If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you. You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit. [Leviticus 25:35-37 (NIV)]

If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. [Exodus 22:25 (NIV)]

birdsfoot trefoil--LkGenWI14webIn the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to give help to one another freely and not to expect a profit from their assistance. The purpose of a loan was to help a person in need, not to increase one’s wealth. Avarice, of course, killed that concept. People being people, greediness quickly replaced concern when loans were made. Although the lender was to give out of love not out of hope of gain, rates of interest became exorbitant and poor debtors became helpless. Sound familiar?

In the New Testament, debtors and creditors were often used to illustrate the concept of forgiveness of sins. Sin is a debt that must be paid or canceled before man can be free. Jesus taught us to ask God to forgive our debts (or trespasses) as we forgive the debts (or trespasses) against us. Sometimes, however, we want something more before we’ll forgive. Often, as a condition of forgiveness, we want an apology from the offender; we may want him or her to eat some “humble pie” or we may want them to make amends. We want them to pay for their offense! Not that the offender shouldn’t apologize or try to make things right but, as the forgiver, we are not allowed to demand or expect it!

Jesus freely repaid our debt on the cross. God doesn’t expect us to grovel and beg for His forgiveness; he readily hands it out to all who repent. We are to be as equally forgiving of our fellow man!

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. [Matthew 6:12 (NIV)]

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. [Matthew 6:14-15 (NIV)]