Tag Archives: Bible

Lending Money – Advice from Scripture and the Catechism

At Mass on last Sunday, February 19th, the following passage from the Gospel of Matthew caught my ear:

Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

This passage stood out to me because at first glance it stands in contradiction to another passage, Proverbs 22:7, I’m relatively familiar with due to Dave Ramsey quoting this passage:

The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

I’ve adopted Dave Ramsey’s advice regarding lending money to others:  Mainly, I prefer to give, rather than lend, money to family, relatives, or friends who are in need, as I don’t want to create an obligation for them and have them indebted to me.  Note that I have to see a strong need present in order to consider giving money to friends, family, or relatives.  Dave often sites the “Thanksgiving dinner situation” where one relative owes money to another, resulting in increased tension between the two due to debt.  I want to avoid this situation in relationships with people I care about.  Proverbs 22:7 certainly supports this philosophy.

Given that Matthew 5:42, though, exhorts us not to turn our backs on the one who wants to borrow from us, how does this not create a contradiction, and where does this leave us when someone wants to borrow from you?  When I need clarification on scripture, I go to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and it provides some clarity in this case.

VI. LOVE FOR THE POOR

2443 God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them: “Give to him who begs from you, do not refuse him who would borrow from you”; “you received without pay, give without pay.” It is by what they have done for the poor that Jesus Christ will recognize his chosen ones. When “the poor have the good news preached to them,” it is the sign of Christ’s presence.

We are called to help the poor and give and lend to them.  The Catechism also calls us to be prudent in giving and lending:

1806 Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; “the prudent man looks where he is going.”  “Keep sane and sober for your prayers.”  Prudence is “right reason in action,” writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle.  It is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity or dissimulation. It is called auriga virtutum (the charioteer of the virtues); it guides the other virtues by setting rule and measure. It is prudence that immediately guides the judgment of conscience. The prudent man determines and directs his conduct in accordance with this judgment. With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error and overcome doubts about the good to achieve and the evil to avoid.

San Damiano Cross

In my multiple years of serving dinner at a local homeless shelter, l learned that the Dallas/Fort Worth homeless population struggles mightily with mental illness and associated alcohol and drug addictions.  Although these homeless certainly are poor, prudence has us put “right reason in action” and consider that our giving and lending could potentially enable their addictions.  As a result when interacting with the homeless, I prefer to give them food or supplies, or offer to take them to buy a meal.  Further, I give monthly to Catholic Charities, who has expertise in providing services to the homeless while not enabling bad behaviors.

Matters are more complicated, though, when considering lending to family and friends.  As I mentioned before, I have to see a significant need (major health issues, hunger, etc.) as well as effort to improve financial habits that may have placed them in their precarious situation.  A friend recently asked to borrow money from me in order to take a vacation, saying “I would have my money back in five days, so what’s the difference?”  I didn’t lend them money, and certainly didn’t give them money, as I reasoned she should be a good enough steward of her money so that she isn’t living paycheck to paycheck.  More to the point, a vacation isn’t a need.

As in many cases where scripture is difficult to interpret, seeking the guidance of the Church will provide clarity.  The virtue of prudence provides further clarity in this case, as well.

Financial Peace With the Prince of Peace

My favorite mantra delivered by Dave Ramsey is the one that he uses to end his radio show:

The only way to true financial peace is to walk daily with the Prince of Peace.

Our lives should be focused on primarily serving our Lord, our comfort and our King.  Today’s morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours speaks of the peace the Lord provides:

Alone with none but thee, my God,
I journey on my way.
What need I fear, when thou art near,
O King of night and day?
More safe am I within thy hand,
Than if a host did round me stand.

My destined time is fixed by thee,
And death doth know his hour.
Did warriors strong around me throng,
They could not stay his power;
No walls of stone can man defend
When thou thy messenger dost send.

My life I yield to thy decree,
And bow to thy control
In peaceful calm, for from thine arm
No power can wrest my soul.
Could earthly omens e’er appal
A man that heeds the heavenly call!

The child of God can fear no ill,
His chosen dread no foe;
We leave our fate with thee, and wait
Thy bidding when to go.
‘Tis not from chance our comfort springs,
Thou art our trust, O King of kings.

As we seek to improve our financial lives, let us always remember to first find peace in the Prince of Peace!

Tithing in the Catholic Church

This year’s Corpus Christi Sunday’s readings got me to wondering about the Church’s stance on tithing.  From the first reading, Genesis 14:18-20:

In those days, Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought out bread and wine,
and being a priest of God Most High,
he blessed Abram with these words:
“Blessed be Abram by God Most High,
the creator of heaven and earth;
and blessed be God Most High,
who delivered your foes into your hand.”
Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

So, since Genesis makes a reference to “a tenth of everything” and common knowledge regarding Christians and financial giving says to give ten percent of our income, Catholics must interpret “tithing” as giving ten percent to the Church, right?  Maybe not.  Let’s dig a little more.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

As Catholics, we don’t believe in Sola Scriptura.  That is, we don’t believe in the notion that the Bible can stand on its own as the sole source of knowledge for the Christian life.  We must supplement scripture with the teachings of the Magisterium, including the Catechism.

Paragraph 2447 of the Catechism makes it clear that we are called to commit works of mercy, including giving alms to the poor:

The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God:  He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none and he who has food must do likewise. But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you. If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?

Though this passage does not give a specific percentage regarding how much we are to give financially, we see that giving alms is “one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity.”

Scriptural References

1 Corinthians 16:1-2 provides further clarity:

Now in regard to the collection for the holy ones, you also should do as I ordered the churches of Galatia.  On the first day of the week each of you should set aside and save whatever one can afford, so that collections will not be going on when I come.

What’s interesting here is that no hard and fast number is given regarding the amount an individual should tithe.  Rather, the phrase “whatever one can afford” is used in order to provide room for personal discretion.  From 2 Corinthians 9:5-8:

So I thought it necessary to encourage the brothers to go on ahead to you and arrange in advance for your promised gift, so that in this way it might be ready as a bountiful gift and not as an exaction.  Consider this:  whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.

This passage encourages cheerful and free giving, not forced withholding.  Just as God loves us freely, we have free will to decide the degree of love we give him and his people.  God promises that the more we love (i.e., sow), the more we will reap in the long run.

Greater Than Silver or Gold

I periodically post finance-related verses from the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Today’s Mass reading from Acts 3:1-10 speaks of the worth of the graces and blessings Christ gives us:

Peter and John were going up to the temple area
for the three o’clock hour of prayer.
And a man crippled from birth was carried
and placed at the gate of the temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day
to beg for alms from the people who entered the temple.
When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple,
he asked for alms.
But Peter looked intently at him, as did John,
and said, “Look at us.”
He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them.
Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold,
but what I do have I give you:
in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”
Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up,
and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong.
He leaped up, stood, and walked around,
and went into the temple with them,
walking and jumping and praising God.
When all the people saw him walking and praising God,
they recognized him as the one
who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the temple,
and they were filled with amazement and astonishment
at what had happened to him.

This verse prompts us to remember the graces and blessings Christ gives us on a daily basis and to give thanks for them.  Through God’s grace we have life, health, family, friends, and many other signs of his love.  Thanks be to God.

Avoid Getting Into Debt

I periodically post finance-related verses from the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

As I finished up mid-morning prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours yesterday, I came across scripture that relates directly to personal finance.  From Romans 13:8-10 (or you can visit the Universalis web site for the full mid-morning prayer:  http://www.universalis.com/20120924/terce.htm):

Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.

After spending seven and a half years paying off student loans and finally becoming debt free last year, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders.  For the five years I was in college plus the seven and a half years after, I had become accustomed to sending a check to Sallie Mae once a month.  Also, during that time period, on numerous occasions I calculated how many years and months remained until I was payment-free and could cash flow that money elsewhere.  While I incurred the debt in school, I didn’t realize that I was also adding stress to my life.

Needless to say, I agree with Romans 13:8-10 :)  My experience with student loans taught me that debt involves more than making somebody else rich with all your interest payments.  Debt also adds stress to your life and this stress is an intangible aspect of debt that one must account for when making financial decisions.