At the time of this writing, the U.S. national debt is over 2 trillion dollars. If that were spread out to each citizen, we would each owe over $62,000 dollars, or, if spread out to each taxpayer, over $168,000. While the budget deficit may grow or shrink, the government is continually spending more than it receives, and thus the debt is growing.
I’m not sure how you and I experience the burden of that debt. Mostly, we do not think about it. Ignorance does not erase the debt. It just erases it from our consciousness. Likewise, if there is such a thing as a spiritual debt, ignorance does not erase it. It merely allows us not to think about it, so as not to feel the burden of debt.
Our problem of sin before a holy God is often pictured as a stain from which only the blood of Christ can cleanse. Also, we find the picture of debt. “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Jesus says of the master to the parabolic debtor, “And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.” In this Sunday’s text, Jesus illustrates his forgiveness of the sinful woman by saying in parable, “When (the two debtors) were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both.”
For well over a hundred years (1865) we have been singing “Jesus paid it all; all to him I owe.” More recently (1989), we have sung the chorus “He came from heaven to earth to show the way; from the cross to the grave, my debt to pay.”
The burden of debt is more keenly felt when it is personal - when it affects my home and my children and my reputation. That is why we can seem to distance ourselves from a national debt or divine debt. But the accountants are counting, and the Judge is judging. We don’t like that idea.
Yes, accountants count. But why should God judge? We frame the question in order to excuse ourselves. We actually put the onus on God when we consider (judge) that God owes us - it is His job to serve us and make us happy, as though He were in our debt. But if we are His creatures, as Scripture clearly teaches, and if we were created for His glory, then every time we live for our own glory, we are guilty to stealing His. That results in debt. Moreover, when we violate His moral will expressed in His laws, we offend His holiness, which is a moral debt that must be repaid. The debt is so great, we cannot, so the burden is crushing. Until we hear the Savior say, “Your sins have been forgiven.”