Insisting on Balance

Guess what’s coming soon?  Christmas!!  Even though it’s the same date every year, it sure can sneak up on us!  Christmas is a wonderful time, full of joy and celebration.  We give gifts to each other in honor of God’s gift to mankind:  the baby Jesus, born in Bethlehem, that we might be reconciled to God.  It’s good to get carried away in the spirit of the season, but one area we must work hard not to get carried away in is our FINANCES.

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Say Yes to Great Gifts

Before you call me Scrooge, let me say that I do want you to have a wonderful Christmas, to make a special time for those you love, and to elevate the day through special activities and make great memories.  I just don’t want you to experience the January hangover that so many of our friends will have once the presents are all opened.

When You Are Blessed, Bless

If you are experiencing financial success this year, don’t be afraid to spend a little more money on people this year.  In particular, do you know anyone who may be struggling to make ends meet this Christmas?  Why not bless them with a big gift or a big check?  You could even give it to them anonymously for an extra bit of fun!

Borrowing Is Not For the Wise

If, on the other hand, you didn’t experience an overflow of income this year, you may be like many across our country—facing the temptation to go big on Christmas with money you’ve borrowed on a credit card.  Like many short-sighted solutions, this decision would be easy on the front end, and hard on you in the months to come.

Think of it this way:  if you can’t afford to pay cash for presents now, how will you afford the full amount, plus the interest?  Or, put another way, what choice will lead you to have the best gifts for your family for Christmas 2014?  Racking up debt now?  Debt that will deplete your resources from January through July?

Solutions Are Out There

Something funny happens when you insist your budget must balance.  Your brain goes to work.  Once you’ve made the decision that you won’t go negative in December, your eyes suddenly see opportunities all around you.  You notice that stack of DVDs that you haven’t watched lately and you decide to put them up for sale.  You see the snow fall outside and take a few hours to shovel driveways in the neighborhood.  You eat peanut butter and jelly instead of fast food on your lunch break.  All these things may seem small, but when you add them together, you’ll be amazed:  you really can make things balance.

Supernatural Gifts

Another funny thing happens when you make a commitment to keep your budget in balance, particularly when you commit to prayer for the Lord’s help.  God loves to reward those who trust in Him, who rely on Him, and who live His way.  Call on the Lord, and keep your eyes open—you will find Him when you earnestly seek Him, and He is more loving and gracious than you can possibly imagine.

The Debt is No More

Would your friends describe you as an appreciative person?  Are you grateful for the many blessings you enjoy?  Or, are you prone to take the benefits you daily enjoy for granted?  Do you occupy yourself more with giving thanks for the good things or keeping count of the bad things? Today we’ll learn from the master, as the Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to have hearts of gratefulness.

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Luke 7

41″A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42″When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” 43Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.” 44Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45″You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. 46″You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. 47″For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48Then He said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” 49Those who were reclining [at the table] with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this [man] who even forgives sins?” 50And He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

A Huge Debt Forgiven

As was so often His habit, Jesus used a simple and relatable story to communicate a deep and powerful spiritual lesson.  In the parable, we meet two men who are both in debt to a wealthy man.  One owes him 50 days wages (say $10,000 or so) and the other owes him ten times that amount.  Although the wealthy man has every right to demand his due payment, he does not. Because he is gracious, he completely forgives both debts.  The two are of course grateful—but not exactly the same.  Imagine being forgiven a debt of $100,000!  How much weight would you feel lifted off your shoulders!!

The Lord then goes on to explain the spiritual truth underlying the story.  Like the men in debt, you and I owe a monstrous sum.  But it’s not money we owe—it’s a debt of sin.  Because God is a just God, and we all fall short of obeying His perfect Law, we must pay for our unrighteous actions.  The penalty for sin is death, and not just death, but eternal separation from our Creator.  But, like the gracious rich man in the story, our heavenly Father has paid our debt.  He did this through Christ’s atoning death on the cross.  Our Savior paid the penalty we owe by dying the death we deserved—He Himself being without sin.  If we will turn from our sin and accept Christ as Savior and Lord, He will wash us clean and forgive our debt.

Do Your Actions Show You Grateful?

Now, whether we have been forgiven for a collection of small or lesser sins, or if we’re forgiven from a lifetime of rebellion and grotesque sins, we will be overjoyed and thankful to our gracious Father.  But the one who is saved from the mountain of heinous sin will tend to have a greater appreciation for the gift he has been given.  Like the woman in the story who was saved and forgiven from her life of adultery, we should recognize and give thanks to God for blotting out our transgressions.

If you’ve been forgiven much, take the time to recount and remember what God has saved you from.  Pray and give thanks that Jesus has paid your debt and God has forgotten your iniquities.  Conversely, do you think yourself forgiven relatively little?  It can be easy to downplay our own sinfulness, to view our godless words and actions as “minor slipups,” or “small infractions.”  But God is holy, and a sinner cannot enter His presence.  Instead of looking on others, whom we deem as “worse sinners” than us, let’s take the lesson of this passage and fall at our Savior’s feet in overwhelming gratefulness for His grace and love toward us poor, undeserving sinners.