Debtor's Ethic

Jan 16 00:36 2005 Terry Dashner Print This Article

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Faith Fellowship Church…PO Box 1586…Broken Arrow,Guest Posting OK 74013…Pastor Terry Dashner…918-451-0270

“Beware of the Debtor’s Ethic”

“Good deeds do not pay back grace; they borrow more grace.” John Piper

Can a bad motive spoil a good deed? Should we, the Body of Christ, be concerned regarding the motives in which we conduct ministry? Let me give you something to think about. I’ll refrain from offering my opinion so you won’t be influenced by my thoughts. How do we reconcile the ostensible contradiction of Paul’s words in Philippians 1:14-19 and his words in first Corinthians 13:3?

Listen to Paul’s words written in a Roman prison, addressed to the church at Philippi. “It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better—they think—for them. So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed so I just cheer them on!” (The Message New Testament, Philippians 1:14-19) Now listen to Paul’s words written from Ephesus and sent to the Corinthians as a letter. “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (I Corinthians 13:3). Paul says here that any religious work done without a true motive of love is like doing nothing. How do we reconcile these two writings? (I’d like to hear your answer in a return mailing).

Since I brought up the subject of motives, I’m going to relate it to another topic that I call the “debtor’s ethic.” First, let me define the term, “debtor’s ethic.” The debtor’s ethic has a deadly appeal to immature Christians. It comes packaged as a gratitude ethic and says things like: “God has done so much for you; now what will you do for Him? The Christian life is pictured as an effort to pay back the debt we owe to God. The admission is made that we will never fully pay it off, but the debtor’s ethic demands that we work at it. Good deeds and religious acts are the installment payments we make on the unending debt we owe God.

God takes pains to motivate us by reminding us that He is now and always will be working for those who follow Him in the obedience of faith. We can not work for God. God would never, ever allow someone to be in His debt. The amazing thing about His saving grace is that it is freely given. We can’t buy it, earn it, or pay it off by placing ourselves in His debt of Love. Don’t even try. Just accept His grace and move forward. God never stops and waits for us to work for Him “out of gratitude.” He guards us from the mindset of a debtor by reminding us that all our Christian labor for Him is a gift from Him (Romans 11:35-36; 15:18) and therefore cannot be conceived as payment of a debt. In fact the astonishing thing is that every good deed we do in dependence on Him to “pay Him back” does just the opposite; it puts us ever deeper in debt to His grace. “I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (I Corinthians 15:10 NASB).

God wants us to be grateful to Him for what He has done, but He doesn’t want us to thank Him by thinking it is our duty to try and work for Him, paying Him back. Our gratitude should work like this. We are so thankful for what God has done; we overflow naturally in praise and thanksgiving to Him. That’s the difference. When I find a good restaurant, I don’t consider it my duty to go out and tell people about it. No, but I do tell others about it out of pure delight. The restaurant so impressed me with its service, friendliness, and good food that I wanted to tell someone. It gave me great delight in telling others about its benefits. Likewise, when I praise God it’s not out of a sense of duty, but I praise Him because I’m so impressed by His goodness that I can’t help myself. I must praise Him. My delight for God is incomplete until I express it in word, song, testimony, or deed. I won’t let my gratitude become a debtor’s ethic, trying to payback God’s grace. I just keep on trusting God for more and more grace to thank Him more often. There is no limit to God’s grace. Keep on asking God for more grace. May I say that one more time? This is the crux of this topic. If it were not for God’s enabling grace, I’d be unable to do anything at all. So Father in Heaven, give us more grace to praise you louder and more often. I know you want to give us more reasons to praise and thank you because it brings glory to you. Lord, show us your Glory!

Keep the faith. Stay the course. Jesus is wonderful and coming soon.

Pastor Terry L. Dashner
Faith Fellowship Church
3101 S. 9th Street
Broken Arrow, OK 74013

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Terry Dashner
Terry Dashner

Pastors Faith Fellowship Church in Broken Arrow, OK

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