Online banking has changed one tradition in the Burchett household. The monthly avoiding of Dad on bill paying day. The boys learned either by oral tradition or by hard lesson that when Dad was hunkered over the checkbook with a scowl on his face it was best to steer a wide path. Now with just a few computer clicks when bills come in I can spread the angst over the entire month. And somehow it seemed far more painful to write a check than to merely fill in numbers and hit send. I remember one constant source of irritation was the paying of the cell phone bills. Sons who rarely spoke could somehow fill up 2000 minutes and compose hundreds of text messages. Here is a scintillating example of the Algonquin Round Table level of interchange in these text messages.
For the rest of us, this is an interpretation of the above cryptic code.
How are you?
Parent over shoulder….got to run.
Ta ta for now.
I paid hard earned American dollars for dialogue like this. So it was with considerable empathy that I read a story at MSNBC about a Malaysian man who put my little bill paying woes to shame. Yahaya Wahab said he nearly fainted when he received a phone bill for $218 Trillion US dollars and was ordered to pay up within 10 days or face prosecution. It seems like the phone company could have set up a reasonable payment plan. How about paying, oh, let’s see, one billion a month for a few hundred years. That might be doable. But no…the phone company gives you 10 days to pay more than the Gross National Product of Malaysia (about $74 billion in 2000). It just doesn’t seem fair. But the real Dad question would be how in the heck did this happen? (General Audience paraphrase)
Yahaya Wahab said he disconnected his late father’s phone line in January after he died and settled the 84-ringgit (about $23 US) bill, according to the New Straits Times. But Telekom Malaysia later sent him a 806,400,000,000,000.01-ringgit (U.S. $218 trillion) bill for recent telephone calls along with orders to settle within 10 days or face legal proceedings, the newspaper reported. It wasn’t clear whether the bill was a mistake, or if Yahaya’s father’s phone line was used illegally after his death. We will keep you posted on this story.
But the ridiculous extent of the debt presented to Wahab brought to mind another debt that was just as hopeless. A debt that was presented to me that I could not pay. It might as well have been $218 trillions with a 10 day deadline. It was trying to reconcile my sin debt with a Holy God. There is a little internet story circulating around that illustrates the problem.
A man dies and goes to Heaven. Of course, St. Peter meets him at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter says, “Here’s how it works. You need 100 points to make it into heaven. You tell me all the good things you’ve done, and I give you a certain number of points for each item, depending on how good it was. When you reach 100 points, you get in.”
“Okay,” the man says, “I was married to the same woman for 50 years and never cheated on her, even in my heart.”
“That’s wonderful,” says St. Peter, “that’s worth three points!”
“Three points?” he says, slightly concerned. “Well, I attended church all my life and supported its ministry with my tithe and service.”
“Terrific!” says St. Peter. “That’s certainly worth a point.”
“One point!?!” he moans, now really getting worried. “I started a soup kitchen in my city and worked in a shelter for homeless veterans.”
“Fantastic, that’s good for two more points,” he says.
“Two points!” the man cries. “At this rate the only way I get into Heaven is by the grace of God!”
St. Peter nods and says, “You finally get it! That is 100 points! Come on in my son!”
We are approaching Good Friday, the day when Jesus was willing to pay a sin debt for me and you on the cross at Calvary. I was just as overwhelmed as that poor guy in Malaysia or the man frantically trying to tally up points for good deeds. I had my good works tally up to about 3 points so I am grateful for that gift of total grace. We are generally a bit suspicious of an unmerited gift. But that is what led Jesus to the cross. John 3:16 has become devalued by people with crazy hair holding up signs at sporting events. That is sad. Because that verse is not a joke. It is the most amazing communication you could imagine from a Holy God to me…and you.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
If you want to know more about how to cancel that sin debt please click here.