Taking Advantage of People

Sam Petitfils

"Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit, gathers it for him who is generous to the poor."  Proverbs 28:8

This verse warns against taking advantage of others, such as the poor and needy, buy charging exorbitant interest.  The picture describes someone who has fallen on hard times and appealing to someone for a loan.  The person in a position to loan money to him decides to charge unreasonable interest, thereby increasing his own stock at the expense of the needy brother.  Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke mentions that such interest could top out at 30%. 

Some might be tempted to call this “good business”; the Bible calls it heartless.  Let not that man suppose he will receive God’s blessing.  In fact, he falls under God’s curse as does his money, which will end up in the hands of someone who will pity the poor.  God calls those with ample means to reach out to the helpless, not trample on them when they’re down.  This does not mean God wants us to empty our pockets to every beggar that crosses our path.  But it does mean that we should not close our hearts to those in need, particularly those of the household of faith (read carefully Galatians 6:10; James 2:15-17; 1 John 3:17-18).

Taking advantage of others reveals some serious moral flaws.  First, it seeks to get gain while sidestepping biblical principles.  Second, it places more value in material well-being than in blessing someone.  Third, it adopts a purely worldly definition of what it means to “get ahead.”  Much of what passes for “shrewd business practices” today really amounts to cruel treatment of those not in a position to help themselves.  When I, as a believer, follow God’s Word as my guide to treat other people, then I am truly “getting ahead.”

Now the Bible also mentions that we should not neglect our material possessions (see Proverbs 27:23-27).  In fact, we should look well after everything God has provided us to use in this life.  But we should never suppose that God could possibly bless money that we abuse others to get.  And even if they acquire great wealth by hurting others, they will never enjoy this money.  Whatever is acquired without God’s smile will only put a frown on our face.


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