Insufficient Funds

Photo: Kenny Louie (Vancouver Canada)

The female voice at the other end of the phone line was terse.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Phillips.  The account is closed.  You can never collect that check.”

The call ended and I sat at my desk, stunned.  Eight hundred dollars!  Gone, like smoke blowing in the breeze!  Eight hundred dollars!

The couple had come in to buy the guitar and amplifier just days before.  Well, to be honest, they had come in separately, sort of like a tag team, on succeeding days.  The first day, the man came in–you know–to case the joint.  That’s what they call it in the movies, isn’t it?  He was a big, friendly fellow, showing an informed understanding of the guitars and amplifiers.  Before he left, he had selected an instrument and an amplifier that complemented the electric guitar he wanted.  After I gave him the total for the items, including tax, he headed for the door.  He would be back.  It was possible that he couldn’t make it, but his girlfriend would come to get them if that was the case.

He couldn’t make it.  She came in the next day, a quiet, withdrawn young lady who knew nothing about music, save that she needed to pick up the merchandise her boyfriend had set back.  She wished to pay with a check which he had already made out for the exact amount.  It was after banking hours, so I couldn’t call the bank to confirm the funds, but fresh in my mind was the picture of that big, likeable man.

Sure, it will be fine!  A pleasure to do business with you!  Thank your boyfriend for me, won’t you?

I had even helped her load the items in the trunk of the car.  Almost without another word to me, she backed out of the parking space and sped down the street.  I never saw her again.

I stormed into the County Prosecuting Attorney’s office the next week.  The lady at the desk laughed unsympathetically when I told her the name of the person against whom I wished to file charges.

“Get in line,” she quipped dryly.  “Those people papered the whole area.  They must really have been good at what they do.”

I never recovered a dime of that money and, because of the way the law reads, the merchandise was no longer mine to claim, either.  Eight hundred dollars worth of equipment gone!  It was a hard blow to take.

Insufficient funds.

I wonder sometimes if I haven’t been guilty of the same crime that couple committed.  Oh, I’ve never written a hot check, never forged a check, never tried to pass off a closed account as a viable one.  But, I have made promises for which I didn’t have the resources to follow through.

Let me see if I can explain.

Tonight I’m contemplating the debt I have piled up over the years of my life.  If you are a follower of Jesus, as I am, you will no doubt recall that the Apostle gave us instructions about which debts are acceptable for us.  Well, not debts (plural).  It is actually only one debt which we may legitimately owe.  That’s right.  We owe the debt of love to our fellow man.  The Teacher said that it was the second most important Law from God.  The most important is for us to love God with everything we have.  The second?  Love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves.

I like that.  Always have.  Simple.  Concise.  Love God, love each other.  Any questions?

Well, yes.  What do I do when the debt gets too much for me to pay?

I have spent a lot of time over the last few years lecturing my readers about our responsibility to take care of those who have need of earthly goods.  What I am coming to realize is that this is the cheap part of the repayment of our debt of love for our fellow man.

Money?  I can part with it.  Food?  No problem–take what you need.  Need a car for a few days?  Take mine.  It’s available.

I am coming up a little short of funds in servicing the love debt, though.  The part which is not so cheap has been coming due with more frequency lately.  I really don’t have what it takes to pay up anymore, at least not from my own resources.

I can pay the debt as long as I can keep those I’m supposed to love at arm’s length.  It’s what occurs when my neighbor needs me to hold them close and give of myself that costs more than I have to spend.  Again and again, the call comes to comfort, to serve, to hold people who are hurting.  They have lost husbands and parents.  They have children who are making horrendous life choices and are lost to them.  Many of them have even lost themselves in the hubbub and din of the world around them.

They reach out to me, but I have no reserves.  There is nothing left with which to love them.

It costs too much to love these people!

I owe a debt I cannot pay.

I think though, that I am finally beginning–just beginning–to glimpse the beauty of the system.

I remember the old preacher saying the words years ago.  I resented them at the time, because I thought he had an ulterior purpose in saying them.  He may have; it doesn’t matter.  The words are still true.

“God never orders anything that He doesn’t pay for.  When He tells us to do something, He has already written the check for the full amount.”

And, here’s the beauty of it all:  When we love Him with everything that is in us, He pours out His own love into our hearts.  Did you get that?  Pours out!  Love is not doled out as needed, not rationed as if there is a shortage of it in the world.  He pours it out into our hearts–for us to pour out into those around us.

The debt has already been paid in full!  Poured out till it runs over.

We are without excuse.  We still owe the debt, but the funds have already been set aside and made available.

Will we pay it?

“…Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
(Romans 5:5 ~ NASB)

“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
(Mother Teresa ~ Roman Catholic Sister ~ 1910-1997)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.

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