Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Eat Cake

I have been looking for a new car (or cars). The insurance company is going to call me Thursday with an offer to replace the Expedition -- and the Loving Husband and I had already begun talking about a THIRD car. The Expedition is necessary to pull our camping trailer and loads of Girl Scouts; however filling its tank with gas requires taking out a second mortgage on the house. (Well, almost.) So the LH and I were discussing purchasing a little run-about: especially seeing that on Sundays we will have a 140 mile round trip (along with whatever day of the week I do my visitations.)

So little run-about cars -- a Honda Fit, a Ford Focus -- whatever. Boy howdy! They are climbing in price! I went to my local Ford dealer (which whom I've dealt before) because I had found an Expedition that would be a good replacement for the lost and much lamented Expedition. I also found an OK Ford Taurus. It was more than I wanted to spend; that's life.

However the salesman and sales manager could not believe that I was going to pay CASH. That's right -- CASH. I believe that if Satan is at work in our society, you can find his fingerprints all over that thing called "revolving credit." The origins of the word "usury" are from the Medieval Latin word usuria, "interest" or "excessive interest", from the Latin usura "interest") originally meant the charging of interest on loans. In the 12th century ANY charging of any interest was usury. Now-a-days we only call it "usury" if the interest rates are considered high. But I believe we should not take advantage of any credit whatsoever.

Now I know that we are "beyond" the Old Testament -- that the law is no longer hanging above my head like a sword but I will also say that there is much wisdom to be found in the OT (or Hebrew Bible). In Leviticus 25 we read:
35 " 'If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. 36 Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you. 37 You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.
And also from Exodus 22
"If you lend money to my people, to any of the down-and-out among you, don't come down hard on them and gouge them with interest.
Usury is NOT GOOD. Likewise, to take advantage in revolving credit -- that is NOT GOOD either.

Aquinas, "the leading theologian of the Catholic Church, argued charging of interest is wrong because it amounts to "double charging", charging for both the thing and the use of the thing. Aquinas said this would be morally wrong in the same way as if one sold a bottle of wine, charged for the bottle of wine, and then charged for the person using the wine to actually drink it. Similarly, one cannot charge for a piece of cake and for the eating of the piece of cake. Yet this, said Aquinas, is what usury does. Money is exchange-medium. It is used up when it is spent. To charge for the money and for its use (by spending) is to charge for the money twice." (Wikipedia)

In other words, Aquinas would argue that it is sinful to charge for the cake and then the eating of that cake. I do believe this is the origin of the phrase, "You can't have your cake and eat it too." True, it shows up in proverbial speech a couple of centuries later -- and it changes meaning to "you can't have it both ways." But to see it as an extension of Aquinas' argument make more sense to me.

Aquinas would claim that usury was a violation of natural moral law and thus ethically corrupt. Money is not an end but a means of buying goods and services. Putting money out for the generation of more money is an evil unto itself. When we participate in a system of revolving credit, we share in that evil and thus share the weight of the sin.

My 2 cents worth. You may slice it differently -- perhaps I am asking for my cake and the eating of that cake as well. However my conscious lays more lightly to NOT put a car on credit. I feel that I am a better steward of what God has blessed me with. And yes, that means no flashy rides. Sorry, Chaos.

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