Deuteronomy 23:19-20 says, “You shall not charge interest to your brother—interest on money or food or anything that is lent out at interest. To a foreigner you may charge interest, but to your brother you shall not charge interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all to which you set your hand in the land which you are entering to possess” (NKJV). Let’s also read Exodus 22:25, “If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest.”

These passages deal specifically with the Jewish people who would be entering the Promised Land (i.e. Canaan). They are commanded NOT to charge interest to a “brother,” which refers to “a fellow Israelite.” The brother was “poor” and in desperate need of “making ends meet.” He was not borrowing money to build a lucrative business; he was simply trying to provide the “necessities of life” for his family. As we study the Old Testament we see God had a special interest in the poor and was always providing for their needs. I would encourage you to read Deuteronomy 15:7-11. In verses 7-8 we read, “If there is among you A POOR MAN OF YOUR BRETHREN within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs.” Conversely, one was allowed to charge interest on a loan to a “foreigner” (a “non-Jew”).

Now as to your question about “charging interest on debt today,” I believe the same PRINCIPLE applies to the church today. Regarding Israel, we saw that it was the RELATIONSHIP that existed between Jews (they were BROTHERS!) that caused God to command them NOT to charge interest. There was this special UNITY that bonded them together and love would compel them to give to their brother in need without any thought of financial gain. The church has an even “higher UNITY” as “members of the body of Christ.” We see this unity in the following passages: “And He (God the Father) put all things under His (Christ) feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to THE CHURCH, WHICH IS HIS BODY, the fullness of Him who fills all in all…For as THE BODY IS ONE and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, ARE ONE BODY, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit WE WERE ALL BAPTIZED INTO ONE BODY—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (Ephesians 1:22-23 and 1st Corinthians 12:12-13).

All believers in Christ have been made members of the body of Christ and thus WE ARE ONE! If you read the rest of 1st Corinthians 12 we see this truth brought out in a practical way, for just as the members of our human body serve and care for each other, so do the members of the body of Christ. In verse 26 we read, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” In keeping with our question, if a fellow-believer is suffering financially and can’t provide the necessities of life for himself and his family, other believers who are able should step in to help meet those needs. It would be unthinkable that we would then turn around and charge our brother in Christ interest on a loan offered to him. In fact, if it is within our means, the Lord may have us to provide for their needs without issuing him a loan. In Ephesians chapter 4 we also have teaching on the relationship between members of the body of Christ and in verse 28 we are told, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that HE MAY HAVE SOMETHING TO GIVE HIM WHO HAS NEED.”  (362.5)  (DO)