Debt is in the news. Here in the USA, Congress is once again facing the need to raise the national debt ceiling. Like my parents before me, I wonder what my children and grandchildren will get saddled with trying to live their lives under that type of ever-increasing debt. And then there is the oppressive college debt most graduates labor under. Post high school education is practically a requirement to survive in the work-a-day world these days, yet, I know so many young people who could end up not paying off college debt until they are nearing retirement. These things are enough to give this mother of three a panic attack. 

Thankfully, there is one debt with a limitless ceiling, paid off whenever we wrack it up, and without interest. We do have to pay it back, though. Or perhaps I should say we have to pay it forward.

I’m talking about the debt we owe to God due to sin. 

A couple of weeks ago Wes and I were having dinner with some friends, when one lady brought up the fact that many of us learned the “Lord’s Prayer” as “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Yet, as we looked at a half dozen Bible translations, not a one said “trespass/trespasses.” They all said “debt” = “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” 

Matthew 6:12 [KJV] And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. This word translated “debt” is Strong’s G7383, meaning “that which is justly or legally owed.” This perfectly defines the debt we owe due to sin. Justly or legally speaking, we owe God what is required for the sin we have committed – that is, a sacrifice: literally our lives. 

The reason many of us may have learned this as “forgive us our trespasses” could be because forgiveness is used in the verses that follow right after the “Lord’s Prayer.”  Matthew 6:14-15 [KJV] For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. This word translated “trespasses” is Strong’s G3900, meaning, “a lapse or deviation from truth and uprightness (also sin or misdeed).”

The differences between the two words suggests to me the idea of grievances great and small. 

Thankfully, Jesus paid all the debt we (you and me and all of mankind) have accumulated since sin entered the world, whether we feel the sin is great or small. We can dip into that wallet of debt forgiveness whenever we identify sin in our lives that we need to be forgiven of and humbly seek forgiveness for. We could never pay God back – not even if we wanted to and worked all eternity to do so. Sin leaves an insurmountable debt in its wake. At least, it is insurmountable for us humans. 

But God doesn’t ask us to pay our debts back to Him. He asks me to offer it to others, whether that person has simply hurt my feelings and owes me no more than an apology, or that person murdered my loved one and owes me a “life for a life.” This forgiveness of my own debt and trespasses is contingent on my forgiving others.

This is a requirement that Jesus spoke about many times. It isn’t something to be taken lightly.

Matthew18:35 [KJV] So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. Mark 11:25-26 [KJV] And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

God’s forgiveness is generous and all-encompassing – covering every sin, fault, trespass and debt. What the grace of God and sacrifice of Jesus cover is infinite for those who truly seek the debt forgiveness He offers. It is debt forgiveness without a debt ceiling. Whatever we do and repent of, He wipes away – so great is His love for us and desire to reconcile us to Him. I cannot emphasize this enough.

If you remain unconvinced of the breadth and scope of debt and trespass forgiveness, I recommend reading 2 Corinthians 5:19 and Roman 5:15-18 in the NIV. I’ll just quote Romans 5:20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.

Let me be equally as clear that we cannot afford to operate under a low debt ceiling when it comes to our fellow man. This is a marker that Peter sought to quantify – and Jesus “wasn’t having any of it!” Matthew 18:21-22 [NIV] Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

We have a modern day saying: “what goes around, comes around.” Forgiveness is like that. Because total debt forgiveness is offered to us, we should have a willingness to forgive others, whatever their trespass against us or their debt to us may be. And if I am unwilling to do that, then the debt forgiveness that is available to me is useless – I remain unforgiven, in debt beyond anything the USA could even wrack up as a nation. 

Finally, please see Matthew 18:23-35 for the parable of the unforgiving servant – a sobering illustration of the negative impact of failure to offer others debt forgiveness.

Sisters, the debt I owe due to my sin is a debt that is much greater than I can afford to shoulder. I could not pay it back in a million years. So, instead, I will pay that forgiveness forward. 

I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at