And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Matthew 6:12
As I prepared to teach on forgiveness (the theme of Vacation Bible School this year was “Forgiveness”). I came across this very verse and my mind began to churn as I thought about the relationship between the two words debts and forgive. In the original language, the phrase is καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν and literally means and forgive us what owe. The meaning of τὰ ὀφειλήματα is very clearly moral faults i.e. trespasses. The root verb from which it is derived means should or ought, and it gives us the impressions that we are under moral obligations which we have failed to perform or hold up. In fact, some of the Old English versions read, “And forgive us our gyltas i.e. guilts… Matthew 23:18 translates the same word as guilty.
And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.
In another passage in Matthew, Christ told the parable of two servants: one who owed the master a great sum of money while the other owed his fellow servant a small sum. The master forgave the debt of the servant who owed him a great deal, but this servant did not forgive the small sum owed to him by his peer. In this passage, Matthew also uses words derived from the same root word of τὰ ὀφειλήματα. Again, its very interesting to note the connection between debt and forgiveness.
The importance of all of this lies in the answer to the simple question, Why will God forgive me? As sinners, we are in debt i.e. moral obligation. The law demands death for such rebellion. As we like to say, It’s time to pay for what we’ve done. But Christ paid our sin debt in our place and rose again to promise us eternal life with Him. So why will God forgive me? Because of what Jesus did for me when He died on the cross.
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32
The debts are forgiven; the price is paid; we are redeemed. Christianity is filled with terminology that illustrates to us the relationship between these two words debt and forgiveness; and it all started with Christ’s famous prayer.
To read an interesting article on this click here: