One of my dear friends tells a humorous story of three brothers who gather together on each other’s birthdays. The birthday boy gets $20 from each of his brothers and then, when it’s each of their turn, they get the $20 back. She once suggested that each of them just keep their own $20 bill instead of trading the same one around. As far as I know, they’re still trading bills.
It’s nearly impossible to keep track of who owes you and what you owe to others. If you’re normal, your mind is sharp on the former and fuzzy on the latter. Years later, you might remember who came up short when pitching in for dinner and yet your blessings from acts of generosity are sometimes lost in the sands of time. As the Proverb says, “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD weighs the hearts” (21:2 NKJV).
The truth is, every day we accumulate more debt. We can’t escape that. We become further entwined in a web of giving and receiving, hoping that somehow we come out on top. Even the simple acts of living and breathing cost something. Visit your mailbox to verify this.
“You owe me one.” When you move beyond the realm of finances to the exchanging of favors, acts of love, and gestures of goodwill, the never-ending cycle grows deeper. Someone once sacrificed his or her own good comfort and well-being to lend you a helping hand, so what is your instinct when you’re a position to repay?
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but your nature is corrupt, as is mine. Left to our own devices, we would constantly add to a tab that we had no intention of remembering. We would take those $20 bills every birthday and offer excuses for empty greeting cards. We would eat dinner and slip to the restroom when the check arrives. We would burn the gas out and never fill the car back up. We were born to be selfish and stingy, taking everything we can without obligation to reimburse.
Have you ever had a bill canceled? What a rush! When I first got a cell phone, one of my first bills was three times what I expected. I called the company, very distressed. “I didn’t know that roaming was extra!” “Oh really? We’re sorry. Just take $200 off the bill. We’ll send a new one out.” It was my kind of customer service. Side note: they are no longer in business.
During my honeymoon, my wife and I visited a swanky restaurant owned by a celebrity chef. Trying to forgo my penny-pinching ways, at least for the evening, no dish was off limits. This was a once-in-lifetime dinner. Still, in my own way of bracing myself, I mentally added up the bill, nervously waiting on the server to bring it. “Since it is your honeymoon, I took care of the check.” It was a huge shock. I almost felt like it was all happening in slow motion. We were strangers and this sweet, hard-working woman bestowed special generosity on us. Amazing!
Consider for a moment the amazing transference of our spiritual debt to Someone who gave us everything and owed nothing. Think of all the wrongs we have accumulated—every selfish, sinful act that necessitated it its own penalty—with no possible means of recompense. The holy, blameless, selfless Son of God stepped in to take wipe the slate clean. He took on our sin and we took on His holiness. Amazing grace!
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV). Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25 NIV).
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12).