God’s Word says that many people wander from the faith and pierce themselves with many griefs when they allow money to have an improper hold on their hearts. That’s why the Bible contains hundreds of verses on how God wants us to treat money, and this includes the lending of it.
Moses addressed this issue in the Old Testament. Essentially, the Israelites were not permitted to charge interest when they loaned money to an impoverished brother. They could, however, charge interest on loans made to foreigners. This rule was part of the Mosaic Law: “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest” (Exodus 22:25; see also Psalm 15:5). This prohibition against charging interest actually included “food or anything else that may earn interest” (Deuteronomy 23:19). The purpose of the law was two-fold: an interest-bearing loan would only exacerbate the plight of the poor, and God promised a blessing on the gracious lender that would far surpass any interest he would make. Additionally, at the end of every seven years, creditors were to cancel all the debts they were owed by fellow Israelites (Deuteronomy 15:1).
In the New Testament, Jesus tells us not to “turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42). He applied this principle even to our enemies in their time of need: “But love your enemies and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great” (Luke 6:35, emphasis added). Indeed, there are numerous passages throughout the Bible exhorting us to have a generous and giving heart, especially to the less fortunate. Moses taught his people, “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8).
The clear teaching of the Bible is that God expects His children to act righteously when lending money. And it helps us to remember that our ability to produce wealth comes from God (Deuteronomy 8:18) and it is God who “sends [both] poverty and wealth; He humbles and He exalts” (1 Samuel 2:7). Now, there is nothing wrong with legitimately loaning money and expecting to be repaid at a fair rate of interest. Yet we need to remember that the Bible’s teaching on money matters also includes borrowing money and indebtedness. Although the Bible does not expressly forbid borrowing money, it doesn’t encourage it, either. It is not God’s best for His people, as debt essentially makes one a slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). God would rather have us look to Him for our needs than rely on lenders. Additionally, as the psalmist makes clear, we are to repay our debts (Psalm 37:21). When we loan money to someone, we increase that person’s debt load and make it easier for him to stumble.
Someone once said, “Before borrowing money from a friend, decide which you need most.” There is no doubt that friendships have been strained or even lost due to the lending of money. Yet, if both parties stay within biblical parameters, there shouldn’t be a problem. Nonetheless, to forego jeopardizing a relationship you value, in some situations a gift may be better than a loan. God expects His children to give to those in need, so we give of our time, talents and treasure. As Jesus taught us, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).