I’ve always been stumped by why the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew asks God to “forgive us our debts” instead of “forgive us our sins,” like it’s worded in Luke 11:4. Debts are something that occur on a horizontal plane between me and another person or entity, but sins can occur both in God’s eyes or in the eyes of another person due to my actions toward them. The Lord’s Prayer encompasses both our relationship with God as well as our relationships with other people.

The Greek word used for “debts” in Matthew 6:12 is “ofeiletes” which can either mean debt in a monetary sense, as well as in a moral or social sense. Therefore, if you or I offend someone else, we have incurred a “debt” (i.e., a moral obligation) that calls us to make things right with them. That’s what Jesus is talking about in Matt. 5:23-24 when he says, “go and be reconciled to your brother or sister, then come back and offer your gift at the altar.”

Some “debts” fall more under the heading of an obligation we have to the community or society. Examples might be acts of omission, deception, or misappropriation that are detrimental to other people. For instance, if a county official reallocates public funds designated for one program (e.g., foster care services) and uses them for another program (e.g., beach improvements) they incur a moral debt. They haven’t “stolen” money for personal gain but they incurred a debt to society because some children will not get the level of foster care they need. If I spend $250 per week on dining out with my family but regularly fail to budget for an offering to EFCC’s Care Fund, I incur a moral debt to needy brothers and sisters in Christ within our church family. If the world’s superpowers all overspend their national budgets for nuclear armament, the level of world hunger and suffering is likely to increase. Each of these creates a debt to the community or society.

So as we pray for the Heavenly Father to meet “our” daily needs, let us not forget that “our” encompasses the needs of our church family, our community, and the world. May God give each of us the grace to keep short accounts in all of these ways.

Pastor Dave Korinek

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