“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”
– Matthew 5:25-26
“There is no heaven that has a little corner of hell in it. God is determined to make you pure, holy, and right, and He will not allow you to escape from the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit for even one moment. He urged you to come to judgment immediately when He convicted you, but you did not obey. Then the inevitable process began to work, bringing its inevitable penalty. Now you have been “thrown into prison, [and]…you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:25-26). Yet you ask, “Is this a God of mercy and love?” When seen from God’s perspective, it is a glorious ministry of love. God is going to bring you out pure, spotless, and undefiled, but He wants you to recognize the nature you were exhibiting— the nature of demanding your right to yourself. The moment you are willing for God to change your nature, His recreating forces will begin to work. And the moment you realize that God’s purpose is to get you into the right relationship with Himself and then with others, He will reach to the very limits of the universe to help you take the right road. Decide to do it right now, saying, “Yes, Lord, I will write that letter,” or, “I will be reconciled to that person now.”
“These sermons of Jesus Christ are meant for your will and your conscience, not for your head. If you dispute these verses from the Sermon on the Mount with your head, you will dull the appeal to your heart.
“If you find yourself asking, “I wonder why I’m not growing spiritually with God?”— then ask yourself if you are paying your debts from God’s standpoint. Do now what you will have to do someday. Every moral question or call comes with an “ought” behind it— the knowledge of knowing what we ought to do.”
– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
When I read this devotion from Chambers a few days ago, it struck me as odd and beautiful at the same time. The Scripture is nestled just after Jesus mentioning the expansion of the commandment to not murder and before He does the same thing to the commandment not to commit adultery. It is kind of an aside for the majority of this portion of the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5, after the Beatitudes and the stuff about salt and light, Jesus settles into the right way to live. He clearly defines the Ten Commandments in terms of attitude as well as physical action.
Yet, in the middle, Jesus says to settle out of court. Today, that would avoid legal fees. In His time, it seems that the judge could throw you into prison until the debt is paid.
Chambers interprets that to correlate with the Lord’s Prayer a little later, and what Jesus said after the prayer. We are to forgive others, but we are also to forgive ourselves. We must forgive so that God can forgive us. Chambers uses these two verses in Matthew 5 to add to that concept from Matthew 6. If God then does not forgive us, He places us in prison until we have paid our debt.
Could this be earthly suffering? Is it possible that in some cases, not in a book of Job sense, that God let’s us suffer for our lack of forgiveness so that we might realize that God’s plan is a much easier road? I can imagine, I harbor a grudge against someone. I then have this attack of Sciatic pain that lasts for a week or two. God has my attention. I beg forgiveness for holding the grudge. The debt is now paid, and the pain subsides.
I am not sure if that is where Chambers was going, or if I believe that this is a method of God.
But the idea of cleaning the slate quickly is a great idea. I have wronged people, and they have moved or I have moved before the debt was paid. I cannot look at instant mashed potatoes without thinking of my last campout with my scoutmaster. I had been an Eagle for a while. I had finished my year as the senior patrol leader, basically the youth in charge of the other scouts. I was now in an assistant scoutmaster role. I slept, cooked, and dined with the adults. I was boiling water on the last night of the campout. When the water came to a boil, I poured in the potatoes buds. I was not thinking. I did not measure the water. There was enough water in the pot for the potatoes and the washing afterwards. I had ruined our meal. The next morning, we struck camp. My parents moved back to our old home town the following week. I never got to make amends for the potatoes. My scoutmaster, who I loved as a second father, loved mashed potatoes.
Almost twenty years later, my wife and I were taking our boys to Philmont Scout Ranch. We were adult scouting leaders, and we had signed up for classes that are taught at the Philmont each summer. On our way from South Carolina to New Mexico, we stopped at my folk’s house in Mississippi. We drove to the scout headquarters in Tupelo, where I lived while being a scout. I wanted a patch for my patch collection from my old scout council, since the patches had changed. My wife thumbed through the Eagle book and found my name, showing it to our two boys. One of the ladies in the office struck up a conversation. Every time we talked about leaving, they brought up another conversation topic. We thought it was strange, until the front door of the office opened, and my scoutmaster walked in. They’d called him and were keeping me busy until he could get there.
There was no talk about ruined potato buds, just hugs and tears.
Don’t wait. Be quick. Avoid the legal fees and make amends quickly. Get to the hugs and tears before it is too late.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.