Provoking Thoughts


Prayer List

Does God Literally Consider Sin a Debt?

Bro. Mike Miller

Meditation Archives

The idea of debt is used in the Bible as an illustration of sin and how we are to deal with it, mainly between one another. Sin and debt are alike in that they both can be forgiven. One of the reasons debt is used as an illustration of sin in the Bible is because when forgiven, there is real, visible, tangible evidence that forgiveness has taken place. If a debt is forgiven then it doesn't have to be paid.

Sin, according to the plain teaching of the Bible, is a willful transgression, which necessarily brings guilt. A debt isn't necessarily associated with guilt - it is simply a business transaction. I can go to the bank and borrow money and meet the banker on the street the next day without any fear or feelings of guilt toward him. However, if I go into the bank with a mask over my face, put a gun to his head and rob him, then I meet him on the street the next day I will feel guilty and fearful of judgment.

Naturally, it works the same way with sin. If sin is presented as simply a debt and no more, there will be no guilt and fear produced. It is simply a problem that needs to be taken care of. However, if sin is presented as a crime against God and that impending judgment hangs over your head unless you can obtain forgiveness, there will be guilt and a healthy fear of God. That is when the sinner needs to hear about the Savior sent from God "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:" (Col. 1:14) You must realize you are lost and in trouble before you can ever be saved.

Again, a debt must be either forgiven or paid. It cannot be forgiven and then paid, also. That is a contradiction is terms. If God forgives then how can He be just and still demand payment for a debt that has been forgiven? Doesn't even make sense! On the other hand, a crime cannot be paid for, but only forgiven. When someone is murdered they remain dead and no amount of punishment or money will ever undo what was done. We may say of the murderer that he is "paying his debt to society" while he is prison or being executed, but that is simply a figurative way of putting it. He is not literally "paying a debt" because his crime cannot be "paid for." By the way, this kind of thinking was the basis for the selling of indulgences by the Catholic Church.

The problem starts when people start founding their doctrine on the illustration rather than the subject of the illustration. Whenever the Bible speaks of sin and debt in the same passage the subject is always forgiveness - not debt. The idea is not to make us think of sin as a debt, but to make us understand what it means to forgive and to be forgiven. Whenever your idea of sin, or your interpretation of Scripture, lessens the seriousness of sin you may know that you are NOT going in the right direction. Sin is the most serious, deadly problem that has ever happened in the universe. It is so drastically bad that God sent his Son to deal with the problem and He had to die in order to deal with it. God never treats sin lightly or lessens the seriousness of it. What a reproach to God for men to reduce salvation to a simple financial transaction between a sinner and God! It is the essence of easy-believism. It makes salvation simply a profession and a mental assent to some facts rather than a death to the old life, a burial, and a new birth. It is NOT the true Gospel message and therefore it will not produce the proper fruit!

Back to top                                    Back to Provoking Thoughts