“He who increases his wealth by exorbitant interest amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.”Proverbs 28:8
“Sign here,” I told my little sister, pointing to the line at the bottom of my carefully scripted contract. Her little hand scribbled her name as best she could, as her other hand reached eagerly for the bills I was holding back. I was 13, she was 10. I made a little money mowing lawns, so I had more than she did at the time. I don’t remember what she wanted to buy, but I do remember that she needed more than she had, and she wanted to borrow it from me. Somewhere along the way I had picked up aspirations to be a businessman, and was practicing the idea of loaning at interest. On my 10 year old sister. We agreed that she would have one month to pay me back, in full, or I would begin to charge interest on her loan. She took the money, I took the contract, and off we went.
Fast forward 30 days. I came to collect, knowing that she didn’t have the money to pay. Contract in hand, I told her it was fine if she didn’t pay me today, but tomorrow she would owe me with interest. Tears and pleading followed, but fell on deaf ears. I remember her dragging her piggy bank up to my room, emptying it out and carefully counting out every last coin. Still not enough. My earlier elation at the prospect of gaining interest at my sister’s expense began to wane, replaced by compassion. But I looked at the signed contract before us, and remembered that she had agreed to this. She went downstairs, looking under couch cushions, checking behind car seats, collecting whatever coins she could find. Still not enough. By now, my resolve had broken down entirely, though I wasn’t quite ready to show that apparent weakness to my little sister. How was I ever going to be a successful businessman if I couldn’t hold people to the standards they had agreed to?
I don’t remember if my parents got involved, or my older brother, or if my soft side finally kicked in, but I do remember that I didn’t collect any interest payments from her. She paid me back at some point, but only the amount she originally borrowed. I’m not a businessman, and I don’t have many people asking me for a loan, but I’ve never again charged interest on a loan to anyone. I didn’t like the way it felt, holding that over her.
I wonder if that’s how God feels when it comes to our sin? We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, and none of us can ever hope to pay the debt of that sin. I like to believe that God looks upon us with compassion, rather than condemnation. The one thing God does ask of us is that we humble ourselves and repent of our sins. Part of that, I believe, also includes forgiving others and treating them with the same love and compassion with which God treats us. Are you treating others with this same love?