Tag Archives: Debt

Not Getting It

There were still people left from the Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites (these people were not Israelites). Solomon conscripted the descendants of all these people remaining in the land—whom the Israelites had not destroyed—to serve as slave labor, as it is to this day.
2 Chronicles 8:7-8 (NIV)

Jesus told a simple parable of the King’s servant who owed the king 10,000 bags of gold. To those who listened to Jesus tell this story, the idea of owing 10,000 bags of gold was a ridiculous amount of money. It would be like me owing someone billions or trillions of dollars. More than I could pay back in many lifetimes.

Be patient with me and I’ll pay it back,” the servant said to the king. This is also ridiculous because I couldn’t pay back billions or trillions of dollars in many lifetimes. The king decides to forgive the debt and let the servant go.

As he’s leaving the palace, the servant runs into his buddy who owed him a hundred bucks. When he demanded repayment of the debt, his buddy says, “Be patient with me and I’ll pay it back!” (Sound familiar?) The King’s servant who’d just been forgiven from multiple lifetimes worth of debt refused to forgive his buddy a debt of a hundred bucks.

Jesus point was clear. If God forgives me for my lifetime of mistakes and poor choices and then I refuse to forgive an individual who offended me, then I’ve completely missed the point of everything Jesus came to teach me.

Buried in today’s chapter is a simple observation that brought this parable to mind this morning. Solomon, King of Israel, builds his temples and palaces by forcing all of the non-Israelite people of the land into slave-labor. Now, this was common practice among nations and empires of that day. Solomon was not doing anything differently than what every other King around him would do. But there’s a difference.

The roots of Solomon’s Kingdom were in the story of the Exodus. When Solomon’s people were living in the land of Egypt they were forced into slave labor to work for Pharaoh. God went to great lengths to free them from their slavery and lead them back to Canaan. Now, Solomon builds his Temple to the God who freed his people from slavery, by enslaving others.

As if to add insult to injury, Solomon then has his slaves build a palace for his queen, Pharaoh’s daughter of Egypt, the very nation from whom his people were freed from slavery.

Along my journey I continually encounter individuals who live very religious lives. They never miss a church service. They listen only to Christian music and Christian radio stations, watch only Christian television, read only books written by Christian authors, refuse to darken the door of a pub, associate only with Christians of acceptable repute in the community, and etc. And yet, among these types of squeaky-clean religious types I’ve known I can recall specific individuals who were slum lords, deceptive businessmen, money launderers, bigots, misogynists, and the like.

This morning I’m thinking about Solomon. I’m thinking about the religious individuals I’ve observed and described. I’m thinking about Jesus’ parable. I’m thinking about my own life. Where are the blind spots in my own life? Are there any areas of my life when I’m subjecting others to judgement or burdens from which I, myself, have been freed? Where are the places in my life where it’s obvious to God that I still don’t get what He came to teach me?

Reckoning

“Your own conduct and actions
    have brought this on you.
This is your punishment.
    How bitter it is!
    How it pierces to the heart!”
Jeremiah 4:18 (NIV)

Reckoning is word we don’t use very often any more. It is the the process of settling accounts. It is the day that the bill comes due. Metaphorically used, a “day of reckoning” may not have anything to do with money. It’s when our actions come to their natural conclusion.

On a national level, I’ve been hearing economic prophets crying in the wilderness about a “day of reckoning” for as long as I can remember. We spend more than we take in. The U.S. national debt was at 20 trillion dollars and growing when I looked at it this morning. Every bill our congress passes has a host of pork barrel riders and appropriations (often called “earmarks”) for spending money on pet local projects our lawmakers have promised to the people who’ve lined their pockets back home. The President has no line-item veto so if he wants credit for the main bill he has to quietly put up with all of the quiet little pork barrel projects no one talks about. Wink wink. Nudge nudge. Say no more. This is not a political issue, by the way. This is a systemic issue. Everyone does it on both sides of the aisle. Making hard choices won’t get you re-elected, so we continue our game of cost-shifting. How long can it go on? [cue: the economic doomsday prophets]

On a personal level, I make daily choices that impact my health, my relationships, and my physical, social, and economic well-being. Eventually, there will be a day of reckoning when my seemingly insignificant choices will come to their natural conclusions.

It is very human to cry “Why me?” when the shit hits the fan. Yet along life’s journey I’ve discovered that the answer to that question isn’t usually as elusive as I’d like to pretend. If I turn around and look at the choices I’ve made and the steps I’ve taken across my journey, I can usually see the path of seemingly small, insignificant choices that have led me to this place. I have no one to blame but myself. But, blame-shifting is as common to the human condition as cost-shifting. I’ve observed along my journey that God often gets the blame when we humans adroitly employ our penchant for blame-shifting.

In today’s chapter, Jeremiah is poetically prophesying doomsday scenarios for his nation. Anticipating the eventual blame-shifting the people will employ on the day of reckoning, he reminds them that on that day it will have been their own choices that will have brought them to that place.

This morning I’m thinking about my own life, my own choices, and my own circumstances. Another word we don’t use very often is “repentance.” The original meaning is a word picture of turning around and moving in the opposite direction. Each day represents an opportunity for me to turn away from foolish choices and to start making wise ones. Every day affords the opportunity to change my day of reckoning from a doomsday scenario to that of blessing.

I hear the whisper of my mother’s voice…or is it Holy Spirit?

Make good choices today.”

Have a good day, my friends.

The Enduring Power of a Simple Story

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked 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?’”
Matthew 18:32-33 (NIV)

I have been training groups and individuals in the art of Customer Service for almost a quarter century. Along that journey I’ve learned that students rarely remember all of the bullet points and service principles I teach them. They remember the stories. Just a year or so ago a woman came up to me prior to one of my classes. She had been in my class before and I asked her if she thought the content was beneficial.

Oh yeah, it was good,” she said dismissively. “But just make sure to keep telling all the stories. You tell the best stories!

She reminded me of a couple of front-line supervisors from another client who regularly showed up at the new hire service training class I did at their company each quarter. I asked them why they kept coming back. “We just want to hear you tell those stories again,” they would say with a laugh. “They never get old.”

If you haven’t noticed it, our culture has been recapturing the power of story in recent years. There are books, conferences, and entire consulting practices around story. This isn’t new. It’s eternal. The power of story is woven into the fabric of life. We were created in the image of The Great Story Teller. Story, metaphor, and word pictures communicate concepts in profound and emotional ways.

This is why Jesus told parables. They are powerful in their simplicity, profound in their impact.

In today’s chapter, Jesus tells an amazingly simple parable. A servant begs his master to forgive his deep indebtedness, which the master does. The servant then immediately goes out and rakes his own servant over the coals for some small debt. I have read this parable countless times, and it still resonates with each reading. How many times have I confessed my many failings and shortcomings to God and begged His forgiveness. How great a debt God has graciously forgiven. How then can I refuse to choose to forgive the injuries, slights, betrayals, insults, and inconsiderations of others?

This morning I’m doing a Google search of my heart, mind, life and relationships for anyone I’m holding something against, or anything I’ve refused to forgive.

All because of a simple story I read again.

 

 

Chapter-a-Day Colossians 2

debt
debt (Photo credit: alancleaver_2000)

He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:14 (NLT)

Anyone who has been deeply in debt knows the heavy weight it can become on one’s life and soul. It feels unescapable. With each payment you stick your shovel into the debt load to try and dig yourself out, but the interest on the debt seems to fill in every hole you make.  It leaves one feeling utterly hopeless.

The same is true of our spiritual debt. The things I want to do are the things that never get checked off the task list. The things I tell myself I’m not going to do because they are bad for me (or others) are the things I find myself doing again and again. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to stop doing the things I don’t want to do and do the things I should do. It leaves one feeling utterly hopeless.

Imagine being that person so deeply in debt that you can’t possibly pay back what you owe. The phone rings off the hook with collectors pressing you for money. Repo men are casing your place to take away your things. You’re left living each moment of every day with the knowledge that you about to lose everything you own and leave you utterly bankrupt. How would you respond if someone came along, a person to whom you owed one of those debts, and that person wrote a check to pay off everything you owed? No strings attached and nothing requested in return. You walk away free and clear, your debt paid. Would you feel grateful? Would you not offer to do anything that person asked in thanks for the exceeding, unwarranted kindness they showed you?

According to God’s Message, that’s exactly what Jesus did for us and our spiritual debt. Despite what we’ve done. Despite our inability to stop our bad behaviors and consistently do what we know we should do. No matter how great a debt we’ve built up from all the shitty things we’ve done in secret and in public to ourselves, to others, and to God Himself – Jesus paid our debt. The end we each deserve is the end He experienced when He died on the cross. He was paying off our spiritual debt once and for all.

How am I going to respond to that?

Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 8

Moses slaughtered it and smeared some of its blood on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot. Then Aaron’s sons were brought forward and Moses smeared some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Leviticus 8:23-24 (MSG)

There are times along the journey when shame attacks. “I’m worthless,” I might whisper to myself when I listen to shame’s deceptive whisper. “I’m a failure,” is another evidence of its toxic presence. “There’s no way God could forgive me. I’ve done [insert any number of shameful acts here].”

When Moses smeared blood on the ear, the thumb and the big toe of Aaron and his sons, it was a word picture of the blood covering the very extremeties – the blood covered everything. Even in the very beginning of God revealing His plan, He wanted to make it clear that the smallest amount of sin affects the entire person, therefore the blood of the sacrifice must cover the entire person. The blood Jesus spilled on the cross was a sin sacrifice once for all:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. Romans 8:1-3a

In a metaphorical sense, Jesus repeats the ritual with each person who places their faith in Him. He smears the blood of His sacrifice on our ear, our thumb, and our big toe. While we tend to think of sin as a problem of individual acts we’ve committed (or omitted), God sees sin a root problem to be dealt with in wholistic way. We are completely covered by His sacrifice. All of our sins are forgiven. The debt of our sin has been paid 0ff by the gracious and sacrificial gift of Jesus.

Today, I’m grateful that I’m forgiven; I’m thankful that Jesus sacrifice covers me completely. I hope and pray that my life and my love reflects my gratitude.