25/07/2013 10:47 BST | Updated 24/09/2013 06:12 BST

Welby's War on Wonga - What's the Bigger Picture?


It's hard not to like the sound of Justin Welby's desire to 'compete Wonga out of business' - but is it biblical?

Often, we get the soundbite but not the thinking behind it. As you'd expect of an Archbishop, Welby's thinking is informed by the Bible (he says elsewhere in the same interview that 'it's a good thing to ordain women bishops in biblical terms'). I want to know how you think his proposal stacks up to the biblical narrative that has surely informed it.

There's plenty in Scripture - in the form of laws, sayings, parables and stories - about money-lending and financial practices. So, going by his own church's sacred text, does Welby's suggestion take things too far? Or not far enough? Should we be looking for an altogether different type of solution? Have a look and consider for yourself what a biblical response might look like...

(Bear in mind that the Bible doesn't necessarily function as a textbook, where you can simply 'look up the answer in the back'. There might be more to a verse than immediately meets the eye; and there's certainly a lot more in there than these few short extracts...)

These are from the Old Testament laws for Israel

"If you lend money to any of my people who are poor, do not act like a moneylender and require him to pay interest. If you take someone's cloak as a pledge that he will pay you, you must give it back to him before the sun sets, because it is the only covering he has to keep him warm."

Exodus 22.25-27 (GNB)

If any of your people become poor and unable to support themselves, you must help them, just as you are supposed to help foreigners who live among you. Don't take advantage of them by charging any kind of interest or selling them food for profit.

Leviticus 25.35-37 (CEV)

These are from the 'wisdom literature' - sayings and songs

The wicked borrow and never pay back, but good people are generous with their gifts.

Psalm 37.21 (GNB)

If you get rich by charging interest and taking advantage of people, your wealth will go to someone who is kind to the poor.

Proverbs 28.8 (GNB)

These are from New Testament gospel accounts of some of Jesus' teaching and actions

Give to everyone who asks you for something, and when someone takes what is yours, do not ask for it back...And if you lend only to those from whom you hope to get it back, why should you receive a blessing? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount! No! Love your enemies and do good to them; lend and expect nothing back...

Luke 6.30, 34-35 (GNB)

Jesus went into the Temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the stools of those who sold pigeons, and said to them, "It is written in the Scriptures that God said, 'My Temple will be called a house of prayer.' But you are making it a hideout for thieves!"

Matthew 21.12-13 (GNB)

This is from the New Testament account of the early church

All the Lord's followers often met together, and they shared everything they had. They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it.

Acts 2.44-45 (CEV)

Really, those are just scraping the surface of a host of ways in which the Bible speaks to contemporary issues of debt, money-lending, stewardship of resources etc etc.

And, while they're currently the focus of the headlines, I'm pretty sure the problem doesn't start and end solely with Wonga. In fact, part of what I value about grappling with the Bible is that it shows these issues have been around for thousands of years.

Does that mean we should despair of anything ever changing? Personally, I'm only more motivated to agree with Archbishop Welby and look for ways we can all '[put] our money where our mouth is'.