Was Humanity Ever Indebted to God? How Could Anyone Be Indebted to God?
Question: Was humanity ever indebted to God? How could anyone be indebted to God?
Response: That’s a fascinating question and not easy to answer, but here are three thoughts that have helped me:
In Romans 11:35 Paul writes, “Who has given a gift to him (God) that it might be repaid?” He’s quoting Job 41:11, which is translated in the KJV: “Who has prevented me (God), that I should repay him?” The word translated “prevent” can mean, “gone before,” “done something in advance of me,” and possibly, even, “taken from me.” Clearly Eve took the fruit, but clearly, God knew she would take the fruit and even arranged for her to take the fruit. So I think there is a debt, but not a debt that God didn’t plan for or design.
I think the fruit on the tree is the life of Christ. He is “the Life.” As soon as I refer to “my life,” I confess to stealing “The Life.” So am I a debtor? I owe God “my life.” BUT it was never actually “my life” in the first place. So I don’t really owe my life (since it’s actually not my life); I can only surrender the life that I’ve stolen. To live by the law in the power of the flesh is to assume that I could pay for some reward with “my life;” it is to put myself in the position of debtor with a debt that can never be paid, but it must be surrendered—I must return the fruit to the tree; I must surrender “my life,” that is actually His life. I am a debtor to Grace.
I owe Love, but God is Love; I can only pay God with God. I’m a debtor for as long as I think I’m a debtor—as long as I think love is my own creation. So I owe faith (gratitude for grace), but even faith is not of my own creation. Faith is the work of Love in me.
Once I surrender or have been surrendered to Love, the whole notion of debts becomes absurd. Once I acknowledge that God is the Creator, I see that I could never give Him anything that He had not first given to me—including the knowledge that all is Grace (even, and especially, the knowledge that all is Grace—a gift; it’s the gift we receive at the cross). The tree of the knowledge of good (Grace, God, Jesus) and evil works, but in the process, we die; we take life (this is the first death); we surrender life and we receive life (this is the second death). Surrendering “our life” is eternal life; it is knowing that Life is Christ and Life is free.
Sorry, I said too much in that sentence. I’m saying that we are debtors to the cross (the tree of knowledge and life) as long as we consider our lives our own, but once we’ve surrendered to the truth (knowledge of the Good) that Life is free, and the notion of debts becomes absurd.
“Love keeps no record, (logizomai) of wrongs (kakos: evil)” (1 Cor. 13:5 NIV). Of course, Love keeps no record of wrongs because all accounting was finished at the cross, and the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the earth: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).
God is Love. And Love keeps no record of wrongs. Wow! I think that means the scorecards and certificates of debt are all written by us… and all nailed to the cross in Christ. “God has made us alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This, he set aside nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:13-14). In other words, we come back to the tree of knowledge and life. Every time we come to the cross and confess our sins we confess, “I took the Life (Christ)” and God reveals, “I gave the Life (Christ), from the foundation of the world.” In other words, we lose “our life” and find “it.”
So we are debtors as long as we think that we’re debtors. We’re sinners as long as we think that we’re sinners, but we are made new the moment we believe the Truth, which is Grace. If everything is Grace, debt is an illusion that exists in our own mind . . . and even the illusion of debt is a gift that causes us to know Grace; God is Grace. He always was and always will be. He is always free Love, hanging on a tree in a garden. Coming to know Him is dying and rising with Christ. He is the truth about God. And He is Life.
In space and time, God is indebted to Himself. He said, “Let us make man in our own image and likeness.” He is Love and Truth. So He is indebted to Himself to give man His own free will, judgment, and choice so that man would love the Lord God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love his neighbor as himself.” In other words, God has made a covenant; He has indebted Himself, and He is keeping all sides. The covenant of law is contained within the eternal covenant of Grace, just as the law is contained in the Ark under the Mercy seat in the inner sanctuary. This is the revelation of God. This is why He put the tree in the middle of the garden. We must come to gain the knowledge of “debt,” in order to know (believe, trust, have faith) that all is a gift.
- Talk of indebtedness is weird (holy) in the Bible.
- We are debtors as long as we think we’re debtors, but faith in Grace and by Grace is the realization that all human debt is an illusion.
You could say that in time God is indebted to himself . . . but only because he wants to be . . . in order that we might know him, who is Relentless Grace.
PS: I’ve heard some people quote Ex. 21:33-34 in this regard: “When a man leaves a pit open, or when a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or an ass falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make it good; he shall give money to its owner, and the dead beast shall be his.” (RSV)
Some would argue that God owes us life because He made the pit. They have a point, but we often forget that God made the asses. Every ass (life) is His. He made the law, indebted Himself to the law, and paid the penalty of the law in order that every ass might live in the knowledge of His Love and love Him in return . . . not as payment for any debt, but as gratitude that God pays every debt.