Romans 13:8. Owe no man anything, but to love one another, for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
In this retrospective month of Elul, we consider our lives, attitudes and the actions we have made over the last year. This time of year is the month that leads us to Rosh Hashanah, the feats of trumpets and ultimately the last feast of the year, Sukkot, or the feast of Tabernacles. In between the two feasts we find Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. By the time we get to Yom Kippur, we should have made the journey toward repentance or Teshuvah. Repentance toward YHVH and our neighbour, wipes the slate clean. Repentance means that we have through thoughtful consideration and prayer sought to bring our lives into balance by restoring a breach. If we have not lived our lives in the way we should and brought a fracture in our relationship with YHVH and others, we now have the time to do it. Forgiveness must find its way into the cut and heal the rift.
Despite asking for God’s help and grace, in making me a better person, despite asking that I be led away from bad company, decisions, thoughts and actions, I know that my imperfections only go to highlight that I am not perfect. That’s the purpose of them, I suppose.
In my ramble this week, I consider this passage:
Prov 22:7 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
The phrase ‘neither a lender nor borrower be,' comes from the William Shakespeare play, Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3, 75–77. In its entirety it reads:
“Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.”
It’s not Bible verse at all.
In Judaism, a lender must not put the borrower under his power. The lender is not to charge interest on a loan to a fellow Israelite.
The loan, ideally, must be paid back as soon as possible, and any loan that exists at the time of the Shemitta and Jubilee years, must be cancelled, and lands must be returned to the owner if they can afford to repurchase. Lev 25:28. This the law of redemption.
This allows both the borrower and the lender to start a new page in their financial lives.
The passage in the book of Proverbs, alludes to the rich or the lender, putting the borrower under servitude. This is not how the debt agreement should be viewed.
The spirit behind the loan, is the heart to help. Ultimately, a person may simply choose to give outright what is needed, instead of putting a person into a debt situation.
When we view debt, we must see how God sees it. Romans 13:8, tells us that we must owe no one anything. If a rich man sees another person in need and can afford to help him, then he actually, owes the person his help. It is a paradox. However, one can argue that the person who receives help from the rich man is indebted to him.
I am considering the slogan from the World Health Forum; see link.
‘You will own nothing’. Sounds good doesn’t it? Or does it?
The statement in my opinion, is in need of the caveat; ‘We Will’.
Having laid a little ground work for the understanding of debt, I want to turn to my ramble, but before I do, please consider the part in the Lord’s prayer that says, ‘ forgive us our debts as we forgive those who are indebted to us’.
Let us continue.
When we consider the patriarch, Abraham, we see a little into a conversation that places him in a situation that he probably never appreciated and one that applies to us all.
Abraham, it would seem, was not a poor man when God called him. His father Terah, was a maker of idols, and plied a brisk trade in manufacturing them to the pagan populous of Ur in Mesopotamia.
Let us look for a moment into Genesis 15. We see Abraham, speaking to the Lord about having a son. God says that it will come from Abraham’s own body. On a side note, we also read that the ‘Word’ of the Lord, took Abraham outside to look upon the stars. In chapter 17, God, ratifies His promise by changing Abraham’s name and also that of his wife, Sarah. Abram has the addition of the letter ‘H, or ‘Heh’ embedded into his name. Remember, names are very important in biblical culture. The ‘Heh’ symbolises the union of two individuals, YHVH and Abram. In essence it represents the name of God. Heh, is the abbreviation for the ‘Name.’ Abraham, therefore, with YHVH in him, will change his character and purpose and then become the progenitor of millions.
When we understand the relationship of the two, we see something that is simply sublime. God gave Abraham a prophetic name. He would become the father of nations. However, the caveat is this, though the descendants of Abraham would come from his loins, the seed will belong to God. Despite eventually having a son, the son of his promise, Isaac, YHVH asks to have him sacrificed upon an altar. What is Abraham to make of this? How can God give him a son and then ask for him to be killed? Abraham only had to look a little deeper into YHVH’s command. Abraham had to consider this; though Isaac was given to him, Isaac belonged to God.
Every male firstborn after Isaac was to be circumcised and given to God. To understand why God called Abraham from a pagan nation, we must realise his ancestry. Abraham’s great grandfather was ‘Shem’, who is believed to be Melchizedek - the royal priesthood from which order Yeshua rules . Shem’s father was Noah.
We must now realise, that though God chose to populate the earth, after the flood from Noah’s descendants, He chose the chosen generations of nations to come from Abraham.
After being honoured so greatly, Abraham could have said to God, ‘You have given me so much, how can I ever repay you?
God has also given us so much, and so, I suppose we can all echo that refrain, especially at this time of Elul. During Elul, we reflect on how much God has given us and how much we owe Him. We are also meant to recount how we have acted toward Him and each other. Have our acts and motives been focused upon Him and His kingdom or upon our own selfish gain and agendas.
Our actions should reflect our relationship with Him. We should be grateful for what He has given us. But though we are obligated to show Him our gratitude, we see that He does everything for us because He loves us and wants to give us so much.
The relationship of every believer toward each other should reflect this character, but sadly we must admit, just as scripture says that we have all fallen short of the mark.
Finally, as my ramble concludes, I consider this, and I pray you will too; all that we own, is really not ours at all. If all that we own is given by God, then it is His. If my life belongs to Him, then all that I have belongs to Him too. No man therefore, owns anything really.
I therefore, understanding this, own nothing, but owe nothing but love toward Him. Our personal strivings to own so much in this world, really, is irrelevant. The early church sold all that they had and came into a common agreement, that everything belonged to everybody because God owned everybody and everything.