if you want to experience what he meant
saying- 95; do not lend at interest
(latest update: 17-12-2018).
If you have money,
do not lend it at interest,
but give [it] to one
from whom you will not get it back.
The saying is a warning against wealth
as it draws one away from the kingdom,
and invites to abuse one’s neighbor,
even when law and custom allows both.
Not the way!
Mosaic Law forbid to take interest from a fellow Jew (Crossan,1988,1992; Quispel, 2004:
Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 23:19-20: You shall not charge interest on loans to your brother,
interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. You may
charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest.) However, it might
well have been that interest-free loans were given for a short period of time, because heavy
fines were tied up with not paying back in time (Crossan quotes Tcherikover at al.), in which
case it was more opportune for the lender to lend without than with interest. Maybe this
saying was directed against that "back-door practice".
As the Law allowed to take interest from non-fellow Jews, Jesus may have challenged its
authority from the unjust consequences of it. In addition, in Jesus’ time most Galilean
peasants may not fully have been considered “fellow Jews” by the more fortunate Jews.
Without doubt, this is another saying out of compassion, here with the sufferers of the
money lenders' practice. Saying-109 alludes to the same subject.
Perhaps there was an original intro to this saying:
You have heard it was said: you shall not charge interest…..etc. …..
followed by something like:
But I tell you:
do not lend your money at interest at all,
just give it to those in need.
Luke 14:13; Luke 6:34.
Some further light on the issue of lending money at interest may be shed
by the "parable of the talents", which is not in Thomas but in Mathew 25:14-28 and
Luke 19:12-27. When the master came back from his journey he rebuked his third servant,
because he had hidden his one talent in the ground and not even taken it to the bankers
for at least making some interest on it. Scott (1990), also in reference to Dodd (1935), states
that the third servant shows himself to be cautious and blameless ; he is an honest man
who did not profit from other people 's misery by which they were forced to
borrow money at strangling interests. So, the most honest servant is rebuked, probably
because his master was a businessman or an usurer himself.
The parable is not an eschatological allegory, but challenges common practice and tries to
invert the way we look at everyday reality. Jesus abhorred profiting from a defenseless
neighbor in distress. The parable illustrates this moral stance which overturns both
Law and custom;
that's how the Way works!
There is another parable, also not in Thomas, about dubious standards in trying to make
money, which is about the rich man and his steward (Luke 16). The rich man obviously praised
the shrewdness of his steward for double-crossing him, as long as it was also in the rich
man's own benefit. Master and steward are actually rather similar, they are both shrewd money
makers, who find everything that justifies their goal justified; neither of them deserve
our sympathy. Maybe it was a warning against taking over the attitude of the rich in case
one would end up in their service.
The message is similar as that from the parable a king wished to settle accounts...
in Mathew 18 and Luke 7.
And again another parable, also not in Thomas, but in Mathew 20: an householder, which
went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. By Law and custom the
man did nothing illegal or wrong, on the contrary; the fact that he awarded those who started
to work late similarly as those who started early can even be taken as a deed of generosity!
However, is it fundamentally right that there are such powerful and rich individuals
who can manipulate the poor at their whims and even set them up against each other?
A "divine Law" that divides the people? What kind of Law is that?