Monday, August 31, 2009

Forgive us our debts

If you read regularly on Tuesdays, you know that I work for a Catholic health system and that I enjoy being somewhere that business meetings often start with formal prayer. One of my boss's in this job is Catholic, has a Jewish wife, and has agreed to raise their children in a Jewish tradition -- a foundational conflict that I'm not sure I could completely reconcile myself. This boss had a preference to pray the "Our Father" (aka "The Lord's Prayer" for anyone else who, like me, thought he didn't know what the heck this Catholic prayer was) whenever it was his turn to lead the group in prayer.

I like the opportunity to say that prayer using another dialect, but I also feel like I'm not able to focus on the message in it. Through the first half, I'm constantly reminding myself "trespasses," "trespasses", "trespasses" and in the second half, I'm constantly wondering "when do I stop?"

Of course, I used to struggle with "debt / debtors" language, too. I've worked through that with the natural expansion of "$ debt" to include spiritual, social, emotional, and metaphorical debt. Turns out that I could have stayed more literal.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been reading The Total Money Makeover and have been reminded that simple financial debt can also have a significant impact on spiritual well being. In the book, the author tells a story about someone who loans a friend $50 when the friend is in a pinch. Not much money. However, the friend can't pay it back. Makes poor planning choices and continues not to pay it back. This, naturally, drives a wedge between them. The author's advice: simply forgive the debt. Insist that it is a gift instead. It may take some time for the relationship to recover, but that debt is no longer actively maintaining pressure on the wedge pushing these two friends apart. His advice: if you have a friend in need and can share wealth with them in a meaningful way, then give to them, don't put them in your debt. The borrower becomes slave to the lender. [Proverbs 22:7]

A lot like our relationship with God, I suppose. God forgives our debts to him. Everything we get is a gift from God. Our covenant is a mutual giving, not a give-and-take contract. That is our relationship with God and the relationship we should strive to have with each other.

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