On the Seventh Day, Interest Rested

April 10, 2005 | 37 comments
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In the Law given in the days of Moses, the Lord commanded the keeping of a Sabbath day, a Sabbath month, and a Sabbath year. The Law is fulfilled, but we are still to keep the Sabbath day.

I thought of Sabbath keeping during Saturday conference, when Brother Monson asked the Saints to get and stay out of debt. He quoted J. Reuben Clark, Jr.:

Interest never sleeps nor sickens nor dies; it never goes to the hospital; it works on Sundays and holidays; it never takes a vacation; it never visits nor travels; it takes no pleasure; it is never laid off work nor discharged from employment; it never works on reduced hours. . . . Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you.

Brother Clark is right. Most loans are compounded daily, including Sundays. Does he have to be right? Why not, when we loan money to each other, give interest a rest on Sundays? The rate the other days could be raised to compensate, meaning that at no economic cost whatsoever, the Lord could be acknowledged and given his due.

We have Christian brothers who take the Sabbath seriously. Witness the founders of Chick-Fil-A. Have they done anything with this?

I’m assuming that such a move would be costless, but is that true? Would there be legal consequences to compounding interest only six days in every seven?

If others will answer these questions, I can answer another: is there any point to giving interest a rest on the Sabbath if it makes no difference economically?

Yes. You and I are trying to be Celestial beings devoted to God. Symbolic, otherwise ‘meaningless’ acts, are the kindling for that transformation.

If you doubt it, consider Brother Robbins’ talk. I thought it was remarkable in many ways. For one, his dictum that “mercy cannot rob sacrifice any more than it can rob justice” ties in profound ways, I think, with the twin roles of the atonement in relieving sin and suffering. But relevant to our purposes is a later portion of his talk:

One of the first things a bishop must do to help the needy is ask them to pay their tithing. Like the widow, if a destitute family is faced with the decision of paying their tithing or eating, they should pay their tithing. The bishop can help them with their food and other basic needs until they become self-reliant.

It struck you, as it no doubt strikes me, that for the family to pay tithing under these circumstances is essentially a ‘meaningless’ act. They give their food money to the church and the church gives them food money back. Yet I say, as Brother Robbins says, that this family must pay their tithing. Every act, be it the receiving of increase or the receiving of interest, must be tied to the Lord. Against none is his wrath kindled save those who acknowledge not his hand in all things.

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37 Responses to On the Seventh Day, Interest Rested

  1. Emma Pleasant on April 10, 2005 at 8:57 pm

    I think the point is to not go into debt, not to conform our debt to religious standards like keeping the Sabbath day holy.

  2. Mark B. on April 10, 2005 at 9:08 pm

    So, you increase the interest rate for six days to make up for the day’s vacation on Sabbath? So, the total interest paid is the same, but you haven’t “charged” any interest for the Sabbath?

    That raises straining out gnats and swallowing camels to a new high level.

  3. Adam Greenwood on April 10, 2005 at 9:13 pm

    If you recall, Mark B., the Savior was for tithing anise and cummin. He just didn’t want the weightier matters of the law neglected.

    And, your pharisaism bogie aside, doing little things to remind ourselves of the Lord in our various transactions often has substantive effect.

  4. John C. on April 10, 2005 at 9:36 pm

    Is it bad that from the title alone, I assumed that this thread concerned the frequency with which T&S gets viewed on Sundays?

  5. Troy on April 10, 2005 at 9:42 pm

    Adam,

    Sorry, I really can’t imagine anyone in heaven being overly impressed with a plan like this one.

  6. Derek on April 10, 2005 at 9:45 pm

    Does this mean I should sell my house? Its value has risen by roughly double what I could have saved by now if I were still living in an apartment. So while the interest “never takes a vacation,” I generally don’t worry about it.

  7. Soyde River on April 10, 2005 at 9:49 pm

    Yeah, right. That’s what we need, is another sales gimmick for the credit card companies:

    “Get our credit card at an incredible interest rate. Only 0.05 percent for the first 30 days, and WE WON’T CHARGE YOU INTEREST ON SUNDAYS–NOT EVER!*

    *The Truth in Lending Act requires that we inform you that after the first 30 days, the Annual Percentage interest rate will rise to 98%. But we will keep our pledge not to charge you interest on Sundays.

  8. Bill on April 10, 2005 at 9:53 pm

    This sounds kind of like eating twice as much the Saturday before Fast Sunday.

    Or maybe tithing could take a break on Sunday too (especially any tithing on the interest we’re not earning) If we tithe 6/7ths of our income at 11 2/3rds percent, we essentially pay the same amount.

  9. Mark B. on April 10, 2005 at 10:12 pm

    If you want to take the forgiveness of interest seriously, why don’t you really forgive it, rather than jack it up on the other six days in order to protect your rate of return? Otherwise the forgiveness of the interest is empty form. At least a whited sepulchre has some dead men’s bones in it–which could be of value to anthropologists.

  10. RoastedTomatoes on April 10, 2005 at 10:52 pm

    I’m guessing from the comments that this post wasn’t intended as satire, was it? No offense, Adam, but I was hoping after reading the remarks that it was.

    I think the Lord is rarely impressed with purely symbolic actions like raising interest to make the loan worth exactly the same amount but then not counting interest on Sunday. I think the Lord does accept the sacrifice of the family who pays tithing and then gets the money back in welfare. The reason is that the family in this case is surrendering its autonomy as an act of faith.

    But what is the lender sacrificing by cutting interest off on the Sabbath?

    Relatedly, as Mark B. pointed out, we could actually read this whole thing as partly being advice to charge below-market interest rates when we lend to other Saints, couldn’t we?

  11. Adam Greenwood on April 10, 2005 at 11:00 pm

    Mark B.,
    What’s wrong with “empty forms”? Why is it superior, as Brother Robbins suggests, for a family to pay $50 tithing and get $50 in food help from the church rather than just keep the money and buy food?

    If loan forgiveness is your concern, don’t you think that having a reminder built into the loan of God would in some cases lead to loan forgiveness. Symbolic actions can have substantive results.

    I think you’ve learned entirely the wrong lesson from the Pharisees. Trying to be exact and particular about their observances was not the sin of the Pharisees. It was that they used those exact, particular observances as an excuse and a deception. Such is not my purpose, and i don’t understand you to suggest otherwise.

  12. Adam Greenwood on April 10, 2005 at 11:01 pm

    Soyde River,
    If credit card companies advertised that, that would be AWESOME. Paying lip service to the Sabbath is a lot closer to Sabbath observance than we are now.

  13. Adam Greenwood on April 10, 2005 at 11:08 pm

    “The reason is that the family in this case is surrendering its autonomy as an act of faith.”

    Is that really true? if the family is habitually getting a check from the church?

    What about other purely symbolic acts? Like praying before meals to give thanks, closing talks in the name of Jesus, kneeling and bowing our heads during prayer, asking how people are when we meet them, etc.? They cost nothing. They change nothing, except to the degree they work on our hearts and change our attitudes.

    P.S. No offense taken. You think I’m mad and I’ll think your obtuse and we should get along splendidly.

  14. Brian S. on April 11, 2005 at 4:56 am

    It seems to me that sometimes we are quick to dismiss ideas that attempt to address the conflict between the laws of God and the laws of man. Islam prohibits the payment or collection of interest, and–believe it or not–some Muslims, even in the U.S., live according to that law. You’ve got to hand it to them.

    What if we flipped Adam’s suggestion: Let’s say the Utah Community Credit Union offers a new type of loan to its customers. No interest charged on Sundays, but you are charged more interest than with a typical loan. In like manner, its money market accounts pay a bit less than those which charge interest on Sundays. There are two advantages to this service. 1) The bank loses no money by offering the service. 2) Those people who are concerned about the prospect of making or spending money on the Sabbath can take advantage of these services and keep the Sabbath in spirit and word, but part with a bit more of their money as a result. A true sacrifice, as you are giving up money to live the Law of the Sabbath.

    At first blush, it sounds wacky, but in essence it is similar to the situation of modern-day Jews. They pay more money to buy kosher products, but consider it a blessing that they are able to go to the supermarket and still live their religion.

  15. Kaimi on April 11, 2005 at 7:45 am

    Adam,

    Welcome to a phenomenon I encountered when I suggested raises for church employees with families. The gospel is first, all commenters agree — except for when it comes to overruling market principles. The gospel is first, but it _has_ to abide by free market economic principles. Our omniscient God can deal with pretty much anything else, but that tricky supply-demand curve — the one which isn’t mentioned in the scriptures; which no one even talked about the existence of until 200 years ago — that supply-demand curve is the _real_ god around here.

  16. Chris O'Keefe on April 11, 2005 at 7:59 am

    “Islam prohibits the payment or collection of interest, and–believe it or not–some Muslims, even in the U.S., live according to that law. You’ve got to hand it to them.”

    This thought actually struck me as I read Adam’s post and the comments. I don’t think this is a good example of living the law vs a simple symbolic act. There are Muslims who do “live” this law. But what they are living is a boiled down, Western economics friendly version of this prohibition. The prohibition of riba–interpreted to mean interest, though occasionally disputed by liberal Islamic economists–is intended not to be replaced, as commonly done, with “service fees,” delayed payment plans and the like. Interest is *supposed* to be replaced with a “revolutionary” set of profit-loss sharing instruments that are intended to share the dividends (or lack thereof) from an investment in a more equitable way. If you look at it, though, this method, b/c it involves quite a bit of research and analysis prior to the actual investment, is among the least practiced elements of Islamic financial practice.

  17. Mark B. on April 11, 2005 at 8:14 am

    The difference between your suggestion about interest and Elder Robbins’ teaching about tithing/fast offering assistance is that you, the lender, are completely in control of the loan transaction. You “sacrifice” the Sunday interest, but only after you raise the rate for the other six days, thereby ensuring that your income will not be reduced.

    On the other hand, the family that pays tithing does so in faith, with confidence that the Lord will provide. But they do not, and cannot, know for certain that the bishop will provide assistance from the fast offerings or the bishop’s storehouse. That part of the “transaction” is entirely outside their control.

    The only “faith” shown in the interest example is the faith that the borrower will repay the loan with interest. That faith appears to be held firmly by thousands of banks and credit card companies who seem interested in lending us money. But that is not a saving faith.

  18. Adam Greenwood on April 11, 2005 at 8:54 am

    I suppose I disagree, Mark B., that a family that is used to recieving checks from the church is ceding real autonomy in any practical way. People get used to things that happen regularly; at the gut level where faith is exercised, they come to expect them.

    What the family is doing is symbolically ceding autonomy.

  19. Costanza on April 11, 2005 at 9:51 am

    More puffery from the world’s most pretentious blog

  20. danithew on April 11, 2005 at 10:09 am

    It occurs to me that Jewish practices on the Sabbath would be of interest to the question of “Sunday-less interest.” A orthodox Jew feels that kindling flame or electricity on the Sabbath is sinful — but there is nothing wrong with leaving a candle or light on if it was initially kindled on the day previous to the Sabbath. So, if interest is “on” during the rest of the week, it might be ok (from this sort of perspective) to continue to leave the interest running on the Sabbath.

    Then again, this application is probably absurd because interest has nothing to do with a flame or electricity …

  21. A. Greenwood on April 11, 2005 at 10:12 am

    The world’s most pretentious, onymous Mormon group blog, to be exact.

  22. Costanza on April 11, 2005 at 10:14 am

    Right…I forgot to add that! :)

  23. Charles on April 11, 2005 at 10:15 am

    Brother Monson and Clark’s purpose in the talk was to illustrate the dangers of debt and counsel against such endeavors. One of the key components is tempering our wants and needs. Didn’t he or someone else say aslo, that yesterday’s wants are today’s needs and today’s wants are tomorrow’s needs? We need to consider for ourselves what is truely important, A second home that you will not use but 2-3 months out of the year; a second or third car when there is no real need other than the desire to have more?

    Regarding the forgiveness of debt as some have mentioned. Why not just bring back the Jubilee of the OT. I’m all for a complete forgiving of all debt owed to me and all debt I owe out ever 7 years.

    But seriously, another misconception is that of the tithing of the faithful only to recieve it back. This is not a hollow guesture. Tithing requires faith. Its true that a person may expect to get the money back, but consider those locations with a Bishop’s storehouse or something similar. The money a person tithes can be used for anything they want, even a big screen TV. But once tithed the money becomes the churches. The Bishop does not have to write them a check, perhaps the bishop sends the RS out to buy food or other neccessities, removing the temptation to buy things that the person wants or even the things they think they need and instead of getting a weeks worth of groceries for 50 bucks they get a months supply for their whole family. Support comes in many fashions and should not be thought of as hollow guesture.

    Lets not even get into the separation of church and state and the whole establishment clause debate that would ensue if the government (financial and banking institutions and federal interest rates) suddenly recognized the sabbath as a day of rest.

  24. Mark N. on April 11, 2005 at 10:59 am

    I wonder if heavenly banks charge any interest at all. Will Zion (the real one, not the fake one that Nibley has drawn our attention to) charge and/or pay its inhabitents interest?

    “But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin.” (D&C 49:20)

    Seems to me that charging interest is an attempt to possess that which is above another. It is evidence of a world where no one trusts anyone else, and charges their fellow man for that which really doesn’t belong to them in the first place.

  25. Eric James Stone on April 11, 2005 at 2:31 pm

    > Welcome to a phenomenon I encountered when I suggested raises for church employees with families. The gospel is first, all commenters
    > agree – except for when it comes to overruling market principles. The gospel is first, but it _has_ to abide by free market economic
    > principles. Our omniscient God can deal with pretty much anything else, but that tricky supply-demand curve – the one which isn’t
    > mentioned in the scriptures; which no one even talked about the existence of until 200 years ago – that supply-demand curve is the _real_
    > god around here.

    I think that’s a very unfair comment on your part, Kaimi. I read every comment up to yours, and as far as I can tell, no one was saying that Adam’s proposed policy should not be allowed to override market principles. And nobody mentioned the supply-demand curve on this thread until you. Because Adam framed his proposal in such a way that it would not decrease the total interest recieved by the lender, it’s pretty much an economic wash, so I think the market would handle it just fine.

    In fact, those who criticized the proposal tended to criticize it because they felt it was an empty gesture. Some commenters even suggested it should include actual reduction or forgiveness of interest — which would tend to go against those market principles you claim the commenters will not allow the gospel to overrule.

  26. lyle on April 11, 2005 at 2:52 pm

    Eric: Touche! (IMO)

    Adam: Isn’t the Sabbath, as related to debt foregiveness, an ‘extraordinary’ event? I.e. one that happens on the 50th year, the year of jubilee? Or does it also happen on the 7th year? or the 7th month? or every 7th day?

  27. Frank McIntyre on April 11, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    Kaimi,

    Adam is getting kicked in the head because he admitted that the natural result would be for market interest rates to go up to compensate, although he thought the symbol was worth it anyway. You were getting kicked in the head for wanting to have a policy effect but ignoring the economic behavior that would mean your program would not be an effective policy or an efficient way to achieve said policy.

    So I think he is actually taking abuse for pretty much the opposite reason as you were.

    As to the merits, obviously, I can charge a below market interest rate if I wish to get a below market return. That is always my option. So I could increase my interest rate slightly to be back at the market rate or not, depending on my preferences. Or I could lend at market rates (adjusted up for a Sunday repreive) and then use the extra profit to help the poor of my choosing, not just helping the (possibly non-poor) people I lend to. Whichever, the key is that one is voluntarily fulfilling one’s obligation to the poor.

  28. Mark Martin on April 11, 2005 at 5:23 pm

    Adam (#11),

    There is a difference if the family pays $50 tithing, and then receives food welfare funds (which might magically be $50 worth in this hypothetical case). What is actually paid to the Church in tithes determines the tithing status of the individual(s) involved. Tithing status *is* maintained by the bishop in a confidential report at the end of each calendar year. That has important faithfulness and worthiness implications.

    Welfare disbursements are *not* loans. It is temporary assistance, ideally provided in the amount that the family needs to get back on its feet financially. Keeping the two separate is a good idea.

  29. Mark Martin on April 11, 2005 at 5:25 pm

    So is anyone going to start giving 1/7 of their interest income to the Church from now on?

    Oops… I forgot that maybe we are so indebted that perhaps no one is actually *collecting* interest on the Sabbath.

    I’m with the majority that says, “Let’s get on to things that *really* matter concerning our salvation!”

    P.S. Adam, thanks for sharing your secret about the competition with Russell. I doubt either of you will reach 100 (or even 50) responses, but I have contributed two to yours. :)

  30. Stephen M (Ethesis) on April 11, 2005 at 6:37 pm

    Quite possibly the most petty, yet nugatory, onymous Mormon group blog in history.

    Err, guys, what about the sabbath year and the sabbath of sabbaths when all the property is restored and all debts forgiven?

    I really expected to see this be a thread discussing that point.

  31. Mark B. on April 11, 2005 at 8:24 pm

    After the seventh comment, interest waned.

  32. Benyamin Abrams on April 12, 2005 at 7:38 am

    Dear Bloggers;

    I was interested in the comments of interest working on the Sabbath.

    As an Orthodox Jew for many years, I know a few things about how Judaism looks at Sabbath observance.

    Orthodox Jews don’t turn electric lights on during the Sabbath because it is a “work.” Of course, the flipping of a light switch doesn’t expend many calories; so how can this action be considered “work”? When the Jews were building the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the Rabbis found 40 different categories of “work.” One of these categories was dying cloth. Normally, you need to heat a liquid mixture and dip the cloth in the heated mixture. In order to heat something, you had to create a fire.

    The light and the heat from the fire did not exist until one created (created should be in bold) it. This is the essence of the definition of “work.” It is something that is created.

    Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

    Redefining (not retranslating) the above verse becomes.
    And on the seventh day God ended his creation which he had created; and he rested on the seventh day from all his creation which he had created.

    Interest was not part of the construction of the Tabernacle. Though I am not a Biblical expert, I don’t recall the words “work” or “interest” being in the Old Testament. I did a search of the King James Version of the Old Testament using http://bible.crosswalk.com/ and found no results.

    In addition, I used http://scriptures.lds.org/ and search for “work” and “interest” and found the following: D&C 124: 78 and Bible Dictionary Zechariah.

    Sincerely;
    Benyamin Abrams

  33. Benyamin Abrams on April 12, 2005 at 7:41 am

    Dear Bloggers;

    I made an error.

    Interest was not part of the construction of the Tabernacle. Though I am not a Biblical expert, I don’t recall the words “work” or “interest” being in the Old Testament. I did a search of the King James Version of the Old Testament using http://bible.crosswalk.com/ and found no results.

    The above should read:
    Interest was not part of the construction of the Tabernacle. Though I am not a Biblical expert, I don’t recall the words “work” or “interest” being in the same verse in the Old Testament. I did a search of the King James Version of the Old Testament using http://bible.crosswalk.com/ and found no results.

    Forgive me;
    Benyamin Abrams

  34. Mark N. on April 12, 2005 at 12:34 pm

    Ben A.: Though I am not a Biblical expert, I don’t recall the words “work” or “interest” being in the Old Testament.

    You might want to try the word “usury”.

  35. Benyamin Abrams on April 13, 2005 at 7:45 am

    Dear Mark;

    I want to thank you for your suggesting “usury. I tried searching (both crosswalk and lds.org) for a verse containing both “usury” and “work.” both searches returned “no matches found.”

    There are fifteen instances of usury in the Old Testament. None of these verses refer to usury as “work” or as a prohibitive “work” on the Sabbath.

    If interest/usury was a prohibitive “work” on the Sabbath, won’t the scriptures mention it? If interest/usury was a prohibitive “work” on the Sabbath, won’t scripture state the requirement that all interest bearing loans be repaid prior to the Sabbath.

    I know of no Rabinic, Mishnaic, Talmudic or modern Jewish commentary/ruling that considers interest/usury was a prohibitive “work” on the Sabbath.

    Neither do I know of any statement by a General Authority stating that interest/usury was a prohibitive “work” on the Sabbath.

    Personally, I believe the reason is because interest/usury is not something that is created on the Sabbath unless you make a loan on the Sabbath; but that activity is full of other prohibited Sabbath activities.

    Interest is like the appreciation of devaluation of any asset, which can change without any action on behalf of the borrower or asset owner. The wheat in the field of the farmer can grow and appreciate in value while the farmer is in church. Would you accuse the farmer of breaking the Sabbath?

    Sincerely;
    Benyamin Abrams

  36. Mark Martin on April 13, 2005 at 3:10 pm

    Benyamin (#35),

    Thank you for clearly pointing out the pointlessness of this silly debate with your keen insight:

    “The wheat in the field of the farmer can grow and appreciate in value while the farmer is in church. Would you accuse the farmer of breaking the Sabbath?”

  37. A. Greenwood on April 13, 2005 at 3:42 pm

    Does the farmer have a choice?

    If not (for those of you who are agriculturally impaired, the ‘if’ here isn’t really an ‘if’), how are these comparable?

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