Interest free, a biblical approach to lending

By January 13, 2017

Moldova (MNN) – Did you know, something as utilitarian as how we handle our money is actually mentioned several times throughout Scripture? More specifically, there are clues to how we should handle the practice of interest in certain situations. FARMS International is one mission group taking a biblical, merciful approach to money, and their track record is full of blessing and transformation.

(Photo courtesy of FARMS International).

(Photo courtesy of FARMS International).

We are so used to the way interest works with borrowing that it only seems right to demand interest when we are lending someone money. That’s how we’ve functioned for thousands of years.

But within the Church, God calls us to something different. For example, among the many laws recorded in Exodus, there is this command: “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. (Exodus 22:25, ESV)

The principle is this: Don’t take advantage of someone else’s need.

And if there’s any country in great need, it’s Moldova, considered the poorest country in Europe. According to Gazette Review, the average income is a mere $2,560.

Joe Richter of FARMS says, “I think all of Moldova has extreme problems with poverty and unemployment and lack of opportunity. Really, in a lot of places, it’s a lack of hope for a better life. That’s the reason so many have left Moldova.”

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Richter explains, Moldova sunk into this condition. All of the sudden, the structure of trading in manufacturing, agriculture, and other businesses was ripped out from under them. They had few options and that is still true today.

FARMS has a very simple model that is used in various countries all around the world, including Moldova. It has been extremely successful in helping families climb out of poverty.

(Photo courtesy of FARMS International).

(Photo courtesy of FARMS International)

Local committees trained by FARMS select families from the local Church who are in need and have ambitions and a plan to implement or improve a business. Families are given micro-loans to accomplish these projects. But this micro-loan program is unique for two reasons. One, the loans are interest free — families pay it all back when they can. Without charging interest, Richter says, payback actually becomes a possibility.

“The idea of an interest free loan really can spur on these projects where the majority of micro-loans by secular and other religious organizations will be charging upwards of 36 percent and even higher interest on those loans which is very difficult for the loan recipient to pay back, as well as make a good profit.”

The second aspect that sets this model apart is these Christian families accept the loan with the understanding that after they’ve paid it back, they will tithe from the profit their business brings in.

Richter says, “This approach is showing them they can really support themselves and support their churches locally, and we’re hoping that vision for Moldova will continue because the future of Moldova is very tenuous with the possibility of a resurgence of communism or reoccupation of that country. So, the churches need to know now how they can really provide for their own and support their own Christian work.”

FARMS projects ultimately help the spread of the Gospel, as Richter explains, “The whole idea of FARMS is to enable the local Church to be self-supported and also a blessing to the community. Our real philosophy is based on the idea that a local church really has its thumb on the needs of the community.”

This means there is development within the country without aid pouring in from the outside.

Supporting FARMS

Because FARMS’ micro-loans are going towards development, you can support this ministry knowing the impact has a ripple effect. And there are so many ways to get involved.

Mission Network News and partners believe strongly the most important way for any individual to help is to pray — for specific ministries, projects, people groups, and situations.

Monetary donations to FARMS help expand the reach of their ministry, meaning more families will be empowered financially, and more churches able to improve their outreach.

(Photo courtesy of FARMS International).

(Photo courtesy of FARMS International)

But there are also creative ways to get involved, as well. Take this recent example: Luurtsema Sales heard about the greenhouses that many families in Moldova were purchasing with their micro-loans. The greenhouses benefit farmers because they extend the growing season, help keep down pests and diseases, and require less watering. All in all, they help the farmer grow more produce and receive a better income.

Luurtsema, a garden supply center based in West Michigan, contacted FARMS to donate 18 greenhouses along with some other supplies.

“The program in Moldova seemed to fit so well and there seemed to be a great felt need there in Moldova for good greenhouses for Christian families,” Richter says.

They are exited to see how the greenhouses will impact these families in the near future.

“Each greenhouse will become part of a loan package so they’re successful. So there will actually be a FARMS loan even though the greenhouse will become a gift to the people receiving them. So, we’re very thankful to Luurtesma Sales and greenhouses in Jenison, Michigan for their generosity and making this a dream for many people that’s going to come true.”

If this story brings to mind any ideas about your own donation, contact FARMS here.

You can also support them financially, here.

But, as we said earlier, your prayers are much appreciated, as well. Richter asks you to pray for a successful shipment delivery, and that it would occur in time for the next growing season. Ask God to help the loan committee find the families who need the most and will make the best use of the loans. Pray that all FARMS projects would inspire families to give back generously and that the churches bring spiritual truth to their countries.

And finally, pray for Richter as he prepares to head to Moldova to train a fairly new committee as part of their program expansion.

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