Debts and Debtors

Debts and Debtors

Photo Courtesy of and Jeremy Paige
Photo Courtesy of and Jeremy Paige

And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly
(Lk 16:8)

The first time I worshipped with my wive’s family, their congregation committed a horrible sin. When praying the Lord’s Prayer, they dared to pray the words, “debts and debtors.” They had removed the true words of Jesus, “trespasses and those who have trespassed against us.” My whole body shook with indignation. What right did those crazy Presbyterians have to change the words of Jesus for their own selfish purposes? Worse, they dirtied faith by making it all about money.

My feelings became more entrenched over the years. The words, “debts and debtors,” were repulsive to me. So I started a quiet protest. Whenever we reached that point in the service, I would go silent. Then, in my head, say the true and holy words taught to me in my pure Lutheran upbringing. When the prayer was finished, I would thank God that I was not like them. Really holy approach, right?

Like most arguments in our relationship, it is only a matter of time before Peggy is proven right. In my Greek class in seminary, we translated the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew from the original Greek into English. There I discovered the actual words of Jesus were, “debts and debtors.” Not only that, but they were intentionally connected to money. I ask all Presbyterians everywhere for forgiveness for all the things I said about you in my head over the years.

Faith and money are intimately connected. Today’s lesson is a powerful reminder of this, even though it can be confusing. In order to understand this parable I need to provide some background. Rich merchants in ancient times charged incredibly inflated levels of interest on poorer lenders. Their managers charged an additional interest which provided their “take” on the transaction. When the dishonest manager cuts deals, he is literally forgiving the debts of lenders without sacrificing a return to his master.

Like people in the ancient world, we don’t always understand the mystery of God, but we know the power and vulnerability of money. Think for a moment how much financial debt produces anxiety and threatens life’s potential. It’s a tangible reality we experience every day.

Think about it. What’s the more powerful and life giving image for you? Being forgiven your trespasses? Or, as you look over your credit card, car payment, mortgage, school loan, cell phone, cable/dish debts, etc… you hear your debt is forgiven? Spiritually, this is the gift Jesus is freely willing to give. I pray you can discover the life found in being debt-free.

Click to read: Luke 16: 1-8

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