Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rarely used words in the Psalter - 19 (Usury)

This is hilarious - to conjoin this psalm's (15) rare word with a time like this where everyone wants leverage and the sub-prime mortgages (defined as bait - with initial interest below prime, then subsequent interest usurious) are in their full extent causing the whole human-enterprise-trust relationship to crash into a wall. Talk about a self-inflicted curse!

Psalm 15:5 (-->) uses נשך (neshek interest) just the once. It is not mentioned again in the psalter; and its parallel שחד (shachad bribe) is used just twice, here and in Psalm 26:10. (-->)

In spite of this linkage, I did not classify these psalms together. Psalms 15 and 24 are clearly a pair. Psalm 26 could be seen as a personal answer to Psalm 1 (and 15 and 24).

How do we do with respect to usury and bribery? When I read the financial pages of the Globe and Mail and consider my own investments, paltry as they are, I wonder who is not implicated in the general problem space. Where is the real solution? And who gets it?

Do I have to, in responsibility for keeping my family, consider how we will survive if I ever retire? Maybe I will never retire!

From Neale in his 4 volume collection of the history of comments on the Psalms (A commentary on the psalms from Primitive and Medieval Writers...) he cites Innocent III:
Only this must be remembered: that there has been great error on the one side or on the other; either in the present practice of allowing, without a scruple, funds, debentures, and the like ; or in the early prohibition to a priest to buy a field in which the seed has just been sown, with the intention of selling the crop, because in so doing he sold time, God's free gift to every one.
Well, we sure are invested in the buying and selling of time. I searched for this quote and found a bunch more, not all of which medieval or romantic age thoughts I would suffer today! From the Rev. Jeremiah O'Callaghan - 1835 here.
Of all the vices that defile and deprave the human heart, avarice, the root of all evils, is the most abhorrent and difficult of cure ; whilst all others wither and cool in his declining years, this gains more strength and fury ; and what renders the prospect of amendment still more remote and arduous, almost all ranks and stations, the young and the old, the male and the female, the bond and the freeman, are more or less infected ; all aiming, though by different rentes, at the temple of Mammon. When vice thus spreads through the community, assuming the garb of virtue, who could think of resisting it ? That usury would ever be adopted, in any Christian country, as the means of making riches, puzzles all people that have not lost, or never received the light of faith : they are for "ever discussing the question in public and in private ; in the school and at table ; never finding any balm or palliative for it in the Sacred Rules Scripture and Tradition."
Ah - the origin of many of the left-winged middle class of today I see here. Here is a bit from the same book quoting Innocent III.
We received your questions regarding the usurers, who make their debtors take an oath not to remand the usury, and raise no question about the usury they might have paid them. We do therefore reply, that you are to compel these usurers by Church censures, without appeal, to desist, prior to the payment of the usury, from exacting it, or to restore it after the payment be made, for fear it would happen that they would reap benefit from their fraud and deceit.' Innocent III. to the Bishop Mutin, An. 1213.
I wonder if the deposed Chairman of the Bank of Scotland will repay anything of his £650,000 per year pension for his collaboration in the greatest loss of the century. See Bishop Alan's blog here. (The video is not bad, though they got the definition of sub-prime wrong in my opinion. The second video is hilarious.)

No comments: