September 23, 2019

Peace that Lifts Away the Burden of Debt

Read: Daniel 11-12; Luke 6

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
Luke 6:35, ESV


Jesus’ words, “You will be sons of the Most High,” jumps off the page at me today. That is a lofty declaration when you pause to consider it. I believe that all of us will be drawn to the promise of such a position and will want to see how we may benefit from it. How is it attainable? “. . .The followers of Jesus are children of God, and they should manifest the family likeness by doing good to all, even to those who deserve the opposite,” once wrote the New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce. Hmm. Luke gives us insight into the principle that we must honor in order to be most like our Heavenly Father.

A Biblical Lens

I have plucked our focal verse from within a key section in Luke’s gospel. It is situated in a body of material known as the “Sermon on the Plain” (6:17, “level place"). The wider passage corresponds to the Sermon on the Mount in several respects, but it also shows that Luke was keen to have his Gentile readers to benefit from these words as well. This perspective will be evident when we consider the rewards of benevolence. The three-fold imperatives, love your enemies, do good, and lend money, plumb ever-so-deeply the well of Christlikeness and show the true extent that he expects us to go when carrying our crosses daily! This holds profound implications for our warlike attitudes toward those who seek our ruin. A key mercy-showing, Heavenly Father-like, attitude is the refusal to encumber our enemy with a load of debt. Wow! It hurts my fingers to even type the statement because I know you are likely saying, “No, no, Ashlock.” Jesus says, “Yes, yes, my disciple.”

The phrase, “lend, expecting nothing in return,” is a difficult expression to interpret, but we are able still to see in the statement a lofty call that provides an expansion to the Golden Rule. Christ expects his disciples to love even their enemies by being benevolent.” We may say that when a man is a friend, he “does not lend but gives” (Betz). Early church fathers, like Tertullian, interpreted the phrase to mean the prohibition of charging interest. The “interest,” meaning “reward” was to be received in the life to come. But why? Christ recommends benevolence, not business investment in this passage. There is a second benefit of this moral virtue of benevolence.

A further reward is to be recognized as “sons of the Most High,” when we practice the above-stated lifestyle. Ah! We have before us a link to the Sermon on the Mount and peacemaking (Matthew 5:9b, 45a). We radiate the character of the Father and show ourselves to be most like him when we behave benevolently to the ungrateful and evil. God’s divine benevolence toward rebellious and evil humanity finds its expression in similar mercy-offering acts (cf. Matthew 5:14-16, “light of the world”).

A Moral Crossroad

Many of us have known the financial hardship that student loans place upon typical wage-earners. The government “Student Loan Forgiveness Program” provides a way for certain people with permanent disabilities to have their student loans erased. This is good. These precious souls were encumbered by a heavy load that was only made heavier by their education indebtedness. The Golden Rule of benevolence shines through such a gesture. This begs a question for us. How may we live benevolently as a witness to our family relationship with the Father? Stated another way, how may we practice peacemaking by stepping into the center of enormous financial burden and people crushed by the load?

For Your Heart

One of the most wonderful moments in my pastoral years, and there have been many, was the time that the Crestview Baptist Church provided housing loan downpayment monies to its ministers at a favorable loan repayment interest rate. My family was able to purchase a home because of that generosity. The church would later “up their generosity” by providing loan forgiveness on a particular long-standing loan. They showed themselves in so many ways that they were “sons of the Most High,” but that gesture. It witnessed powerfully to their Christ love. Jesus call us to be on the look-out for even an enemy that has such a need for mercy. That witness shows people the true nature of a forgiving God.

For Your Journaling

1. The benevolent spirit applied without reservation provides a clear testimony to God’s merciful nature (5:36). Write down ways that you intend to extend benevolence in his name.

2. Churches will provide their communities with a meaningful witness to God’s mercy when they extend peace-making ministry to those who most oppose their presence in the area. Make intentional plans to allay heavy burdens in your community.  

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock