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Did Jesus condone usury in Luke 19?

Mar 26, 2009

Jesus' use of irony in a parable has been used as proof that Jesus approved the sin of usury. Let us look at the parable in Luke 19 to see what Jesus was really telling us. Beginning with verse 12, we read,

" (12) He said therefore, A certain nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return. (13) And he called ten of his slaves and gave them ten minas, and said to them, Do business with this until I come back."

When the nobleman returned, he inquired of the slaves to see how they had done business with the money that he had given them. The first had used one mina to make ten. The second had used his to make five. Each was rewarded accordingly. The third slave, however, did not do so well. Of him we read,

" (20) And another came, saying, Master, behold your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief; (21) for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow."

In other words, this slave thought that his master was a tyrant and a thief. "Reaping what you did not sow" was what they thought of usury in those days, because usurers collected money by other men's labor. So the nobleman judged this slave according to his own words:

" (22) He said to him, By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know[perceive or think] that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down, and reaping what I did not sow? (23) Then why did you not put the money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?"

In other words, Jesus said, if your perception of Me was that I was a tyrant and a thief, then why did you not increase my money with usury? Why did you just put it in a handkerchief where it would do nothing?

This judgment does not condone usury. In fact, it shows that usury is reaping what one does not sow. It shows that usury is only commendable if Jesus is a tyrant and a thief! In essence, Jesus says, only those who think Jesus is a thief would go out and steal for Him.

This is a clear use of irony. Jesus was not condoning usury, nor was He putting away God's law against usury.

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Category: God's Law

Dr. Stephen Jones

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