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The Counting House Books

Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity, or registering wrongs. (Charlotte Bronte) If you recall the Charles Dickens classic in which Ebenezer Scrooge is observed making his way to his counting house (today's version of a bank), all the while intent on not celebrating Christmas, holding people captive to their debts, and being unwilling to ensure the poor could have even a small meal to enjoy on the holiday, you might be close to the miserable state a soul endures who is so tied up in himself that he fails to recognize the needs of others around him. I daresay none of us is exempt from a periodic display of selfishness from time to time. If we find ourselves given to this pattern of behavior over and over again, it is likely we are going to develop some of these traits as revealed to us by Scrooge. Nursing animosity or registering wrongs is really a condition of the heart that goes much deeper than 'keeping accounts'. Did you ever stop to wonder why Dickens chose to give Scrooge the profession of running the counting house? Maybe he was trying to help us realize there is no 'record-keeping' that will ever lead to us living a full and honorable life!

Overlook my youthful sins, O Lord! Look at me instead through eyes of mercy and forgiveness, through eyes of everlasting love and kindness. (Psalm 25:6-7)

We all do dumb stuff from time to time - there is just not escaping that fact! We all need forgiveness for the things we have said, thoughts we have entertained, and coolness of attitude we have displayed as the moments arose. We all might seek it, but do we render it as quickly as we seek it ourselves? This is where the rubber meets the road - in our giving forgiveness - not just in our seeking it for ourselves. It is easy to point out where someone has wronged us - it is quite a different matter to release them from the debt of 'owing us' something for that wrong. The 'counting house' books we all can potentially keep against others can soon become full of 'debts owed' if we aren't careful. The 'books' could be filled with our own transgressions and failures, but God in his vast mercy wipes the slate clean. Those pages bear the words "paid in full" next to our names, my friend. Isn't it about time we learn what it is to live above 'keeping record of wrongs'?

Forgiveness isn't always sought - in fact, some may find it easy to point out how they feel wronged, where it is we have failed them, and what it is others have done to make life hard for them. It seems their 'record-keeping' is quite thorough - as they are able to 'turn the pages' of their 'counting books' and find each and every 'debt' they feel they are owed. Animosity is really a big word for resentment or bitterness. All record-keeping does is allow us to constantly keep in mind what debt hasn't been paid in the moment. Debt is always something 'owed' because it could not be repaid at that moment in time when the payment was required. If you went to your car dealership today and declared you desired a new car that you needed to take off the lot today, but that you had insufficient funds saved to pay in full for that car, how is it you'd be able to drive it off the lot? You'd owe a debt you could not pay in full - a debt that would need to be paid back 'with interest'.

The 'interest' is kind of what Scrooge was revealing to us as the 'hook' that keeps us mulling over those debts. Every time we allow a 'debt' to be recorded in our books, we assign some form of 'required interest' on those debts. We expect the individual to 'pay back' in full what they owe, including some measure of interest. The longer the debt is held, the more the interest expected! There is a danger in holding debts others cannot repay - those things we should forgive in the moment, never allowing even one entry to be made into a 'counting book' under their name. The danger isn't always clear to us, though. We forget that our sins have been many and we have been forgiven much more. We forget the interest we never had to repay, or our future inability to make payment for some infraction or 'debt'. We'd do well to recall the extreme mercy of God and remember he keeps no records of our wrongs! Just sayin!

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