Our Debt

What do you think about when you hear the word debt? The national debt of the United States? Maybe something a bit more personal?  Most people owe something to somebody. How often to do you get an invitation to consolidate your debt or to take avantage of low interest rates. I'd venture to say that most folks have debt on their car or house - most probably owe money to some kind of financial institution. Debt is a major issue.

In light of this, have you ever wonder what Jesus meant, in the Lord's prayer, when He instructed His disciples to pray:
"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (Matthew 6:12)
Interesting that Jesus uses the word "debt". These debts that we have been forgiven and which we forgive seem to be different than those we owe Mastercard. Here is the Greek word that is translated debts:
opheilēma ( ὀφείλημα) ... it means "that which is owed, a debt"
So what is Jesus talking about? A few years ago I shared about forgiveness, and this verse in specific, with about twenty guys at our local jail. I asked them these questions:
What is the debt that we owe each other?
What is the debt that we are told to forgive?
I told them that the debt is love. We were created to love both God and man - it is our debt to our Creator and to each other. For many in that jail, and I imagine many of us, love is a difficult topic. When we think about our childhood we sometimes do not think about an environment of love. Our childhood years may have been difficult ones where we did not experience love from our parents or siblings. I think that love has always been an issue. Even at the proverbial dawn of humanity the issue of love came to bear.
And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" And he said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground. (Genesis 4:8-10)
Cain did not understand his debt to his brother Abel. He did not understand that he was indeed "his brother's keeper" - he owed a debt of love to his brother ... he was created to care about Abel and be a blessing to him. So it is with us. In some sense, we become who we were created to be when we love. We are most like Jesus when we love. When we forgive our debtors we come to grips with those who should have loved us and did not. When we pray the Lord's prayer we acknowledge our debt to love God and to love each other. We also forgive (other's debt of love) in the same way that God has forgiven us our debt to love Him.

I think that the ultimate confession of love was whispered by Jesus after He was nailed to the cross:
"Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
Given this, how can we not forgive - how can we not pay this debt of love?


  1. Oh Bob, what a wonderful devotion. I love your take on that verse. How true...we have been forgiven so much, how can we not forgive.

    BTW thanks for the Geek Squad offer! So wish I could have had you do it!

  2. Growing up (and continuing through today) always prayed this as "forgive us our tresspasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us".

  3. @Ed - I have prayed that way too. Either way the issue is love.. human beings have an obligation to love.. and when we do not love we trespass against God and each other.


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