Getting Out of Debt

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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And forgive us our debts …

Matthew 6:12

There are multiple ways to translate the word debts in the Lord’s Prayer, so we’ve devoted three reflections to that word. First, we considered sin which means not being in the place we are supposed to be. Then, we considered trespass which means being in a place we are not supposed to be. Today, we consider debt because every sin and every trespass accumulates a debt before God.

You know, after all, that if you trespass by parking in a no-parking zone, you will be penalized with a debt to someone for being in a place you’re not supposed to be. And if you sin by failing to be in the jury assembly hall when you’re supposed to be, you will be penalized with a debt to someone for failing to be in the place you are supposed to be. So often, we are in the wrong place or not in the right place mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, and over time we accumulate an enormous debt before God.

In 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound releasing somewhere between eleven million and thirty-eight million gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean. It was one of the worst ecological disasters in history. The resulting costs for litigation and cleanup came to more than $3 billion. Considerable responsibility for the disaster was laid at the feet of Captain Joseph Hazelwood who was reportedly sleeping off a bender in his bed. It’s not rocket-science to figure out that there was no way Captain Hazelwood could pay back a debt of that magnitude. Captain Hazelwood’s only hope was for Exxon, JP Morgan & Company, and their insurance agents to pay off his debt.

Life is a physical experience where we pray for daily bread, but it is also a moral experience. Jesus teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our debts,” to account for our moral failures. It’s hard to calculate the magnitude of the debt we accumulate before God over a day, a week, a month, or a lifetime. We know that the sum far exceeds anything we can repay. From time to time, you hear about someone “writing off bad debts.” This means the one to whom the debt is owed must pay. Debts cannot simply vanish. For any debt to be resolved, someone must absorb the cost! Jesus teaches us to pray, “Forgive us our debts,” and reveals this incomprehensibly wonderful truth. God is willing to pay off all the accumulated debts of our sins and trespasses, no matter how great the debt may be.

And to put an exclamation point on this, Jesus doesn’t teach me to pray, “Forgive me my debts.” We pray for “our” debts—the whole kit and caboodle, the whole enchilada, the whole nine yards of humanity’s debt. What a wonderful God we have!

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Describe the greatest financial debt you’ve ever had? What impact did that have on your life? If you are out of debt, what is it like to be debt free? If you are not out of debt, what do you imagine it would be like to be debt free?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me understand that the meter is always running on my debt. Every time I am in a place I shouldn’t be or not in a place I should be, it accumulates a debt that you are willing to pay through the death of Jesus. This humbles me to the core. Now that you have set me free, help me to use my freedom to set others free. Amen.


Dave Peterson is an ordained pastor who is the Director of Community Outreach for The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and Scholarly Advisor for the H. E. Butt Family Foundation. He is the author of Receiving and Giving, Unleashing the Bless Challenge in Your Life. Dave and his wife, Terri, have four adult children and four grandchildren. Send a note to Dave.


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Featured image by MorkiRo. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.