"Pay thy debt"

         In the fourth chapter of II Kings we find the beautiful story of the widow who in her deep trouble went, not to a money-lender, but to Elisha the prophet, of whose spiritual power she was not ignorant; for even at that early day it was recognized that knowledge is power. We are told that this woman's husband was one of the sons of the prophets, a glorious line of those who stood for the truth as against the idolatry of their time. Elijah, their great leader, had risen to a nearer sense of life, and Elisha, his devoted follower, remained to instruct and to cheer the faithful.

         The story of this widow's sad plight is well known to all students of the Bible, and it has many lessons for us. The Christian Scientist loves to dwell upon its setting forth of the divine supply for a great need, which recalls most vividly our dear Leader's oft-quoted words, "Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need" (Science and Health, p.494). There is, however, one lesson which should not be forgotten, and it is found in the prophet's command, "Pay thy debt." This was the first obligation resting upon the woman in this particular instance, and divine Love had provided her with abundant means whereby to respond to what seemed a stern demand of justice. Her response would, however, give her freedom from the condemning thought of her creditor, as well as that of all others who knew of the debt. With this weight lifted, by the operation of spiritual law, she could joyfully give heed to the further command, "Live thou and thy children of the rest."

         Paul, who stood firmly for righteousness in all things, said, "Owe no man anything, but to love one another." He insisted upon the payment of all debts to God and to man, the dues of gratitude, justice, honor, and reverence, as well as the more material debts. He must have known that all unpaid debts imply selfishness, self-love, and self-gratification, mortal tendencies which are very apt to develop unchecked in times of material prosperity, when the wealth of others seems to invite some people to lavish expenditures which quite overlook the demands of Principle. It is true that limitation is unknown in the kingdom of God, the realm of infinite Mind, but it rests with us to prove our place in that realm by seeking "first" its "righteousness," not the gratification of the material senses by the sacrifice of honesty and honor, of peace of mind and self-respect.

         The difficulty with most of those who heedlessly incur debts, is that they disregard the almost certain annoyance caused to others, and what is even worse, the sense of insecurity which is apt to prevail where people live "beyond their means" and also beyond their actual demonstration of Science. Christian Science establishes healthful conditions not alone in the lives of individuals, but in the body politic as well, and in so doing it never loses sight of the demand for righteousness. This of course calls for greater and greater spirituality, a setting of our affections on things above and beyond the material, and demands obedience to the divine requirement, voiced by the prophet Micah, "to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."

         In "The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany" (p.114) Mrs. Eddy says: "Owe no man; . . . be honest, just, and pure; cast out evil and heal the sick; in short, Do unto others as ye would have others do to you." Our debt to divine Love is very great, but we can help to pay it by loving one another, and this can often be done by setting an example of true and noble living to those who may not yet see clearly the demands of divine Principle. In so doing we shall better understand the Master's saying as to becoming "rich toward God," and laying up lasting treasure "where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal."


"'Pay thy debt'" by Annie M. Knott, CSD
Christian Science Sentinel, January 31, 1914

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