January 6, 1981
For every person in the U.S., there are two credit cards— a contributing factor to a per capita debt of $20,886 and a per household debt of $55,869.
Canadian statistics are not as easy to find but we have a similar problem. In fact, living in debt is so common that the term “debt-free” seems an impossibility.
Freedom from every kind of debt. Can it happen? Can a person ever be financially current? Is it possible not to owe anyone anything? The Bible says it is. Regarding human debt, God even commands us, “Owe no man anything.”
While this is an unbelievable command (especially after holiday spending that stretches budgets and credit to its limits), there is another type of debt-free situation that is even more astounding. It involves being free from spiritual indebtedness, free from the account we owe God.
To illustrate, Jesus once told a story about a servant who owed his king a huge amount of money. When the king decided to settle his accounts, this servant could not pay his debt. The king ordered him and his family sold to cover it. The servant begged for mercy. The king was merciful, took pity on him and completely canceled his huge debt.
Later, that servant approached another man who owed him a much smaller sum. The debtor begged for extra time to pay it but the servant became angry and told the man he would put him in prison until he could pay it.
When the king heard about what happened, he was furious with his servant. He said, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?”
This story is mainly Jesus’ instruction to His people to show mercy to others. Because God has forgiven us, we need to forgive others also. However, key to being able to forgive is first knowing how God is like that king and our debt is like the servant’s debt.
Some assume that those who receive God’s forgiveness and give their lives to Him, now owe Him something, that a lifetime of service somehow is payment for their debt. But can anyone possibly repay their debt to God?
The story Jesus told also illustrates the size of the debt God has forgiven. Like the servant’s account with his king, the size of our sin is far greater than we could ever repay. Think of it this way: one unkind thought, or one lie, or one sin of any kind, per day for fifty years equals more than 18,000 sins. Remember, sin is simply going our own way and ignoring God’s way.
Since the Bible also adds that “whatever is not of faith is sin,” our account is large. We cannot count the full number of our debts to God, never mind repay them. Besides, what would we pay them with? God says, “All . . . fall short of the glory of God” and “all our works of righteousness are like filthy rags.”
The Gospel is the good news that our debt can be canceled— in two ways. One is that someone pays it for us. The other is that the King has mercy and forgives it. The Bible describes how God did both.
Jesus is fully human yet sinless. He is full of the glory of God; He does not fall short. His life is filled to the brim with the goodness we do not have. When He died on the cross, He paid our debt for sin, both as our substitute and as our payment.
God accepted that sacrifice. To those who acknowledge their debt and make known their desire to settle their account, He says, “Your debt is paid. Because of My Son, you are debt-free.”