Archive for August 12th, 2008


Repaying a Forgiven Debt?


 As I talked about in my last post, one of the problems I and many others have with Mormonism is that it talks about repaying a debt that the Bible describes as having been forgiven.  I would like to expand on that a little bit more.  Where is the idea of forgiveness and repayment ever combined?  The two ideas just don’t fit together.


I just got done googling “debt forgiven”.  The first sites listed all dealt with either mortgage or credit cards debt being forgiven.  I copied just a couple of paragraphs from one site.  It said:


“All may be forgiven when a debtor reduces the amount you owe, but that doesn’t mean you’ve gotten a free ride.  Your windfall may be taxable. . .


Here’s how it works.  You negotiate with your credit card company to get your bill reduced from $10,000 to $5,000.  You only have to pay Visa $5,000, but the Internal Revenue Service is likely to tax you on the $5,000 you didn’t have to pay back.  That amount is known as discharge of indebtedness, or DOI, income.


That’s right.  A debt forgiven won’t be forgotten by the IRS.  The agency considers it earned or taxable income.”


Notice how it is described as a windfall.  No longer does the person have to pay Visa the $5.000.  But what I found so interesting is that the IRS sees that forgiven debt as taxable income!  They don’t do that with loans that need to be repaid.  They view it as if Visa actually gave the person the $5,000.


That is what the word forgiven means.  When I tell my grown son I forgive the loan he had with me, he will naturally think that he doesn’t need to repay me.  In fact, if in the next month he sends me a payment, I will be puzzled and wonder if he really understood me.  So I talk to him and make it clear that I had forgiven the loan.  Then the next month another payment arrives.  No longer am I puzzled.  Then I will be irritated.  Why isn’t he accepting my gift to him?  Doesn’t he believe that I was serious?


When I forgive somebody his debt to me, I do not remain his creditor.  When God forgives our debt of sin, he does not remain our creditor.  If I continue to try and pay my debt to him, I irritate him and call his word into question.  The proper response to a gift is graciously and gratefully accepting it.

August 2008

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