Usury: The Root of Evil

Economy: Week 1

Usury: The Root of Evil
Thursday, June 28, 2018

All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

“You owe me.”

What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.

—Hafiz, paraphrased by Daniel Ladinsky [1]

The economy of exploitative profit has no place in God’s kingdom. The economy of grace—gifts freely given and received—is the way God and nature operate. [2] Charles Eisenstein explains the “sacred economics” of a gift economy and how that has been twisted into the unhealthy system we have today:

At its core, money is a beautiful concept. Let me be very naïve for a moment so as to reveal this core, this spiritual (if not historical) essence of money. I have something you need, and I wish to give it to you. So I do, and you feel grateful and desire to give something to me in return. But you don’t have anything I need right now. So instead you give me a token of your gratitude. . . . Later, when I receive a gift from someone else, I give them that token. . . .

Money becomes necessary when the range of our gifts must extend beyond the people we know personally. . . . Traditional, decentralized gift networks gave way to centralized systems of redistribution, with the temple, and later the royal palace, as the hub. . . . They soon diverged from the gift mind-set as contributions became forced and quantified, and outward disbursement became unequal. . . .

We are faced with a paradox. On the one hand money is properly a token of gratitude and trust, an agent of the meeting of gifts and needs. . . . As such it should make us all richer. Yet it does not. Instead, it has brought insecurity, poverty, and the liquidation of our cultural and natural commons. Why?

The cause of these things lies deep within the very heart of today’s money system . . . usury, better known as interest. Usury is the very antithesis of the gift, for instead of giving to others when one has more than one needs, usury seeks to use the power of ownership to gain even more—to take from others rather than to give. . . .

The money created [by the U.S. Federal Reserve] accompanies a corresponding debt, and the debt is always for more than the amount of money created. . . . Usury both generates today’s endemic scarcity and drives the world-devouring engine of perpetual growth. . . . To make new money to keep the whole system going . . . we have to create more “goods and services” . . . [by] selling something that was once free. . . .

Completing the vicious circle, the more of life we convert into money, the more we need money to live. Usury, not money, is the proverbial root of all evil. [3]

[1] Daniel Ladinsky, The Gift: Poems by Hafiz (Penguin Compass: 1999), 34. Used with permission.\

[2] See Richard Rohr,

[3] Charles Eisenstein, Sacred Economics: Money, Gift & Society in the Age of Transition (Evolver Editions: 2011), 11-13, 93-95, 100-101.

Image Credit: Oil Slick in the Timor Sea, September 2009 (detail), NASA Earth Conservatory, US Government.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image:
It was inconceivable that the vast plains and forests . . .  could be exhausted, or that the abundant new fuels of coal could produce enough waste to foul the air and the seas, or that the use of oil could eventually lead to global climate change. —Paul Hawken

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