Thursday, February 21, 2013

Jesus & Economic Life (6) Cancel Debt

Many of the people living in Galilee and Judea were in debt. Their debts were often owed to their countrymen. Jesus parable suggested a solution.

Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both (Luke 7:41-42)?
This was not a revolutionary idea. It was what the Torah required. Debts were to be cancelled after seven years,

Cancellation of debt was the theme of another parable (Matt 18:21-31). A man who had been forgiven a huge debt refused to forgive someone who owed him a small amount that he owed and had him thrown in prison.
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?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers (Matt 18:32-34)
In many ways, the sin of the servant was worse. The money he owed would have been a business loan. The loan to the second servant was a loan to someone in poverty. This loan should have been interest free, and should have been cancelled after seven years, if the person could not repay it. This was what the Torah required.

Jesus called for people to cancel debts.
Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny (Matt 5:25-26).
The people should not to go to court to enforce their debts. If they went to a Roman judge anything could happen. They could both end up in prison and poverty. It would be far more sensible to cancel debts after seven years as the Torah required. The ones going to the courts would be the creditors. If they followed God’s standards and cancelled the debts, they would not need to be going to the courts.

The Lord’s prayer contains a commitment to cancelling debts.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matt 6:12).
We do not notice this because we focus on God forgiving our sins, but Jesus just assumes that we will cancel the sins of our debtors. I doubt that many Christians praying the Lord’s prayer think about what that means for them.

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