The Burden of Owing

The Burden of Owing

A few weeks ago I was able to visit Chicago with a group of friends.  While we were there, something happened that really got under my skin. We needed to park our car for three days while we traversed Chicago by foot.  To my luck. across the street from our hotel, was the Hancock building. This was good, because in the bottom of the Hancock building there is great parking. After checking the price I parked my chariot on the 8th floor, and felt satisfied that I had found the perfect place.  

But when I went to pay at the end of our visit, something annoying happened. I followed the steps, inserted my ticket, and saw the whopping fee of $178 for 3 nights! As I tried to pay with my credit card, it wouldn’t work. I had just used it to buy a Matcha moments before, but for whatever reason, it kept getting rejected.

I called the 1-800 number and after debating with me on the phone for 5 minutes about how I was using the machine wrong, the guy working finally came upstairs. When he realized that it wasn’t my credit card's fault and it was actually a problem with their machine, he came up with a creative solution. He told me to send him the money on Zelle, and then from there, he would charge the parking to his credit card. I asked him if this was protocol for when this happened according to their policy, but he just began to stutter and reassure me that it was okay. By that point in the conversation I realized what this guy was trying to do. He promised he would cover my bill, but I knew in my heart he was just going to pocket the money.
I was stuck behind a gate, and there was no other way to get out, so I had to send the guy some coin. To test the waters, instead of sending him the full amount I sent him $50 through Apple Pay. I told him I would send more, but when he saw the $50 he suddenly said, “Thats enough” and opened the gate. My buddy in the front seat was stoked for me. I only had to pay $50 for parking that would have been almost $200? It was my lucky day! Yet, as I drove away something didn’t sit right with me.

I knew that someone had been done wrong – that in the end, a bill wasn’t getting paid and a random dude in Chicago was $50 richer. Even though I technically caught a break I was frustrated. And I think it’s because I knew my debt was never fully settled. It was never truly handled.

So it left me in doubt.
I questioned if the cameras in the parking garage would look up my plate, or if I would receive a bill in the mail and the $50 I put toward it would never be accounted for. I began to worry. And I think that’s what happens to all of us when we feel like we are indebted. Our lives become marked by anxiety and fear. Just ask any college kid about student loans. There is a burden to owing something. Unfortunately, I think for many, we have allowed these feelings to creep into our view of God. 

We each know that our pasts are marked by mistakes. We each have fallen short so many times and we are often petrified we will continue to only mess up and do the wrong stuff. Therefore, the solution to many Christians is to feel guilty or shameful. We take on the identity of what Jesus died to destroy in order to feel worthy of him, and in doing so, we completely forget the whole message of the gospel. This is why I think Jesus was being incredibly intentional when he told us the story he did in Matthew 18.

In Matthew 18, Jesus told a story about a servant who owed his master a great debt. The master was upset and summoned his servant, but when the servant came to the master, the master did something crazy. As the text reads, “The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.” 18:27

The master forgave the servants debt. He let him go. And what’s incredible to me is that the servant never asked the master to do this. He never asked to be forgiven, the servant only asked for more time. The promise on his end was he would “pay everything back.” But when the master saw his servant, he didn’t want anything back. He saw his servants' needs, and he chose to forgive him, something only he could do.

Friend, Jesus is the one who has canceled our debt. He has given us a new lease on life. We don’t need to live in angst or fear of the master. The story is about him! How do I know? Because according to Jesus this is what “the kingdom of heaven is like.” Take hope, fellow sojourner, Jesus has forgiven our debt.

By Kyle Smith

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