Arcana Coelestia #9210

By Emanuel Swedenborg

Study this Passage

/ 10837  

9210. 'You shall not be like a money-lender' means that it must be done in a spirit of charity. This is clear from the meaning of 'a money-lender' as someone who does good for the sake of gain; for a money-lender entrusts money to another for the sake of interest and gives help to another for the sake of reward. And since real charity does not have gain or reward as the end in view, but the neighbour's good, 'you shall not be like a money-lender' means that the thing must be done in a spirit of charity. Anyone who does not know what Christian charity is may think that it consists not only in giving to the needy and poor but also in doing good to his fellow citizen, country, or Church for any reason whatever, that is, with no matter what end in view. But he should recognize that the end is what gives all of a person's deeds their true character. If the end or intention is to do good for the sake of reputation, in order to acquire important positions or else monetary gain, the good that he does is not good because it is done for the sake of self and thus also originates in self. But if the end is to do good for his fellow citizen's, country's, or Church's sake, thus for his neighbour's sake, the good he does is good since it is done for the sake of good itself, which in general is the real neighbour, 5025, 6706, 6711, 6712, 8123, and so is also done for the Lord's sake since such good does not have its origin in the person but in the Lord, and what originates in the Lord is the Lord's. This is the good that is meant by the Lord in Matthew,

Insofar as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers you did it to Me. Matthew 25:40.

[2] As it is with good, so it is also with truth. Those who do the truth for its own sake do it also for the Lord's sake since it comes from Him. Doing truth for its own sake is doing good; for truth becomes good when it passes from the understanding into the will, and from the will goes out into actions. Doing good in this manner is Christian charity. People who do good in the spirit of Christian charity may sometimes look for reputation earned as a result of doing it, so as to obtain an important position or else monetary gain. But their attitude is altogether different from that of anyone for whom these things are his end in view. For they regard what is good and right as the essential, one and only thing that matters, and accordingly rank it in highest position. As for monetary gain in comparison with this, or an important position, or reputation for the sake of them, they regard as non-essential, and accordingly rank it in lowest position. When the eyes of people such as these are fixed on what is right and good they are like soldiers fighting in battle for their country. During it they give no thought at all to their life, nor thus to their status or their assets in the world, which compared with what they are doing are of no importance to them. But those who rank self and the world at the top are the kind of people who do not even see what is right and good, because their eyes are fixed on themselves and on gain.

[3] All this shows what doing good for a selfish or a worldly reason is, what doing good for the Lord's or for the neighbour's sake is, and what is the difference between them. The difference is as great as that between two opposites, thus as great as that between heaven and hell. Furthermore those who do good for their neighbour's or for the Lord's sake are in heaven; but those who do it for a selfish or a worldly reason are in hell. For those who do good for their neighbour and the Lord's sake love the Lord above all things and their neighbour as themselves - commandments which are 'the first of all the commandments', Mark 12:28-31. But those who do everything for selfish and worldly reasons love themselves above all things, thus more than God; and they not only despise their neighbour but also hate him if he does not make common cause with them and align himself with them. This is the meaning of the Lord's teaching in Matthew,

No one can serve two lords, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will cling to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:24.

There are people who do serve both; but they are called 'lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, who are spewed out', Revelation 3:15-16. All this now shows what money-lenders who took interest represented, namely those who do good for the sake of gain.

[4] It makes plain the origin of this prohibition, that they were not to be like a money-lender, charging a brother interest, as again declared elsewhere in Moses,

You shall not charge your brother interest on silver, interest on food, interest on anything on which it is charged. A foreigner you shall charge interest, but your brother you shall not charge interest; so that Jehovah your God may bless you in everything to which you set your hand 1 in the land which you are entering to possess it. Deuteronomy 23:19-20; Leviticus 25:36-38.

'Charging a brother interest on silver' means lending truths, that is, giving instruction in them, for the sake of gain, 'charging interest on food' hiring out forms of the good of truth for the sake of gain; for 'silver' means truth, 1551, 2954, 5658, 6914, 6917, and 'food' the good of truth, 5147, 5293, 5340, 5342, 5576, 5410, 5426, 5487, 5582, 5588, 5655, 5915, 8562. The reason why those who do not charge it are blessed by Jehovah in everything to which they set their hand in the land is that their affection is for goodness and truth, so that the happiness which angels in heaven possess is theirs; for that affection, or the good of that love, holds heaven within it for a person, 6478, 9174. The reason why foreigners could be charged interest was that those who do not acknowledge anything of goodness or truth and are unreceptive of them are meant by 'foreigners', 7996, that is, they are those who do good solely for the sake of gain. These must serve a person, for in comparison they are servants or slaves, 1097. In David,

He walks blameless and does righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart. He does not lend his silver at interest, and does not take a bribe 2 against the innocent. He who does this will never be moved. Psalms 15:2, 5.

'Lending his silver at interest' means teaching for the sake solely of gain, thus doing good for the sake of reward. Something similar occurs in Ezekiel,

A righteous man who executes judgement and righteousness does not lend at interest and does not take increase. Ezekiel 18:5, 8.

In the same prophet,

He who withdraws his hand from the needy, does not take interest or increase, executes My judgements, [and] walks in My statutes will surely live. Ezekiel 18:17.

In the same prophet,

In you they have taken bribes 2 to shed blood; you have taken interest and increase, and seized gain of your companions by violence. Ezekiel 22:12.

These things are said about 'the city of blood', by which falsity destroying truth and good is meant, 9127. 'Taking interest and increase' means doing good for the sake of gain and reward, thus not in a spirit of charity. In true charity there is no thought of earning a reward, see 2371, 2373, 2400, 4007, 4174, 4943, 6388-6390, 6392, 6478.


1. literally, in every sending out of your hand

2. literally, a gift

/ 10837  

Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.