The Impact of Easter—Financially

Why should we think about money and balance sheets on Easter? Find out why it’s my favorite Holiday.

For the Love of Money?

I love Easter. It makes me think of money and financial statements. That’s not why I love it (are you shocked?). Rather, the language of money helps me translate what I know in my head to what I need in my heart. As financial blog readers, I hope you’ll find this a helpful translation and will be floored, just as I was when I thought about Easter in financial terms.

“Forgive Us Our Debts”

One day, after Jesus sees a crowd, he heads to the mountain and begins to teach. On the topic of prayer, he gave this example:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

— Matthew 6:9-13, ESV

Did you notice that Jesus used a financial term to describe sin? Why is that?

Why is Sin Like Debt?

Debt and sin actually share many similar properties, so Jesus using one to describe the other actually makes sense. Debt and sin are also dissimilar, though, and that makes all the difference in the world. I’ll get to it toward the end.

First, let’s look at what debt looks like from a financial perspective. In a standard transaction, if you want something, you need to give something they want in exchange. For example, let’s say you buy a computer for $1,000. Here’s what your “balance sheet” (a statement of what you have and what you owe) looks like.

You (Buyer) Them (Seller)
Assets: Assets:
+1 Computer +$1,000
-$1,000 -1 Computer
Liabilities: Liabilities:
0 0
  • Assets: Things you own that can provide you financial benefit. So if you ever need to sell this computer, you could get money for it.
  • Liabilities: What you owe. Basically, this is debt. (Want to find out more about debt? Go here.)

It’s a clean and simple trade: asset given in return for asset received. This for that. No liabilities (debt) involved.

A debt transaction is different. It introduces one wrinkle and a host of complications:

You, the buyer or user, want that product or service. But here’s the problem: you can’t (or don’t want to) pay for it today. So you promise to pay the seller tomorrow, next week, or next month. You now have that product (asset) without giving up any of your own assets today, but you also have a liability that you have to deal with tomorrow. You’ve just created debt. It’s invisible, but it is very real.

Let’s continue the example of the computer purchase—this time with debt.

You (Buyer) Them (Seller)
Assets: Assets:
+1 Computer +$1,000 owed
-1 Computer
Liabilities: Liabilities:
+$1,000 0

If you pay in full and on time, the transaction reverts to a familiar picture:

You (Buyer) Them (Seller)
Assets: Assets:
+1 Computer +$1,000
-$1,000 -1 Computer
Liabilities: Liabilities:
0 0

It’s basically the same as the first (clean and simple) transaction. You pay the $1,000 you owe and your liabilities are cleared. They receive $1,000 and their asset changes from something they’re owed to real cash. But what if you can’t pay?

You (Buyer) Them (Seller)
Assets: Assets:
+1 Computer +$0 owed
-1 Computer
Liabilities: Liabilities:
0 0

After a certain amount of time, the seller gives up and writes off that asset. (It can’t go collect that computer because the debt isn’t “secured” by the computer in this example.) This is debt forgiveness.

In other words, for you to be cleared—forgiven—of your liability, the seller had to eat the cost. They had to hurt. It gave you the asset (computer) and took on your liability.*

Sin is like debt this way. Neither sin nor debt are usually visual obligations, and neither can be cleared unless someone hurts. But instead of cash, sin is paid for in blood—a ghastly reminder of its severity. In the old days, you took sin off of your spiritual balance sheet by shifting it over to an animal. For you to be cleared of your sin liability, some poor animal had to shed its blood and lose its ultimate asset: its life.

Given that this was the way sin was forgiven when he was teaching his lesson on prayer, it was curious for Jesus to teach us to ask God for forgiveness. It’s like someone telling you that the best way to pay off your debt is to call up your credit card issuer and say “sorry.” Sometimes they’ll reduce your rate, but really they just want money. Sin wants blood.

By giving this advice, Jesus must have had something different in mind. More on that later.

3 Big Tips for Dealing with Financial Debt

Here’s the bad news: Easter does not solve your financial debt. You still have financial obligations you need to meet. And since debt is basically paying for something tomorrow what you could not or would not pay for today, you won’t have as much cash as you otherwise might have (unless you used the debt to buy something that helps you make or save money).

But there’s still hope. Fresh flowers of spring sprout from the manure of winter. New life is usually hatched from ugliness and pain.

Here are 3 tips for giving your finances a fresh look:

  1. Make a budget. A good budget isn’t just income minus expenses = savings. A good budget is organized in a specific way to help you make good financial decisions. (Don’t know how to make one? Go here.)
  2. Find the Stinky Expenses and get rid of them. These are expenses that keep cropping up every month but you can get rid of in 15 minutes, saving yourself hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year. (Want a deeper whiff of Stinky Expenses? Go here.)
  3. Make large purchase decisions that will increase your debt, like a house, very carefully and strategically. Without a strategy, you can put yourself in some very challenging situations. (How do you know if you’re ready to buy a home? Go here.)

The Really Great News:

Sure, you still need to deal with your financial debt, but there’s great news for you. Just because Jesus used a financial term to describe sin does not mean sin = financial debt.

Sin >> Financial Debt

Sin is actually much, much more dangerous than financial debt. (How’s that for a pick me up?)

Financial debt makes your life harder. Sin, unabated, can destroy your soul.

Have you seen your spiritual balance sheet? Your assets (what you can offer God) are small, but your liabilities (sin) are infinite.

You God
Assets: Assets:
Not much +Infinity
Liabilities: Liabilities:
Infinity 0

Here’s the really great news: The much bigger issue of sin has been solved. It was paid for by someone’s blood. If you’re the one who owes money, usually a debt rescue plan is to negotiate a smaller or more drawn out payment than your current one. But with Jesus, the rescue plan was a blood payment made upfront and with something of much more value than what was owed. Sure, banks got billions in bailout money, but we got bailout blood. And consider from whom! It was the only thing weighty enough to more than counterbalance the infinite amount of sin on the cosmic scale.

Even better. Infinitely better. Your liabilities not only cleared, but your assets went up by infinity. Jesus not only paid for your debts; he also gave you his assets.

You Jesus
Assets: Assets:
+Infinity +Infinity
-His Life
+Us
Liabilities: Liabilities:
+0 +our infinite debt

Here’s another financial equation:

Assets – Liability = Net Worth

 

Financially, when you have more assets than liabilities, you have a positive net worth. We use net worth to determine your wealth. Even if you have ten million bucks in the bank, but you owe twenty million, guess what? You’re broke.**

Because of Jesus, you went from being in debt so great you’ll never get out of it to inheriting a vast spiritual trust fund. You now have infinite net worth!

Before: 0 – Infinity = -Infinity

Then Jesus goes to the cross.

After: Infinity – 0 = Infinity

Jesus didn’t say: “Please fix our financial balance sheet.” He was after much bigger game. He went to the spiritual bank and wrote out a check that cleared you of your credit card bills. Then he deposited his assets into your account.

Why would anyone do that?

He didn’t do it out of obligation, or out of guilt. He did it because we are his treasured assets.

And because of that, no matter how your financial net worth is, your spiritual net worth is more sound, more real than you ever realized.

Money loses value from inflation. The governments upon which these currencies are based will, at some point, fade into history. Those to whom you owe money will eventually pass away. These businesses collecting from you will one day shut their doors.

But this spiritual net worth will never lose value.

This is why I’m grateful for Easter. You see, while I spent years devoting my entire life to breaking the shame of my financial poverty, I took for granted that my true, spiritual poverty was more urgent and dangerous. And I couldn’t work enough hours to get myself out of it. Pulling yourself up by your spiritual boot straps doesn’t exist.

Spiritual Spring

For too long, you’ve lived in winter. It’s time to step out into the sunshine and become energized in a new hope. Your spiritual debt has been disgorged and true net worth more than you can imagine. How does it feel to be that loved and that lavished? This Easter, I hope you’ll consider your spiritual balance sheet and be moved with gratefulness and joy.


*I didn’t introduce credit cards in this example because I want to keep the point simple and show just a 2 party transaction. The liability transfer still holds true, but this time with the credit card issuer as the party you owe.)

**Putting aside potential future income on your worth. This is called “enterprise value.” Again, I’m not getting into it now to keep it simple.

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