The Debt You Owe

By: Dr Eliezer Gonzalez

None of us like having debt. Even when it is what they call “good debt,” such as for an investment, we still prefer to not be in debt.

The truth is that every one of us has a debt and it’s not a good debt. It’s a very, very bad debt.

In Bible times, if someone wronged you, they were considered to have a debt toward you, in the sense that they owed you. This helps us to understand an important conversation that Peter had with Jesus. The gospel of Matthew says that,

Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” (Matt 18:21)

When A Wrong Equalled A Debt

In Bible times, when you wronged someone, you were considered to have a debt toward them.

Peter’s question was very reasonable in his social context. The rabbis taught that if someone did something wrong against you, you should forgive them up to three times. Three chances was all they got. It was the principle of “three strikes and you’re out.” It wasn’t reasonable for you to forgive them more times than that.

So, when Peter came up to Jesus and asked him if he should forgive someone up to seven times, he probably thought Jesus would slap him on his back, congratulating him for finally understanding Jesus’ message! Just think about it. Peter was actually being more than two times more merciful than what the religious teachers of his day recommended!

I’m sure Peter was astonished by how Jesus answered. The Bible tells us that,

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matt 18:22).

In Bible times, when you wronged someone, you were considered to have a debt toward them. That’s why Jesus went on to tell Peter a story that was intended to teach an important lesson. It was about the servant of a king who owed the king a vast sum of money that he would never be able to repay. The king called him in and amazingly forgave him the whole debt!

Then the man went out and saw a fellow servant who owed him a tiny amount of money. The man grabbed him by the neck, shook him and threatened him to force him to repay his debt. When the king heard what had happened he was very disturbed. He called the first servant back in and ask him what was going on.  As a result, the king was so upset at him that he threw him into jail.

Every One of us Has a Debt

We all owe a debt, in fact, we owe many debts. Every time we wrong someone, we owe them a debt. And the greatest debt we owe is to our king, God himself. Like in Jesus’ story, it is a debt that we can never repay, no matter how hard we try. We owe it to God to live the way he wants us to live and to love the way he wants us to love. Christians call our failure to do that “sin.” The truth is that sin, in which we all participate, has caused harm and suffering to others in ways that we will never be able to fully understand.

And so, we have a debt toward God, we also have a debt toward others, and they have a debt toward us that we all are unable to repay. These debts can only be resolved by forgiveness, and forgiveness can only come from a heart that is loving and kind toward others.

The source of all forgiveness is God. That’s why the Bible tells us that Jesus has cancelled our debt on the Cross,

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:13–14.)

A Forgiven Person is a Forgiving Person

The moral of Jesus’ story in Matthew 18 is that the debt that you owe to God is so great that you will never be able to repay it. But he has freely forgiven you. And now he expects you to freely forgive those who owe you much smaller debts.

A forgiven person is a forgiving person. If we have appreciated and accepted God’s forgiveness of the debt we owe him, we will also learn to naturally and freely forgive those who have wronged us. To not do so can only mean that we have never really accepted God’s forgiveness in the first place. As a result, we will remain unforgiven.

We are all debtors. We all owe a debt we will never be able to repay. The question is, what will you do with your debt? How will it affect your relationship with others?

Article supplied with thanks to Dr Eliezer Gonzalez.

About the Author: Dr Eli Gonzalez is the Senior Pastor of Good News Unlimited and the presenter of the Unlimited radio spots, and The Big Question. Sign up to his free online course called Becoming a Follower of Jesus to learn about Jesus and His message.

Feature image: Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash