Deuteronomy 15:1-11

Sunday Morning Bible Study

September 2, 2001


This morning we’re going to be talking about debts and loans.


A frog went into the Bank of America one day, carrying a cardboard box. “May I help you?” asked a loan officer. “Yes,” replied the frog, “I’d like to apply for a home loan.” “And what is your name?” “Kermit Jagger,” the frog replied. “And what’s yours?” “My name is Mr. Paddywhack. I don’t suppose you’re any relation to Mick Jagger?” “Yeah, he’s my dad.” “Sure, he is,” Mr. Paddywhack said. “Incidentally, do you have any collateral?” “Just what I’ve got in this box here.” And Kermit Jagger pulled out a glass ball with an elephant inside. It snowed when you shook it. The loan officer grabber the glass ball and sputtered, “I’ll have to take this to the vice president of the bank and see what he says.” “What’s his name?” the frog asked. “Mr. John Dudley,” came Mr. Paddywhack’s huffy reply. “Oh, I know him, tell him hi!” said Kermit, as the loan officer turned and left. He walked into the vice president’s office, glass ball in hand, and said, “Mr. Dudley, there’s a frog outside in the lobby named Kermit Jagger, who claims he knows you. He wants a home loan using only this thing as collateral. What on earth is this thing, anyway?” “It’s a knick-knack, Paddywhack. Give the frog a loan. His old man’s a Rolling Stone.”

Deuteronomy 15

:1 At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.

This was the “Sabbath Year”.

Every seventh year, there was to be an unconditional forgiveness of the debts of fellow Israelites. Those who were not Israelites and simply temporarily living in Israel did not have to be released from their debts.

:4 Save when there shall be no poor among you;

Better translation: “There should be no poor among you

This law was to help keep poverty out of Israel.

:6 For the LORD thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow

The implication is that if the people would learn to forgive their debtors, then God would ensure that they would be a prosperous nation. Rather than being a nation that borrows from others, they would be the ones lending.

:6 and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee

God is telling the people that obedience to this principle of releasing debts would result in the nation of Israel ruling over other nations.

:9 Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand

The situation is that the seventh year is coming up, and if you lend something to a poor person, then they won’t have to pay it back, so you don’t lend to them.

:11 Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.


Helping the needy

God wants us to be open to the needs of others.
(Psa 41:1 KJV) Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.
(Prov 19:17 KJV) He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.
Our faith in the Lord ought to demonstrate itself in how we help others.
(James 2:14-17 KJV) What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? {15} If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, {16} And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? {17} Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
We also need to stay balanced in how we help –
(2 Th 3:10 KJV) For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

If a person is willing to work, then we ought to be willing to help. If a person is unwilling to work, and just wants to live off of the kindness of others, we are doing the wrong thing in helping them.

We need to help others according to what their real need is.
When a person doesn’t pursue taking care of their own responsibilities, their real need is to get a job and learn to support themselves.


I think there is a bigger lesson here than just that of helping people with financial needs.

Through the Bible, the idea of forgiveness is exactly the same as releasing a person from their debt.

In the New Testament Greek, there are three different words that are translated “forgive. I think that looking at these words will help us grow in our understanding of what it means to “forgive” another person. The first two words are similar in nature.

forgiveaphiemi (“from” + “to go”) – to send away; to let go; give up a debt, forgive

(Mat 6:12-15 KJV) And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. {13} And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. {14} For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: {15} But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

debtsopheilema – that which is owed; that which is justly or legally due, a debt; metaph. offence, sin

I think the idea is to take what has been owed to you and to send the debt away.

forgiveapoluo (“from” + “to loosen”) – to let go free, release; a captive i.e. to loose his bonds and bid him depart, to give him liberty to depart; to acquit one accused of a crime and set him at liberty; to release a debtor, i.e. not to press one’s claim against him, to remit his debt

(Luke 6:36-38 KJV) Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. {37} Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: {38} Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

The idea here is that of loosening someone from what they are bound to. When a person has sinned against you, you have almost a “right” to exact punishment or payment from them. They have an obligation to you to make things right. That person is tied up in chains to that obligation. When you forgive them, you “loosen” those chains so they can be freed from the obligation.

In practice, forgiveness can be quite costly. When a person has done something against you, you can hold it against them and keep exacting payment for a long time if you want. All you have to do is just drop a little hint from time to time, “Well remember that time when you did such and such?” And suddenly the other person owes you again. Well-timed grudge remarks can be a highly effective weapon when you’re losing an argument. When you forgive someone, you are “disarming” yourself. You are dismantling a weapon, never to be used again.

In this light, let’s go back through the passage …

:1 At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release.

I’m not so sure I like the idea of waiting seven years to forgive someone, but the idea of forcing you to forgive another person is pretty cool.

:2 it is called the LORD'S release.

This freedom from debts was to be the Lord’s work in Israel. In a sense, because we have been forgiven, we ought to forgive others. When I finally learn to forgive others, it’s not because I’m such a great person, but only because I’ve finally begun to let God work in me. I can’t take credit for true forgiveness, it’s all God’s work.

:4 Save when there shall be no poor among you;

There should be no poor among you

The “poor” are those who need forgiveness. We ought to be forgiving others until there is no more need for forgiveness.

:4 for the LORD shall greatly bless thee in the land


Forgiveness makes you wealthy.

Sometimes I can get the false idea that if I just go around forgiving other people, that people will take advantage of me and I will somehow not be as strong of a person.
It’s just the opposite. The one who learns how to truly forgive another, not just because they feel too wimpy to demand judgment, but because they truly choose to let a debt go, that is a strong person.
One person writes,
“One of my teachers had each one of us bring a clear plastic bag and a sack of potatoes. For every person we'd refuse to forgive in our life experience, we chose a potato, wrote on it the name and date, and put it in the plastic bag. Some of our bags were quite heavy. We were then told to carry this bag with us everywhere for one week, putting it beside our bed at night, on the car seat when driving, next to our desk at work. The hassle of lugging this around with us made it clear what a weight we were carrying spiritually, and how we had to pay attention to it all the time not to forget and keep leaving it in embarrassing places. Naturally, the condition of the potatoes deteriorated to a nasty slime. This was a great metaphor for the price we pay for keeping our pain and heavy negativity. Too often we think of forgiveness as a gift to the other person, and it clearly is for ourselves.”

:6 and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee


Forgiveness gains control.

Again, we have the concept that forgiving another person makes you weak, it makes you appear weak to others.
But if you choose not to forgive them, you will live in bitterness and anger, and in a sense, that person has control over your life to make you miserable. You will be better off when you choose to let it go.

:11 Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

There is a third word in the New Testament Greek that is translated “forgive”.

forgivecharizomai (“to grace”) – to do something pleasant or agreeable (to one), to do a favour to, gratify; to show one’s self gracious, kind, benevolent; to grant forgiveness, to pardon; to give graciously, give freely, bestow

Forgiveness is not just about canceling a debt that is owed. True forgiveness goes beyond the debt to where you are actually giving to that person something that they do not deserve. It’s showing love where love isn’t earned.

This word is used in:

(2 Cor 2:6-8 KJV) Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. {7} So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. {8} Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.
Paul was writing to the Corinthians to not just “release a debt”, but to offer a gift, the gift of love.

The word is also used in:

(Eph 4:32 KJV) And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
In almost every instance where I find myself counseling troubled relationships, I find myself pointing the individuals to this verse. I do not believe that ANY relationship between two individuals can last , or at least cannot be a happy relationship, if there is no learning of forgiveness.
The key to really learning to forgive others starts in learning to be forgiven by God.
(1 John 1:9 KJV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive (aphiemi) us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Receiving forgiveness from God starts with confession. The Greek word (homologeo) means “to agree with”, and the idea is that we agree with God concerning our sin. We agree that it is wrong. We agree that we must turn from it. We agree that God can forgive us.

When we confess our sin, then God forgives us. He is “faithful” to do this, He will ALWAYS come through, we can depend upon Him. He is “just” in that He isn’t breaking any rules in forgiving us. He has actually paid the price of what is required to forgive us when Jesus died on the cross. The price for your forgiveness has been paid for by the blood of Jesus.

If you can truly receive God’s forgiveness, you have the ability to then learn to forgive others. If you have received God’s forgiveness, then you MUST learn to forgive others.
(Mat 18:21-35 KJV) Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? {22} Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. {23} Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. {24} And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents (millions of dollars). {25} But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. {26} The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. {27} Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him (apoluo), and forgave (aphiemi) him the debt. {28} But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence (a few thousand dollars): and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. {29} And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. {30} And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. {31} So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. {32} Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: {33} Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? {34} And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. {35} So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

When we begin to comprehend how much God has forgiven us, we realize that we must forgive others. When we have been forgiven such a huge debt by God, how dare we hold a grudge for the small debt that someone else owes us.


Corrie Ten Boom shares this true story in her book, The Hiding Place: It was a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there—the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face. He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,” he said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him. I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness. As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me. And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.