Debtor

See also Debt

det, det’-er: It is difficult nowadays to think of debt without associating with it the idea of interest, and even usury. Certain it is that this idea is associated with the Old Testament idea of the word, at least in the later period of Old Testament history. This is true of the New Testament entire. The Hebrew word (neshi) always carries with it the idea of "biting interest" (compare 2Ki 4:7). The Greek words daneion (Mt 18:27), and opheile (Mt 18:32), may point only to the fact of indebtedness; the idea of interest, however, is clearly taught in the New Testament (compare Mt 25:27).



The teaching of the New Testament on this subject is confined very largely to the parables of our Lord. Some think that the expression, "Owe no man anything" (Ro 13:8), is an absolute warning against indebtedness. Quite a noticeable advance in the matter of debts and debtors is noticed as we enter the time of the New Testament. We read of bankers, exchangers, moneychangers, interest, investments, usury (Mt 25:16-27; Joh 2:13-17). The taking of interest does not seem to be explicitly condemned in the New Testament. The person of the debtor, as well as his family and lands, could be seized for non-payment of debt (Mt 18:21-26). Indeed, the debtor was often cast into prison and tormented because of non-payment (Mt 18:30,34). That compassion and leniency should be exercised toward those in debt is the clear teaching of Christ in the parables of the Unmerciful Servant (Mt 18:23-35) and the Two Debtors (Lu 7:41-43).

Figurative: Debt and debtor are used in a moral sense also as indicating the obligation of a righteous life which we owe to God. To fall short in righteous living is to become a debtor. For this reason we pray, "Forgive us our debts" (Mt 6:12). Those who are ministered to in spiritual things are said to be debtors to those who minister to them (Ro 15:27). To make a vow to God is to put one’s self in debt in a moral sense (Mt 23:16-18; the Revised Version, margin "bound by his oath"). In a deeply spiritual sense the apostle Paul professed to be in debt to all men in that he owed them the opportunity to do them good (Ro 1:14).

The parables of Jesus as above named are rich with comforting truth. How beautiful is the willingness of God, the great and Divine Creditor, to release us from our indebtedness! Just so ought we to be imitators of the Father in heaven who is merciful.