Matthew 25:26-27 (Caught in His Own Words; Is Interest Lawful?)

In the parable of the talents two servants were commended and rewarded for furthering their Master’s interests by going to work and making productive use of the talents He had entrusted to them.  But a third servant who perceived his Master as hard and served him only for fear was condemned as wicked and lazy for hiding his talent in the ground and doing nothing with it.  Although this servant expected no commendation, like many in the day of judgment he is meant to portray, he had put forth his best defense, being completely honest about his perceptions, and supposed he would at least be safe for his prudence in not losing what had been given to him.  But in the day of judgment, will being honest diminish one’s culpability before the Lord?  Much rather, what does this servant’s honesty before His Master remind us about the nature of that day when one cannot help but be honest before Him whose eyes are a flame of fire (Rev 19:12-13), that living Word of God who judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Heb 4:12-13)?  Cf. 1Ch 28:9, Jer 17:10, Rom 2:16.

In fact, how did the servant’s own words that he thought would justify him serve all the more to condemn him before his Master?  See Mat 25:26-27 and notice that the Master’s words in Mat 25:26 may be better understood as a question as in other translations: “So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow, and gather where I didn’t scatter?” (NET).  I.e., “If you knew me to be so hard, and would not serve me for love, why then did you not serve me for fear?  And if for fear you would not risk actively putting to work what I entrusted to you, why didn’t you at least put my money in the bank to earn interest?”  How does this illustrate that even when God judge’s sinful men by their own perverted misunderstandings they shall still come forth as guilty for failing to walk in what light they had?  What does this also teach us about how whatever justification we may now suppose will excuse us before God for failing to obey His commands will actually make us all the more guilty in the day of judgment?  In particular, does our fear of serving God in great and daring ways excuse us from serving Him in small and simple ways?  Much rather, is it not our faithful service in small things that fits us for service in greater things?  See Mat 25:21,23, Luk 16:10.

As one cannot serve God and obey His commands apart from dying to sin and being born again into a newness of life, what do these things also emphasize about the importance of repentance from the things of the world to the things of God in order to have a good and honest heart that will receive the imperishable seed of His word?  See Luk 8:11,15, 1Pe 1:23.  Considering again that the third slave was counted a part of the Master’s own servants (Mat 25:14) even as the scribes and Pharisees whom Jesus had just denounced were counted a part of God’s people, what is also the importance of virile seed being planted in our hearts, and not seed that is impotent and has no strength or power?  What is the difference between these types of seed when applied to the word of God?  Is just hearing the word of God, or even understanding it and giving intellectual assent to it enough to ensure one is born again of that seed?  See Rom 2:13, Jam 1:22, 2Pe 1:10-11.  What is it that makes the seed of God’s word virile and life giving for our true salvation?  See 1Co 2:4, 4:20, 2Co 3:6, Gal 3:2-3, Phil 2:13, 1Th 1:5, Tit 3:5-6.  How does this help us to more fully understand what it means to be born again of God’s Spirit through the seed of His word?  Cf. Joh 3:3,5-6, 12:24, Rom 8:13, 12:1-2.

What does Jesus’ words about putting money on deposit to earn interest seem to imply about it being lawful to do so?  Would He have used such an illustration if it was not lawful?  Throughout the middle ages putting money out at interest was considered immoral based upon the law of Moses; see Exo 22:25, Lev 25:35-43.  Would Jesus have directly taught or even implied that something was lawful that contradicted the law of Moses?  Cf. Mat 4:4,6,7,10, etc.  How then do we reconcile this seeming contradiction?  Notice that the money referred to in Jesus’ parable is clearly venture capital, not money lent to the poor which was considered a charity; lending to foreigners was also expressly allowed by the law; see Deut 23:19-20, 28:12.  Note too that the Hebrew word for charging interest (neshek) is also the same word used for the bite of serpent; cf. Gen 49:17, Num 21:6,8,9, etc.  Hence, some understand the prohibition to be not against charging interest per se, but charging usurious interest that degrades and enslaves a person; i.e., interest with a venomous “bite”.  It is also known that in ancient times, a poor man might obtain a discount loan for some amount to sustain himself.  In this type of loan the interest was paid up front and he only received a portion of the full principal.  When the loan became due, he was responsible for the full amount, and would be seized as a debtor if he could not pay.  It is possible then that the prohibitions in the law are against charging additional interest beyond that which was already received.  Such interest would be considered usurious because the debtor already cannot pay, and the heaping up of interest would keep him perpetually enslaved.

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