What does a picture of two children hugging have to do with the phrase “something owed”?

  • Did you notice the expression of the visible face is sad?

The phrase “something owed,” is frequently used to define a debt of some kind.

It is common to connect the phrase “something owed” with financial debts.

  • Do you agree that the “something owed” in the picture above is likely not financial?

We are going to study what Matthew 6:12 has to say about a broader concept of “something owed”.

ESV  Matthew 6:12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

What is the context of this verse?

Upon starting this series on the Lord’s prayer, we noted that in Luke 11:1 Jesus’ followers had asked Jesus to teach them to pray.

Turning attention to the gospel of Matthew 6:5-8, Jesus gave them examples of how not to pray.

Matthew 6:9-10 begins the sample prayer to the Lord of all creation that Jesus provided his followers with a distinct focus on who the Lord is and expressing a desire to be in alignment with His will.

Beginning in Matthew 6:11, Jesus gives us the example of requesting that our daily needs be met by the Lord to remind us that we are dependent on the Lord for sustenance.

Now we come to Matthew 6:12 that opens by requesting the Lord to forgive us our debts.

What are the debts being referred to in this verse?

Earlier we learned that debt is commonly defined as “something owed”.

It can also mean a state of being under obligation to pay or repay someone or something in return for something received.

In biblical terms a debt is also referred to as a sin or trespass against God or a fellow human.

How does one sin, trespass, or come under obligation to pay or repay God?

To answer this question, we need to also consider definitions of the words sin and trespass.

A sin may be defined as any of the following:

1a : an offense against religious or moral law

b : an action that is or is felt to be highly reprehensible it’s a sin to waste food

c : an often serious shortcoming : fault

2a : transgression of the law of God

b : a vitiated state of human nature in which the self is estranged from God

A trespass may be defined as any of the following:

1 : to commit a trespass especially : to enter unlawfully upon the land of another

2a : err, sin

b : to make an unwarranted or uninvited incursion

Our culture today has a difficult time with the use of the word sin. Yet, our culture has no problem using the words debt or trespass.

Consider all the “they said/they said” dialogues prevalent in media of all kinds or even just amongst your friends, family, neighbors, etc.

Many of these dialogues use synonyms for debt or trespass stating how they feel they have been mistreated or wronged indicating that they have “something owed” to them by the other.

But few will use the word sin to describe a wrong against another being even though debt and trespass may be defined as a sin.

Culturally, we tend to reserve the word sin for a religious moral application. But even in religious settings there tends to be a hesitancy to use the word.

Read our verse for today again:

ESV  Matthew 6:12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

This verse is in the context of a prayer to our heavenly creator, the Lord who resides in heaven.

The verse opens with a request that our heavenly creator, the Lord who resides in heaven forgive us our debts.

But it doesn’t stop there. It continues with, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

What does it mean to forgive?

Consider the following definitions:

1 : to cease to feel resentment against (an offender) : pardon forgive one’s enemies

2a : to give up resentment of or claim to requital (see requital sense 1) for forgive an insult

b : to grant relief from payment of forgive a debt

Read our verse for today again:

ESV  Matthew 6:12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Compare it with Luke 11:4a which is the parallel passage including the same prayer.:

ESV  Luke 11:4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

Matthew uses debts and debtors while Luke uses sins and those who are indebted.

The “something owed” being referred to by both Luke and Matthew’s versions of Jesus’ prayer instruction reveal that seeking forgiveness from the Lord for the wrongs we have committed against Him, our creator, needs to be in correlation with how we treat those who have wronged us.

The “something owed” does not need to be specified if it is something that has harmed another whether it is God our creator, a fellow human being who was created by God, or some other aspect of God’s creation whether animal, mineral and so on.

Why is this important to understand?

The world as it currently is, broken and struggling, is not what the Lord wants for His creation.

God’s creation was initially good:

ESV  Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

ESV  Genesis 1:31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

God’s creation was also one where humankind was given one rule to follow, thus allowing freedom of choice to obey or disobey:

ESV  Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

The very first humans chose to disobey:

ESV  Genesis 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

God’s response to His beings created in His image betrayal is detailed in Genesis 3:1-19 with the Lord asking questions of everyone except the serpent who deceived Eve followed by pronouncement of punishments for all involved.

But then note what God does next for Adam and Eve:

ESV  Genesis 3:21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Garments of skin were used to clothe them. This implies that an animal was sacrificed to create these clothes.

Next the Lord bans mankind from the garden of Eden:

ESV  Genesis 3:23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Whether we call disobedience a sin, debt, trespass or “something owed”, towards our creator there is a consequence to that disobedience.

That consequence is damage to the relationship our creator, the Lord of heaven and earth, desires to have with His creation.

Thus, the need to seek His forgiveness and to model in relationships with the rest of creation a humble and gracious attitude when a wrong is committed.

The Lord did not have to provide clothes for Adam and Eve or allow them to continue to live outside of the garden of Eden.

The Lord, as creator and rule maker for all, could have ended their lives immediately.

But, the Lord, in His amazing gracious and merciful manner sought a different way to communicate not just His Holiness but also His incredible mercy by providing for their daily needs of clothing and productivity while holding them accountable with appropriate consequences.

The Lord, the creator of heaven has revealed through his prophets in the Hebrew bible that He has a plan of redemption:

ESV  Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Then with Jesus teaching his disciples to pray, we learn further that the Lord desires to forgive us and that we are to forgive others.

We must follow the Lord, our creator’s example.

Lastly, now that Jesus has finished what he was sent to earth to accomplish on creation’s behalf, we can now confidently claim:

ESV  2 Corinthians 3:3-6 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Reflection questions:

  • Do you seek to forgive others as God has forgiven you?
  • Are you prepared to answer God for the wrongs you have committed against Him or His creation?
  • How can you model this verse to those who do not know the Lord of Heaven? Jesus?
  • How seriously do you consider how your daily behavior may impact those around you or your relationship with the Lord?
  • What is your “something owed” that you need to be forgiven?
  • What is another’s “something owed” that you need to forgive?

A prayer for us:

Heavenly Father, most Holy and Precious Lord,  may our spirits align with yours so that your will may be done on earth as it is in heaven. Thank you for providing for our daily needs not only to survive but to thrive as models of your forgiveness to those around us as you first modeled to Adam and Eve so long ago.

May we never forget that You desire a relationship with every single person on this planet.

May we also never forget that we are to be your servants  in caring for all Your creation keeping in mind that You are our Lord, King, and Redeemer.


Barbara Lynn

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