“You will need to go by the business office before you leave.”
Those words scared me to death when I first heard them 16 years ago. My wife was being discharged after spending five days in the hospital, two of which were in intensive care. She had been through a seven-hour surgery, performed by four surgeons, to deal with the invasive breast cancer found the previous week – and now, it was time to talk about the bill.
We had insurance, and I was pretty sure everything would be covered, but I also knew that 20 percent of an enormous bill would equal a whole lot more than we had. I was grateful beyond words that her cancer had been found early enough to be removed surgically. But now, the prospects of having a huge debt with the hospital was terrifying to this young husband and father of three on a minister’s salary.
I sat down opposite the business manager of the hospital, and he showed me the bill. It was 20 pages long and well over a hundred thousand dollars. Gulp. Then he told me something that, to this day, I still find hard to believe. It went something like this: Mike, there is a foundation here at the hospital that helps clergy with large hospital bills. Your case was presented to the review board last night, and the vote was unanimous – your bill has been paid. You have a zero balance.
Now I don’t remember exactly what I did next, but I’ll never forget the feeling of a forgiven debt – through no action of my own. I remember getting up to hug the man I barely knew and dancing, as much as a Baptist can, all the way back to Teresa’s room. I couldn’t wait to tell her what God had done! To this day, now 16 years later, the memory still brings tears to my eyes.
The woman in Luke 7 knew something about what it felt like to have an ominous debt covered. She was well aware of her condition. No one knew her sin better than she did. But she also knew that Jesus was in her town, and he had compassion on people like her. She rose, gathered the most expensive offering she could find, and made her way to his feet.
Simon couldn’t believe the waste of the moment. But he didn’t know what she knew. Jesus, loving Simon too much to leave him in his puzzled state, gave him – and us – insight to her action.
So, when we find ourselves cold in our worship or unresponsive in our praise, let us remember the woman in Luke 7. And let us also remember that Jesus – because of His love and grace – has forgiven the debt we could never pay. And may we find the greatest offering we can and bring it to the One who makes all things new.
And may we dance – as much as a Baptist can – for all that Jesus has done for us!
Director, LifeWay Worship