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The Only Debt

COUNTRIES owe enormous debts, and companies borrow great amounts of working capital. Overextended credit card debt sneaks up on millions of people.

When you're faced with debt-whether it be an unpaid personal loan or a national deficit-how do you perceive the situation? A line from the Lord's Prayer, the prayer given by Christ Jesus, reads, ''And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors'' (Matt. 6:12). Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Christian Science Church, has given a spiritual interpretation of this line: ''And Love is reflected in love.'' This is from the book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (p. 17).

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What does Love have to do with debt? The Apostle Paul said in the book of Romans, ''Owe no man any thing, but to love one another; for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law'' (13:8). It is not loving to ignore a debt. But perhaps we think we are unable to pay it back, or mistakenly think that because a creditor had money to loan, repayment is not that necessary. Paying back money borrowed under agreement should be done responsibly. And this can be done, with the greatest of integrity, even if unexpected shortfalls have come about.

There is a Bible account, in Second Kings, of a widow who owed a creditor (see 4:1-7). She was on the verge of financial ruin, and asked the prophet Elisha to help her. He asked, ''What hast thou in the house?'' She said she had merely a pot of oil. And that was how it looked. But Elisha saw more than that. He understood that she had a source of supply that would not run out, and he saw the opportunity for her to pay her debt. Obeying Elisha's instructions, the widow was able to settle her obligations in a most amazing way.

Elisha saw spiritually. And the basic, spiritual fact that the Bible teaches is that man is God's image and likeness. God is not mortal and limited; neither is His image. As Science and Health says, ''[man] is the compound idea of God, including all right ideas'' (p. 475). Certainly paying a debt is right. Then, if we include ''all right ideas,'' we include in consciousness the manner of a debt's payment. And the desire to do right reveals the way. Elisha's ability to help the widow came from his understanding of these spiritual facts.

Perhaps a debt is long overdue. Perhaps a creditor has become overanxious, angry, or threatening. There is a solution: love. To love God and His ideas, and to understand all of God's children as divinely impelled to do right, are a beginning. Sincere love eliminates fear from thought and reveals the truth, or spiritual fact, concerning the matter. Not only does any debtor include ''all right ideas,'' but the one who makes a loan does as well; both are children of God.

One time a man owed money on a personal loan. The due date had been extended several times because of unemployment and illness. Finally the day came when the creditor said ''no more.'' Hard feelings arose between them.

The creditor was a Christian Scientist, and he turned to God and prayed, ''Show me the way, Father.'' Then those lines from Science and Health came to him:

''And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

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And Love is reflected in love.''

In a flash, the man realized he had carried some very unloving thoughts about this debtor and the delay of repayment. He then prayed further. He endeavored to see the debtor as God knew him: already including all that he needed, expressing responsibility and full integrity, and wanting to do right. With this prayer, the Christian Scientist felt at peace.

Several weeks passed and nothing happened. But that didn't change the man's ability to love his debtor. And then one day the phone rang. The debtor was ready to pay off the loan, with interest. The creditor felt God's love had fulfilled both his need for repayment and the other man's need to meet his obligation.

There is never a time when God is not present, to provide any necessary solution; we can trust Him in all situations, even in matters of debt.

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