Persons of Interest

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 15; 147:1-11, 2 Samuel 18:19-33, Acts 23:23-35, Mark 12:13-27

Psalm 15 begins by asking who may abide in The LORD’s tent, and who may dwell on The LORD’s holy hill. The answers include those who do not slander, who do no evil to their friends, who stand by their word, and who speak truth. And tucked into the list is those “who do not lend money at interest.”

If that last one seems a little oddly specific or out of place, perhaps a little context will help. This verse isn’t referring to a bank making a small business loan so someone can double the available seating in their coffee shop. It’s about loaning money to friends, family, or neighbors in need.

The LORD, it seems, is not a fan of people profiting from other people’s distress.

In a society which identifies so strongly with capitalism (and conflates capitalism so strongly with Christianity), we can forget not every opportunity to make a legal buck is morally justified. Take the payday loan industry, for example. It advertises itself as a friend to people in need of quick cash, but its business model depends on lending to people who are not able to pay their loans back. The profit is in the exorbitant interest and late fees, which in short order can add up to many times the amount of the original loan. All perfectly legal, but predatory and financially devastating to many families in an already precarious financial situation.

There are of course many other ways, both legal and illegal, to exploit people in financial, physical, or emotional need. In this age of self-identified Christian businesses, we might want to consider that Psalm 15 suggests The LORD cares less about whether we flaunt a cross or Bible next to the cash register than about whether we treat our customers, vendors, and partners as Christ would have us do.  In our personal lives, holding ourselves accountable to Christ should be a higher priority than forcing others to be accountable.

As Christians, we are called to ask ourselves not “How much can I get away with?” but “How much can I give away?”

Comfort: Your generosity, even if exploited, is a strength. 

Challenge: Read about predatory lending.

Prayer: Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer. (Psalm 4:1)

Discussion: Have you ever felt someone exploited you when they purported to help you?

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