When we are in debt

Christmas has passed, the decorations have been taken down and life is returning to normal. Yet for many people living in Britain January is a worrying month because the bills for Christmas will soon arrive. Millions of people are entering 2018 with a debt hanging over them because they overspent during the festive period. One advice line estimates that 7.9 million people are likely to fall behind with their finances in January because of credit card debt incurred over Christmas.

Being in debt is oppressive. I remember visiting a man who was in debt. He had been injured in a car accident and had lost his job. The debts had begun to accumulate and he was unable to pay them. The bank had refused to increase his overdraft and the red letters, with their demands and threats, were arriving regularly. He no longer opened letters from the companies to which he owed money. Debt had paralysed him and filled him with fear for the future. He felt very alone and had seriously considered ending his life.

When we are in debt we need to seek help. I was able to come alongside the man and to work out with him ways to begin to address his debts. In time, all his debts were cleared and he was able to move to a new flat. A great burden had been lifted from him and he was able to enjoy life again. Organisations like Christians Against Poverty offer practical help to people overwhelmed by debt enabling them to manage their repayments and, in time, to be debt-free.

When I visited the man I was also able to pray with him and to ask God to help him. God is just and is particularly concerned for the poor and for widows and orphans. He sees the oppression of the poor and vulnerable through immorally high interest rates and he will call such lenders to account. God also provides for us in our need. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This petition is not only for our food but for all our daily needs. God is the One who gives us all good gifts. If you are overwhelmed by debt, ask God to help you. In Psalm 34 the Psalmist says, “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles.”

The wonderful offer of forgiveness

Today well-known public figures are subject to scrutiny as never before. Those who stand for major offices of State, for example to be President of the USA, can expect details of their private life to be made public and to be critically assessed. The reason for this is to see if their public persona and private life match. What they have said or done in the past is seen as a reliable indicator of the kind of people they really are.

It is not only public personalities who experience inconsistencies in their private lives. All of us are familiar with the struggle to live a private life that is consistent with our public image. When we are away from the public gaze it is only too easy to drop our guard and to do and say things we would not do if people were watching us. The fact that we don’t want people to know the wrong things we have done in private is a sign that we are ashamed of them.

In God’s sight there is no distinction between our public and private lives. Our whole life is seen and known by him. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” Jesus said, “For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light.”

Religion can sometimes be a cloak for hypocrisy. Some people who take a strong public stand for righteousness do not live according to the standards they lay down for others. Cult leaders, with many followers, have sometimes been exposed as men who have used their power to satisfy their sexual desires and greed for money. Jesus spoke against the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his day who performed good deeds “to be admired by others.”

None of us can stand in the face of God’s scrutiny but, in Jesus, there is the promise of his grace and forgiveness. In Psalm 130 the psalmist says to God, “Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.” It is a wonderful thing when we experience God’s undeserved love and grace and know that there is no longer any need to pretend because we have confessed everything to him and he will never count our sins against us.

The Judge of all the earth will do what is right

The trials of high profile men who have been accused of historic sexual abuse are in the news. Some accusations go back more than 40 years. Children and young girls were abused by powerful men who told them that, if they reported the abuse, no one would believe them. As a result, many have suffered in silence, while the abusers have enjoyed successful careers and big salaries. But the past crimes of their abusers, now elderly men, have come to light and justice is being done.

Many, however, are troubled that some of the most serious abusers of children have died and escaped justice in this life. They seem to have “got away with it.” But, is this true? Can we escape the consequences of our sins by dying? Something in the very depth of our being says that this cannot be right. The wicked acts of those who, for example, sexually abuse young children or torture and kill innocent people must be called to account. The Bible teaches us that, after we die, we must all appear before God. He “will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”

Justice is something to be admired. The wisdom of King Solomon was widely known. One day two prostitutes came to him. They lived in the same house and each had a baby boy of the same age. One night, when they were asleep, one of the women lay on her son, without knowing it, and he died. When she realised what had happened, she took her dead son and put him next to the other woman, then took the live baby as if it were her own. When the other women awoke, and saw the dead baby next to her, she knew it wasn’t her baby. She came to Solomon in the hope that he would give her justice.

After listening to both women Solomon said, “Bring me a sword. Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.” One woman said that seemed fair, but the other said, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” Solomon said, “Give the living baby to her; she is his mother!” Everyone who heard what Solomon had done held him in awe because of the way he administered justice. We, too, should hold God in awe because he is the Judge of all the earth and he will do what is right.