moses contained elaborate teachings on debt forgiveness, and the Prophets had harsh things to say about usury.

Ezekiel, for example, celebrates the "righteous and just" man who

...does not lend at usury
or take excessive interest. (18:8)
The Prophet contrasts this man with a "son of violence" (18:10, Hebrew bayn-paritz, frequently translated "violent son") who
...oppresses the poor and needy.
He commits robbery.
He does not return what he took in pledge.
He looks to the idols.
He does detestable things.
He lends at usury and takes excessive interest.
Yeah, I know. I made my bed, gotta lay in it. Invisible hand, American way and all that.
But when it comes to usury, "conservative" Americans need to take an honest look and ask if we are every bit as "un-Biblical" in our ways as the "liberals" we love to lambast. Jesus doesn't have much use for hypocrites.


prairiewords said...

Canada is considering legistlation to limit credit card interest. The 'Money Stores' got taken care of earlier. And in bad times who posts a profit? Visa!

TLF+ said...

I've actually come to favor that particular government intrusion into "the market," prairiewords. Limiting usury is no different from outlawing toxins in our food.

Castanea_d said...

A lot of responsible and hard-working people get in debt from medical bills. I gather that the hospitals run a credit check when you are admitted, and if they see that you have “spending room” on any of your credit cards, they will expect their bills to be charged to said cards, whether you like it or not. That way, they get their money, and the patient (and patient's family) are stuck with a mountain of debt at high interest rates.

Most states used to have usury laws. They still do, but their teeth were pulled by the deregulation of the banking industry in 1980. All federally chartered banks, S&L's, and loan companies were made exempt from any state regulation of interest rates on loans, including credit cards.

This is not a good thing.

** says prayer for Fr. Tim, in regard to his credit card debt **
Blessings be with you in this matter.

Anonymous said...

That "usury" interest rate should be a motivator.