It’s more blessed to give than receive, but when it comes to loaning money to family and friends, it’s not so cut-and-dried.
“It depends on the situation,” says Joe Bantz, certified by Kingdom Advisors as a Christian financial advisor. “If you loan money, one important [biblical] principle is to expect that you won’t get it back. You never want money to get in the way of relationships.”
As the basis for his view, Joe—who is also a certified financial planner in West Des Moines, Iowa—points to the words of Jesus. “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great” Luke 6:35 ESV.
Christians should not give away money indiscriminately, nor is a repayment plan wrong. But the Bible does imply that Christians must be willing and able to lose the money they lend.
Bantz also recommends that the receiver offer the lender a repayment plan. “It’s important to guard the relationship from both directions,” he says. “Most conflict is the result of misunderstood, unmet expectations.”
Should I charge interest?
There is little Scripture dealing specifically with charging interest, and what is there isn’t terribly clear. Deuteronomy 23:19–20 instructs not to charge interest on loans to “your brother,” but says interest may be charged to a “foreigner.”
The basic principle is that Christians witness to others by their willingness to lend money to fellow Christians without profit. “Although there is no admonition against Christians charging interest to non-Christians, they are directed to avoid excessive amounts of interest,” according to Crown Financial Ministries (CFM).
Bantz adds that charging a reasonable amount of interest may provide the borrower incentive to pay the money back. “The Bible is really clear about not charging usury or outlandish interest rates. Twenty percent is unreasonable. Five percent provides incentive.”
What if the money is not repaid?
Although non-Christians take one another to court over lending issues, Paul instructs Christians in 1 Corinthians 6:1 not to sue other Christians in secular courts. “If a Christian lender feels that a Christian debtor has the capacity to pay the money owed but refuses to pay, the lender should confront that person as prescribed in Matthew 18:15,” CFM advises.
There are boundaries for Christians that are much narrower than the world’s. As a general rule, when in doubt, lean more toward mercy than justice in matters of lending.
“When we consider the amount we owe God compared to the amount we need to pay Him, it lowers the blood pressure,” Bantz says. “As followers of Christ, we have the responsibility to say, ‘I’m going to love this person anyway.’ Relationships are what we carry into eternity. I’m pretty sure God won’t be taking MasterCard.”