Freedom from Spiritual Debt (Slavery)
I have often heard people say things like “I owe him everything” or “I owe her my life”. Now I understand that these phrases have cultural implications, but my concern arises when I hear these same phrases used in our relationship with Christ.
Why is this a concern? Well, in scripture debt is connected to slavery. I am not just talking about financial slavery; I am talking about emotional slavery and even spiritual slavery. Let us look at this scripture found in Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” This can be a concern especially in how we view ourselves and others but firstly let us look at Galatians 5:1 “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”
God’s desire for us is freedom and the freedom that He was speaking of was an internal freedom (because what you are on the inside will eventually manifest on the outside). Let us look at the idea of lending versus giving. If something is truly given, then the giver releases all control over that which he gave, and the receiver is under no obligation to repay the giver in any way. Now when something is lent, then the lender is in control of that which he lent and is expecting compensation for that which is lent. The borrower is obligated to pay back to the lender (often with interest) for that which was lent to him, and the borrower is indebted (enslaved) or owes the lender.
Those of us that would say that I owe Christ everything, though it sounds nice and even spiritual, what it is telling us is that we did not receive the free “Gift” that was given. Let us look at the most important scripture in evangelical circles. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Please note that God freely gave, He did not lend. If God freely gave then that would be considered a grant and we are under no obligation to repay or attempt to repay. Now if the scripture said that “For God so loved the world, that He lent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Now I would say that we are indebted to God and must pay back with interest for that which He lent. Also, God would have control over our lives, and we would be His slaves. Again, I remind us of what the apostle Paul spoke to us in Galatians 5 and that was that Christ set us free from slavery, any kind of slavery, even slavery to God. Remember that God is not looking for a slave, God is looking for a companion.
Now here is where it really gets murky, how we view our relationship with God is often the lens from which we view our relationship with others. If we believe that we owe God for what He has given to us, then we in turn believe that when we give to someone then they owe us for what was given. I would classify this as dysfunctional thinking or better put a slave mentality which often leads to some form of manipulation and abuse. What happens in this is that our giving is not truly giving, it is lending. The problem now is that the one who receives the gift might have thought that it was a free gift and not a loan. Perhaps when we give, we should clarify to the individual that this is a loan and one day I am going to call in that loan with interest. At least now we are being honest with the person we are about to enslave.
When people say to me that they owe me much for all that I have done for them, I will remind them that no one owes me anything, that which I do I do freely out of love and there is no obligation on their part to repay whatsoever. As a pastor, I find this very helpful when people leave your congregation. If one is not careful, we can become resentful when someone leaves thinking “How can they do this after all I have done for them?” That my friend is dysfunctional thinking and trying to control or even manipulate people. We also do this in our personal lives and even family. How often do we feel that someone should do something for us because of what we did for them? Again, dysfunctional thinking. Why do we think that they owe us or that we owe them? This all stems back to our relationship with God. If we can get to a place where we see that what God did for us was out of love and not obligation, then perhaps that could overflow into our relationships with others and you never know, we might actually start to experience a little freedom for ourselves!