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Keith Wishum: I owe, I owe

Golf pro Harvey Penick’s first book, Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book, sold over a million copies. After keeping notes in a red spiral notebook for 70 years, Penick asked author Bud Shrake to look over the notes to determine if they were worth publishing. Shrake contacted Penick the next day saying that Simon and Schuster had agreed to an advance of $90,000 to publish his book.

With all of his medical bills, Penick replied, there was just no way he could come up with so much money to have his book published. What a pleasant surprise for Penick when he learned that the publisher wanted to pay him, not the other way around!

What if someone offered to pay your bills? Think for a moment of all the money you owe — mortgage, car loan, credit cards, college loans, your bookie (OK, hopefully, not that last one). Now, imagine how you would feel if someone offered to pay it all off!

Good news! God wants to pay off an even greater debt for you! Jesus told a parable (see Matthew 18: 21ff) of a servant who owed the king several million dollars — more than he could ever pay. When he begged for mercy, amazingly, he got it. The king forgave the entire debt! All of it!

God offers that to us. Our debt is enormous. We owe for all the lies we’ve told, for all the mean things we’ve thought and said, for our jealousy, our complaining, for all the wrong things we have ever done. And, if we are honest, we know that the ledger sheet of our sins is a thick volume. But God is willing to forgive it all through Jesus Christ. What an offer!

He does ask, however, that we do a simple thing in return — forgive those who owe us. The second half of Jesus’ parable tells how the king withdrew his mercy when he learned that the servant had another man who owed him a few dollars thrown into jail. God forgives us as we forgive others.

People will do you wrong today. Someone will treat you rudely. Your lunch order may be late. Your spouse will irritate you somehow. Your Harvey Penick golf clubs may hit a ball into the rough. You have a choice.

You can angrily demand payment. Or you can forgive. Jesus said that your choice determines God’s decision about your debt. Choose wisely.

Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus.