The eighth commandment
Deuteronomy 15.7, 8
“‘If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.’”
“If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him.”
Deuteronomy 23.19, 20
Help to the poor comes most profitably when it is in the form of a loan. Recall that, in ancient Israel, those making loans to others were not allowed to charge interest. Moreover, outstanding loans were cancelled at the Sabbath year, the approach of which might well influence how much a man might be willing to lend to his neighbor. If the need was great and the year was nigh, a man might prudently lend only part of what was needed. Other neighbors would have to be engaged, thus increasing community involvement in the relief of the poor.
At the same time, the poor man must expect to make a good faith effort to repay the loan, and we can imagine that some kind of schedule was used to ensure this was the case. Anyone making a loan in an irresponsible manner would mark himself as such by being in violation of a contract (the ninth commandment), thus inviting appropriate steps against him in order to return justice to the community.
This series of In the Gates we present a detailed explanation of the Law of God, beginning with the Ten Commandments, and working through the statutes and rules that accompany each commandment. For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the practice of ethics, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to www.ailbe.org and click on our Book Store.