AS I SEE
By Martin Hattersley, a Canadian member of CCMJ
"You wicked and lazy servant! You knew, did you, that I reap
where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter. Then
you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my
return I would have received what was my own with interest."
So Jesus, to the servant who buried his talent in the ground.
He was commending those who took hold of their talents and applied
them in the Lord's service. But indirectly, he categorizes fixed
interest lending (usury) as being an investment most suitable
for the "wicked and lazy", who "reap where they
did not sow".
Lending at interest was restricted to foreigners in the Old Testament,
and condemned in Christian church from its inception and throughout
the Middle Ages. Yet from the time of the Reformation onwards,
it has become permissible even in the church, and it is nowadays
accepted without a second thought as to its morality. However,
it is still prohibited to Muslims. So today, we find our Church
well endowed with fixed interest investments, and the whole economic
order of the Western world furnished with money almost exclusively
through loans from its banking system, breathlessly waiting week
by week for its prosperity or the reverse to be affected by the
gurus who determine the country's rate of interest.
What is "wicked and lazy" about investing in fixed interest
investments anyway? My suggestion is, that it is a means for the
(wicked and lazy) investor to secure a guaranteed return without
risk, at the expense of a doubled risk, either of profit or loss,
to the borrower. When a farmer's crops fail, or a feedlot is ruined
by the collapse of the market for beef, the bank does not share
proportionately in the risk of the business venture: its loan,
plus interest, must be repaid in full, and is usually secured
by the borrower's assets and personal guarantee. The pound of
flesh must be delivered in priority to all other claims, even
of unpaid workers. Shades of Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice"!
Yet banking cannot take place unless it can depend on this certainty
of being able to be repaid. Otherwise those who have made deposits,
and think they have "money in the bank", are going to
be surprised when the bank fails, and the whole economic structure
begins to collapse like a pack of cards. Remember the Principal
Group, the Northlands Bank, and the Canadian Commercial Bank,
in the failures of the 1980's just in our own city let alone serious
problems that currently exist in Argentina, China and Japan.
In their "Jubilee" project, the churches of the world
made a valiant effort to bring the spotlight of publicity and
human concern to bear on the world's debt problems - severe but
so far manageable in Canada, but responsible for immense poverty,
suffering, death and despair in most of the poorest countries
of the world. We haven't yet grappled with the problem created
by our present banking system, that if governments, businesses
or people pay off their debts, the money supply of a nation will
disappear and the economy will grind to a standstill - yet if
they do not, the load of debt carried by individuals and taxpayers
will in the long run become insupportable.
Some of us perhaps remember the tragic poverty and unemployment
of the Great Depression - and the transformation that took place
in Canada when war, and war financing, provided employment in
the military for thousands, and transformed our country in very
few years into the fourth greatest industrial power in the world.
War is economic peace, and peace leads to economic war. So George
Bush's expedition into Iraq, paid for by government deficits and
providing employment to thousands of soldiers, arms manufacturers
and reconstruction workers, may yet be the key to warding off
an impending economic recession in the United States. Should this
be so? Only if we worship Mammon before we worship God, and put
the welfare of the economy before the welfare of the humans whom
the economy is supposed to serve.
Let's keep the concept of Jubilee alive!