"Do not say, 'Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.' " Pr. 24:29
"I owe you one." is the 21st Century reaction to an offensive person. It creates a mountain of debt that crushes the life out of the one holding on to the offense. Debt free living places IOUs in God's hands and trusts Him to settle accounts.
"Gary! Is that you?" It was a voice calling out in the dark of night from the back of a predawn shuttle to the airport. It was an old friend, and a pleasant surprise. He mentioned the death of a man we both knew. I said I was sorry to hear that. He went on to say the man had experienced a slow painful death, and his once powerful body had deteriorated to less than 80 pounds before he died. Again, I said something appropriate. After all the van was packed with people, and you never know who's listening. His final comment brought back memories. He said, "He was a pastor's worst nightmare." I nodded and admitted that he had given me a few sleepless nights too. The shuttle pulled out, and the road noise made any further conversation impossible.
Riding in the front of the van, I was alone with my thoughts. As the sun rose, another ray of light dawned on me. I didn't feel anything. No anger. No fear. No resentment. No need to pay an enemy back for all he had put me through years ago. I had forgiven him back in the day, but there were times when someone would mention his name and a chemical reaction would kick in. My survival instincts would be on full alert. Obviously, I was still holding a few IOUs in case I met up with him again. You know the drill. Bury the hatchet. Put the blade in the dirt, but keep your hand on the handle.
I don't know exactly when my self-imposed sentence in debtor's prison ended. God had taken my IOU with that man's name on it and had settled the account in my heart. I am not saying God gave the man a painful death to satisfy my offense. That would be sick. The on-going transaction of regularly giving my IOU to God had eventually released me from the spirit of "I owe you one!" When I heard his name mentioned the debt was gone positionally and experientially. It was one of God's "divine Ah-hahs." He told me he would do it. He just didn't tell me when I would know it had happened. Gotta love God's way of surprising His kids with the news that He has been up to something in their lives.
It doesn't matter if an IOU is generated by taking offense over a personal slight, or if it is activated by taking up another's offense. The interest of irritation compounds from mild disgust to brooding angst, then to resentment, on to malicious thoughts, angry outbursts, and sometimes moves to litigation or physical confrontation. The more it grows the more we owe.
Debts from these IOUs rarely get paid back. Why? Because the offender who is owed the most simply doesn't care if the person offended is drowning in a sea of IOUs. It didn't cost him anything to cut someone off the road; he enjoyed it. He probably felt superior when he did it. When he failed to yield and didn't merge into the highway he caused motorists to slam on their brakes. The fact that Starbucks coffee landed in their laps is of no consequence to him. As a matter of fact, when they honked horns to warn him, he gave them the international sign of contempt. When the contractor promised the moon and then took money without completing the job, he just moved on to the next sucker. He's asleep and the cheated client is awake. Who's paying here?
Mounting road rage is a public expression of an ever growing private debt load. It resembles the hidden mass residing under the tip of the iceberg. Road rage won't disappear by banning cars or attending anger management seminars. If people walked everywhere they went, they would start shoving each other to the ground. Why? Because the issue is not the vehicle of choice, but the resentment of choice. One offense can grow into unmanageable debt. One IOU will mature into IOU ALL!
Do you see the problem? Carrying a load of debt for something a person did to you or to those you love will land you in debtor's prison. Proverbs warns against looking for satisfaction from rendering or "bringing back" on a person's head the same treatment the offender gave to you.
Paul strongly challenged early Christ followers to "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written. VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY SAYS THE LORD." (Romans 12:19)
Prayer initiates debt free living when you hand your IOUs over to God. Prayer sustains debt free living by transforming any debt thought to be owed to others into an investment of life in them. Praying for someone makes it harder to hate them. Trust me...not impossible, just harder. However, praying beats paying every time. The more we invest the less we owe.
"The church should seek above everything to cultivate the power of an unceasing prayerfulness on behalf of those without Christ." Andrew Murray
Looking for debt free living? Let go of what you owe and... Pray More to Pay Less. Anybody ready for a jail break? Pray More (for the offender) & Talk Less (about the offense).