Banking and Our Values

Why this resolution is relevant:
bilblical teachings, justice, stewardship

This resolution is relevant from at least three perspectives:

  • biblical teachings
  • justice
  • good stewardship

1. Biblical prohibition of usury and unfair business practices

The Bible has many passages that prohibit loans with interest and usury, the practice of overcharging borrowers.

Exodus 22:25-27 -- If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.

Leviticus 25:36-37 -- Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you. You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit.

Deuteronomy 23: 19-20 -- You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. 

Other passages include Nehemiah 5:10, Psalm 15:5, Proverbs 28:8, and Ezekiel 22:12.

Biblical writers also repeatedly prohibit unfair or deceitful business practices.

Leviticus 19:36 -- You shall have honest balances, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. (A hin is one gallon, an ephah is about 5½ gallons.) 

Micah 2:1-3a -- Alas for those who devise wickedness and evil deeds on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in their power. They covet fields, and seize them; houses, and take them away; they oppress householder and house, people and their inheritance. What will you do on the day of punishment?

Isaiah 10:1-2 -- Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees, who write oppressive statutes, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be your spoil, and that you may make the orphans your prey!

Micah 6:9a, 11 -- The voice of the Lord cries to the city (it is sound wisdom to fear your name): Can I tolerate wicked scales and a bag of dishonest weights?

Amos 8:4-6 -- Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, "When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat."

2.    Unjust banking practices (for more information, see the Additional Information and Resources webpage)

Millions of people are suffering from the unethical and fraudulent practices of the banking industry.

  • High interest rates – Millions of people pay interest rates as high as 30% on credit card debt and 365% on payday loans. (These are the interest rates over a 12-month period.) While large international and national banks tend to conceal their involvement with the companies that make payday and other extremely high interest loans, many of them own, invest in, or are otherwise involved with these firms and benefit from their practices.
  • High overdraft fees – Many of the major banks charge high fees and may manipulate the customers’ accounts to maximize fees, such as for overdrafts. Americans paid more than $38 billion to banks in overdraft fees in 2009, $125 for every U.S. resident.
  • Foreclosures - Inefficient and ineffective banking practices regarding home foreclosures adversely affected both current home owners and those attempting to purchase homes that had been foreclosed upon. Some mortgage institutions use a process that has been called “robo-signing” where documents are machine signed in bulk without appropriate scrutiny or oversight.
  • Discrimination in lending practices – Some mortgage companies steered minority borrowers towards higher cost subprime mortgages.  

3.    Good stewardship means using financial institutions that offer the best value

As a practice of good stewardship, congregations can shop around to find the best and least expensive banking services. Congregations can often reduce the fees they pay to banks by treating their banking relationships in the same way they treat relationships with other merchants, by periodically shopping for lower costs for similar or better service.

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CONTACT INFO

Ms. Edith Rasell, Ph.D.
Minister for Economic Justice
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio 44115
216-736-3709
raselle@ucc.org