You don’t owe

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
A rich executive had a manager who was squandering his property. So he decided to fire him. The manager summoned his master’s debtors one by one. He asked one, “How much do you owe my master?” They answered, “A hundred jugs of olive oil.” He said, “Make it fifty.” He asked another, “How much do you owe?” They replied, “A hundred containers of wheat.” He said, “Make it eighty.” And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly.
                  —Adapted from Luke 16.1-8

The Torah prohibited the charging of interest (Ex. 22.25, Lev. 25.36-37) but in Jesus’ time wealthy business people designed an economic apparatus that got around that, and charged predatory interest rates. Jesus’ hearers may have been likely to assume the manager in this story was simply canceling the exorbitant interest and adjusting the debtors’ bills back to the actual amounts they originally owed. Maybe Jesus is critiquing economic injustice.

And maybe this: What if Christ is the dishonest manager, who is—isn’t it true?—really wasteful, squandering God’s love on us all? Christ runs around to everybody who thinks they owe God something and says to them, “You don’t owe God what the religious apparatus says you do.” And God approves of that.

That sounds like Jesus. Sure, you owe God your life. (Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.) But you have also prayed a thousand times, “Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.” (Yeah, in the Greek it actually is debts.) Even our debts to God are erased. Sins are forgiven, lepers are cleansed, debts are canceled, the lost are returned, the dead are raised. Jesus seems to be all about erasing the past and starting new.

Maybe Jesus wants to cut us some slack. Maybe you don’t owe God what you think you do. It’s all a gift—what you get from God, and what you give back. Take out your bill. What does it say? What do think you owe God? What do you need to atone for? Well, you don’t owe God anything. Try that on for a day. See if it helps you feel “welcomed into the eternal homes.”
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

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