People who live in poverty, those who do not use banking services , and people who use a cash only economy are often at the mercy of check cashing and title loan companies. These businesses provide a service for those who do not have bank accounts. However, the interest fees charged are often exorbitant in a state without usury laws.
I was reminded of this issue and the challenges that it presents this week when I was at Montreat Conference Center outside of Black Mountain, NC, with some of my clergy friends. For thirteen years, we have been getting together annually to read and discuss topics within the framework of reformed theology. Now before you roll your eyes, please know that we truly enjoy each other’s company, that we would not read most of the books and papers we read if our expenses were not covered in large part by the Foundation for Reformed Theology, and that we really like finding great food and playing great games!
My reading to present this year was: W. Fred Graham, The Constructive Revolutionary: John Calvin andHis Socio-Economic Impact, John Knox Press, Atlanta, 1971, 1978 paperback edition, 251 pp. It turns out that John Calvin was okay with lending money at interest as long as it met these criteria:
- One must take no interest when lending to the poor.
- One must not neglect charity in order to have money to lend.
- Nothing should take place which is not in accord with the Golden Rule.
- The borrower should make at least as much on the money as the lender.
- We must not measure our practices by what is licit par l’iniquite du monde, but by the Word of God.
- What is good for the public takes precedence over our private benefit.
- What is legal may be unchristian and prohibited to the Christian. Page 92
We surely could learn something from this sixteenth theologian, writer, pragmatist, and political activist!