The modern-day Christian often stands at the crossroads of societal norms and moral conviction. Payday loans, or what some call predatory lending, is one such intersection.
A payday loan is a type of short-term borrowing where a lender will extend high-interest credit based on the loan applicant’s income. Payday loans charge high-interest rates for short-term, immediate credit.
These types of loans are called predatory because often loan recipients find that they can never repay the original loan amount due to interest rates that can be as high as 400%.
LifeWay Research conducted a study to analyze trends about U.S. Christians’ opinions about, and usage of, payday loans.
In their online survey of 1,000 U.S. adults in 27 states conducted Feb. 22-27, and sponsored by Faith for Just Lending, LifeWay found that more than three in four Christians see lending as harmful to borrowers and sinful, even though one in three respondents have taken a payday loan before.
While one third of U.S. Christians say payday loans are helpful and beneficial in an emergency, many more advocate for governments to protect borrowers.
More than three in four believe laws or regulations should protect borrowers from lending practices that create loans that can’t realistically be repaid without additional loans, and 84% say laws or regulations should prohibit lending at “excessive interest rates.”
Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, said: “Christians expect far more regulations that protect borrowers than exist in these states. The Bible does not define at what rate excessive interest begins, but it does forbid it. So, it is not surprising that most Christians want to eliminate excessive interest rates.”
U.S. Christians also believe in the personal responsibility of the lender to make a moral decision. More than nine in 10 agree that lenders should take into account the borrower’s income and expenses and only extend loans at “reasonable interest rates.”
A prominent state in the study is New York, where payday loans are illegal. The Department of Financial Services in New York says that “payday loans are designed to trap borrowers in debt.”
Despite this admonishment, 37% of all survey respondents said payday loans are helpful, doubling the total from a similar survey in 2016.
Overall, while Christians do believe payday loans could be beneficial, they want some church guidance on the way to go about it.
Nine in 10 believe churches should teach stewardship and giving, especially to those in crisis, 53% want guidance from the church for those with financial needs, and more than one third would like to see their church provide gifts or loans to members who are struggling financially.
“Most churches are silent on payday loans at times when Christians desire advice and emergency help,” McConnell said.
The full report is available here. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
A recent graduate of the University of Rochester, he holds a degree in digital media studies and audio engineering. Sadler is Good Faith Media’s Ernest C. Hynds Jr. intern for the spring 2023 semester.