Usury: Does the Bible Explicitly Prohibit It?

One of my pet peeves is politicians misusing Scripture.  I don’t care what letter they have after their name or what their political persuasion is.  Here the topic is usury in the Bible as it relates to U.S. interest rates.  (Relating these two things is a stretch anyway, since the biblical text’s statements about usury were between individuals, but here we go.)

usury interest


I know she said this a bit in jest, but Ms. Ocasio-Cortez calls upon the Religious Right to support her bill to cap interest rates at 15%.  I’m not going to debate the merits of that, but she invoked the Bible to support her position.  She stated that usury is “explicitly denounced” in the Bible.  However, that is demonstrably false.  The commandments against extracting interest was between Jews alone.  The Bible makes that explicitly clear.  For example, here are just a couple references:

  • If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury. (Exodus 22:25) 
  • Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury: (Deuteronomy 23:19)

This is the consistent witness of Scripture.  Jews shouldn’t extract interest from other Jews.  However, those outside Israel were free game:

  • Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou settest thine hand to in the land whither thou goest to possess it. (Deuteronomy 23:20)

As a matter of fact, Jesus makes it clear that He had no problem with the practice of charging interest and rather expects it.  (Matthew 25:27; Luke 19:23)

So go ahead and charge people interest.  Jesus said so!