The Danger of Debt: Matthew 5:25-26
“25) Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26) Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.” Matthew 5:25-26
These are difficult verses. Jesus seems to be saying that if you have wronged someone or owe a debt, it’s a good idea to humble yourself and make things right way before it goes to court.
“Make friends quickly” simply means “work out a realistic payment plan and be diligent to pay your obligations.” Once a matter went before a judge, the guilty party got whatever sentence the judge decided. Once the verdict was announced, it was to late for negotiations. At that point, the court collected the debt in a most unusual way.
In the days of Jesus, delinquent debtors could be put in a labor prison. These prisoners worked every day but earned very minimal wages. Those wages were then garnished to pay the bill of being in prison and what was left went to pay off the judgement.
Here is the sad truth, a debt that might take six months to pay with diligence on the outside with regular labor wages, might take five years or longer to pay off at the wage of a prisoner. Prisoners liable for a debt were not released until the last cent was paid.
Jesus was making a strong point about spending habits. Poor financial dealings ruin a reputation. Your salt is worthless and your light is hidden if you cannot manage your financial affairs.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global