How Should People of Faith - Or Atheists Who Want to Talk With Them - Think of Bank Crime?
By Washington's Blog /

The Bible and Nobel Prize Winning Economists Agree: “When The Sentence For A Crime Is Not Quickly Carried Out, People’s Hearts Are Filled With Schemes To Do Wrong”

Preface: If you are an atheist and believe that religion is crazy, please remember that some 85% of the American population identifies itself as Christian and millions more identify themselves as Jewish. Very few Americans are atheists.  (And the majority don’t trust atheists.) Therefore, knowing a few bible verses may be essential for atheists to be able to speak to people of faith.

The head of Goldman Sachs said he’s doing “God’s work” with his banking activities.   The head of Barclays also told his congregation that banking as practiced by his company was not antithetical to Christian principles.

Are they right? Is big banking as practiced by the giant banks in harmony with Christian or traditional Jewish principles?

Do Justice

Initially, the Bible does not counsel us to ignore the breaking of laws by the the powerful.

In fact, the Bible mentions justice over 200 times — more than just about any other topic. The Bible asks us to do justice and to stand up to ANYONE — including the rich or powerful — who do injustice or oppress the people.

Indeed, one of the first things God asks of us is to do justice:

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

While many churches and synagogues have become obsessed with other issues, many have arguably ignored this most important of God’s demands of us. As pointed out by a leading Christian ministry, which rescues underage girls trapped as sex slaves in third world countries:

In Scripture there is a constant call to seek justice. Jesus got upset at the Pharisees because they neglected the weightier matters of the law, which He defined as justice and the love of God . . . Isaiah 58 complains about the fact that while the people of God are praying and praying and praying, they are not doing anything about the injustice.

Should Christians just pray for justice and leave the rest to God?

That’s not what the Bible asks us to do. Instead, Hebrews 11:33 tells us that we are God’s hands for dispensing justice, and God uses us to “administer justice.”

We have to “walk our talk” and put our prayers into action.

God demands that we do everything in our power to act as “God’s hands” in bringing justice. And as Saint Augustine reminds us, “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.”


The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, He was appalled that there was no one to intervene. (Isaiah 59:15-16)

This is the only place in the Bible where the word “appalled” is used for the way God feels — in other words, the only thing which we know God is appalled by is if people are not doing justice.

There are hundreds of other references to justice in the Bible, including:

  • Blessed are they who maintain justice . . . . (Psalm 106:3)
  • This is what the LORD says: Maintain justice and do what is right . . . . (Isiah 56:1)
  • This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. (Jeremiah 22:3,13-17)
  • Follow justice and justice alone. (Deuteronomy 16:19, 20)
  • For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice . . . . (Job 11:5,7)
  • Learn to do right! Seek justice . . . . (Isaiah 1:17)

But shouldn’t we be deferential to the rich and powerful bankers?

No. Colossians 3:25 explains:

For the wrongdoer will have punishment for the wrong he has done, without respect for any man’s position.

So if the powerful players in the giant banks broke the laws, they must be held to account.

Fraud and Manipulation of Money

The big banks have engaged in systemic, continuous ongoing criminal fraud.

Allowing the banks to commit crime with impunity is not what Jesus would do. What would Jesus do? Turn over the tables of the money-changers. (economists agree.)

Moreover, the giant banks are manipulating every market in the world.

As Ron Paul notes, the Bible forbids altering the quality of money (which, at the time and place, was entirely in the form of coins):

Even the Bible is clear that altering the quality of money is an immoral act. We are instructed to follow the rules of “just weights and measures.” “You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin” (Leviticus 19:35-36). “Diverse weights are an abomination to the LORD, and a false balance is not good” (Proverbs 20:23). The general principle can be summed as “You shall not steal.”

Proverbs 11:1 also provides:

Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight.

So to the extent that the giant banks have engaged in any dishonest acts or the manipulation of currencies, they are violating scripture.

Oppression of the Poor

Finally, the Bible condemns oppression of the poor for the benefit of the affluent:

He that oppresses the poor to increase his riches, and he that gives to the rich, shall surely come to want. (Proverbs 22:16)

To the extent that the giant banks have oppressed the poor to increase their riches, they are violating scripture.

Shouldn’t We Wait Until the Economy Recovers?

Apologists for Wall Street criminals argue that we should wait until the economy recovers before we prosecute the criminals.

But Ecclesiastes 8:11 notes:

When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.

Nobel prize winning economists agree.

Important Postscript: Not all bankers are bad people. For example, many bankers at smaller banks and credit unions are good people who are trying to help their communities. Each must be judged by his own acts.

Moreover, corrupt government officials are half the problem.  Indeed, the big banks wouldn’t have grown so large, or gotten away with so many bad acts, had corrupt officials in Washington notcondoned their actions.

The Wall Street criminals themselves are not the real problem.  The deeper problem is the malignant, symbiotic relationship between corrupt government officials and corrupt bankers. 

Illustration above: Anthony Freda/Daniel Zollinger

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How Should People of Faith - Or Atheists Who Want to Talk With Them - Think of Bank Crime?