The Lord's Prayer: Forgive Us Our Debts
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)
By Pastor Chris Durkin
At the time of writing this devotional, the current national debt of the United States of America is over 20 trillion dollars. The only reason twenty is shocking in this number is because of the word that follows it – trillion. There are thirteen zeros following the two! The United States is one of the most prosperous and affluent countries the world has ever seen and we are hopelessly lost in debt. The U.S. Social Security Administration recently did a study that determined an American who made $45,000 a year would have to work over 300 million years to pay back our national debt! Yet I would submit to you, this is a drop in the bucket compared to the debt our sin has accrued before a holy God.
James 2:10 tells us, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” Galatians 2:10 proclaims, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law” (NIV). Romans 3:10-12 reveals, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside.” We commit sins of commission, sins of omission, and sins of passion. We are not merely sinners by choice; we are sinners by nature. There is something deep down in us that is allergic to the Holiness of God. While our national debt has been accrued by hundreds of millions of people, our spiritual debt has been accrued by each of us – personally, individually and undeniably.
So when Jesus prays about debts in Matthew 6:12, this is not monetary debt but moral debt. Sin leaves us not only estranged from God, but also indebted to Him. Twelve chapters later Jesus will revisit his teaching on forgiveness; this time not in a prayer, but in a parable (see Matt 18:21-35). Jesus tells a story of a King for forgives one of his servants an astronomical amount – ten thousand talents (roughly equivalent to over 200,000 years of hard labor). This servant must have known three things: he did not deserve, could not earn, nor could he repay, the debt his King had just pardoned. Truly, it was amazing grace! Yet, when one of this servant’s own laborers pleas with him to forgive only a hundred denari (one day’s worth of work) he refuses and threw the laborer in prison. Here is the principle: the grace we receive vertically, we must extend horizontally. That is why the word as in the Lord’s Prayer is so important. We need to pray and ask God to forgive us debts as we extend forgiveness to those who are indebted to us.
The Lord’s Prayer was given at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, yet he prayed another prayer at the end of his ministry. The prayer given on the mount at the beginning of his ministry was meant to instruct; the prayer given from a cross at the end of his ministry was meant to intercede. After Jesus’ betrayal, trial, beating, scourging, humiliation and crucifixion, he looks at those who nailed him to the cross with compassion and prays, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Knowing it was my debt of sin that nailed Jesus to the cross, how could I not forgive others their debts to me?