Debt in America continues to be a growing phenomenon. Mortgages, cars, student loans, credit cards, and discretionary purchases have surged, similar to the times just before the greatest financial crisis. It seems as if a large percentage of the U.S. population lives in debt, but that is nothing new. The concept of owing and repaying money is as old as we can trace back in history. Can we ever get rid of it? I don’t think so. We can reduce or totally eliminate ours, but the financial system is built around getting people to buy now and pay later.
Fortunately, we have ample counsel from scripture that helps us to understand that God’s plan is for us to stay away from debt: “Owe no man any thing except to love one another”—Romans 13:8, NKJV. However, while the Bible cautions us about the danger and the risk of living in debt, I find it interesting that the Apostle Paul calls us all debtors. In Romans 8:12, NKJV, he said: “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.”
Debtors? What do we owe and to whom do we owe it? Paul answers that by saying, “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise”—Romans 1:14, NKJV. We see that Paul is presenting to us the concept that we have a “continuing debt of love” (Romans 13:8, NIV) to one another. Jesus says, “Freely you have received; freely give”—Matthew 10:8, NKJV.
After sin found its way into humanity, we all became sinners and were therefore separated from God. There was need for reconciliation. Our disobedience put a veil between God and His creation. We could no longer enjoy free access to Him, to a point that the only deserving thing
was death, for the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Are we suggesting that we have to pay for our sins? Maybe. But don’t worry, Christ took on Himself the entire weight of all our sins; He paid the cost with His blood and set us debt free.
So, what happens now? Can you imagine someone goes to your bank and pays off your mortgage, writes off your student loan, and even pays your credit cards and monthly bills? That would be just awesome! But let me pose a question. Don’t you think that you have the responsibility to show some respect, love, appreciation, or even have a feeling of indebtedness to that someone? Further, having someone clear your debt, makes you feel somewhat obligated to have a positive attitude toward that person. I am so glad that, as the song says, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.” My indebtedness to Him is a debt of gratitude.
The world as a system has nothing to offer to those who live in the Spirit. We have been freed from the most terrible death sentence in the universe. We are faced with the fact that when we had nothing, Christ sustained us. When we were dead in sins, He gave us life eternal. When we were lost, He rescued us. He died our death so that we may live His life.
I could keep going on and on, telling thousands of reasons why I carry in my heart a strong sense of gratitude to Jesus. I am eternally indebted to Him; I am His bond servant. My soul rejoices, my feet cannot be still, my mouth praises His Holy Name saying, “Thank you, Jesus. I am free, the price is paid!” For this I am eternally grateful.
Elias Zabala, Sr., is the Atlantic Union Conference treasurer and trust services director.