Car, rent, mortgage, 2nd mortgage, credit card, college, dental work, and furniture are all things I have been, or am, obligated to make payments on. Debts. “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” – Matt 6:12

Why did Jesus teach us to pray, “Forgive us our debts” instead of Forgive us our sins?
The Greek word for sins is hamartia and the Greek word for debt is opheilé. This verse uses opheiléma (that which is owed.)
In the Roman era, people who couldn’t pay debts were enslaved by their creditors or imprisoned until they, or other people on their behalf, paid off the debt. There were no declarations in chapters 7 or 13 bankruptcy available. But Jesus prays that what we owe might be wiped away in the same manner that we wipe away what other people owe us.

Paul encourages believers to “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” – Rom 13:8. The word “owe” in that verse is the same Greek word as debt, opheilete. Jesus used that word in John 13:14, translated as “ought” or “should.” After washing his disciples’ feet he says, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

Love is intrinsically involved in the forgiveness of debts. Love (forgiveness, service, sacrifice) is a debt that can only be paid in full by giving one’s whole life. That is the example Jesus sets for us to follow. Think about a debt you ought to lovingly forgive today.

Pastor John Riley

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