How many times have Bible-thumpers beaten you over the head with some harsh gotta-do-it commandment? When did you last look at something in our society and think, “That’s downright mean. Isn’t there a nicer way?”
Sometimes we can find a kinder, gentler way, by choosing kinder, gentler portions of the Bible. Just as an example, let’s try it with lending, of all the unlikely topics.
Debtors and lenders seem to be perennially at odds. Talk about a relationship based on mistrust! The whole interaction is built up on the presumption that the borrower might skip out on repayment. There is collateral. There is interest. There is a contract with penalty and repossession clauses. The harsh realities go on and on.
Now check out this surprising passage from Deuteronomy 24:10-13
(10) When you make a loan of any sort to your countryman, you must not enter his house to seize his pledge.
(11) You must remain outside, while the man to whom you made the loan brings the pledge out to you.
(12) If he is a needy man, you shall not go to sleep in his pledge;
(13) you must return the pledge to him at sundown, that he may sleep in his cloth and bless you; and it will be to your merit before the LORD your God.
Did you notice that all of the restrictions are on the lender, not on the borrower? The lender already has more power in the relationship so there are some constraints to avoid abuse.
Let’s unpack it a bit.
When you make a loan of any sort to your countryman, you must not enter his house to seize his pledge. You must remain outside, while the man to whom you made the loan brings the pledge out to you.
When you lend something, it does not give you the right to invade the privacy of your borrower’s home. Even though he is in your debt, he still deserves the respect and consideration that you would give to any other neighbor.
If he is a needy man,
If the debtor borrows something from you because he needs it, as opposed to something he merely wants, then he deserves some extra consideration.
you shall not go to sleep in his pledge; you must return the pledge to him at sundown, that he may sleep in his cloth
The Bible gives you a concrete example: A man is so poor that he has to pawn his only blanket. You have to give the blanket back to him at bed time, so that he can sleep comfortably. You can get it back the next morning, of course.
We can extrapolate from this. If the pledge is something needed during the day, maybe a tool for the man’s job, then you would be obligated to return it in the morning before work, and you could collect it again in the evening.
that he may… bless you; and it will be to your merit before the LORD your God.
When you treat your debtor with such respect, not only will he think highly of you and bless you but God will count it in your favor. And did you catch the surprise tidbit buried in that sentence? The blessing of a borrower is so valuable that the Bible explicitly encourages you to earn it.
If we delve a little deeper, we find an underlying theme: Lending is about helping the borrower, not profiting from him.
Who would have thought that even debt can have a kinder, gentler way? By changing our perspective, we transform a loan from an adversarial relationship into one which benefits the borrower and blesses the lender. What could be more beautiful?