My friend Kathryn Shirey rejoins us to discuss “trespass,” the next word in The Lord’s Prayer for this week’s edition of Word Nerd Wednesday.
As a child, I didn’t understand why some churches had different words in the Lord’s Prayer. It was a prayer said in every church service, no matter the denomination. Yet, it sounded a bit different in each place. Whenever I attended a service somewhere other than my home church, I seemed to stumble over the words of this most common prayer. In particular, this line: “And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
In my home church, we used the words debts and debtors. In chapel services at school, we said trespasses. Other churches said sins. Why so many different words in this same line? Which one was the right one?
Trespasses, Debts, and Sins
Let’s take a closer look at each of these three words and how they’re used in the context of the Lord’s Prayer.
O to grace how great a DEBTOR daily I’m constrained to be! (Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing)
Matthew 6:12 uses the Greek word ‘opheilemata’, which is translated as DEBT. A debt is an obligation, something which is due. It’s used here metaphorically for the consequences of sin – the hurt, loss, pain, and guilt which comes from our sins. Debts are those things which need to be made right through confession of our own sins and forgiveness of those who have sinned against us.
The Amplified Bible translates this verse as: “And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors [letting go of both the wrong and the resentment].” (Matthew 6:12 AMP)
Our actions have consequences. Sinful actions often have wide-reaching effects, the consequences of which are often harder to forgive than the sinful act itself. We are indebted to those we hurt through our actions (or inaction).
While forms of the word opheilemata are most often used to describe someone who owes money, it can also mean someone under a moral obligation, bound to obey holy law. So, not only do our sins hurt others, but they break our moral obligation, our oath to live as God obeys.
Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe. SIN had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow. (Jesus Paid It All)
Luke 11:4 uses the Greek word ‘hamatias’, which is translated as ‘sin’, our failure to live as God has commanded. To sin is to miss the mark as a result of our human inability to do good. It’s the inevitable erring of our ways and falling short of God’s expectations and standards because we’re human.
“And forgive us our sins,
For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is
indebted to us [who has offended or wronged us].”
Luke 11:4, AMP
Commission and Omission
We sin by commission (what we do) and omission (what we don’t do). This prayer of confession from the Book of Common Prayer has always been particularly convicting to consider not only the sins I commit but also how I have sinned by not taking action.
Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.
Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us
Blest is he whose TRESPASSES are forgiven, whose sins are covered. (How Blest Is He Who Trespass)
The Greek word ‘paraptoma,’ which is translated as trespass, appears in Matthew 6:14. Commonly, trespass is to unlawfully cross a line you shouldn’t cross, encroaching on someone else’s property. In a broader use, trespass is to commit an offense against God’s laws, crossing the boundary he’s set for your life, committing a sin against God or other people. Trespass is used interchangeably in the Bible with sin, offense, and rebellion.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses [their reckless and willful sins], your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matthew 6:14 AMP)
The Amplified Bible describes trespassing as “reckless and willful sins,” an intentional crossing of the lines we know we’re supposed to stay within. Trespassing can also be a less deliberate drifting over the lines, maybe lines that are harder to see, the gray areas where right and wrong sometimes blur.
Which word do you use in the Lord’s Prayer?
Don’t we need prayer for all three? Not just forgiveness for the offense (sin, trespass), but also the consequences (debt)?
What lines have you crossed – either willfully or through less intentional drifting? Do you see God’s boundaries in your life or do you need to ask him to show you the lines more clearly?
Where are you missing the mark and not living up to God’s expectations, by what you do and by what you leave undone?
What consequences are you leaving in the wake of your sins and trespasses? How have you hurt others, yourself, and God? How have the sins of others hurt you? How can you pray not just for forgiveness of the sinful act, but also the consequences?Trespassing can also be a less deliberate drifting over the lines, maybe lines that are harder to see, the gray areas where right and wrong sometimes blur. @KathrynShirey #trespass #lordsprayer #wordnerdwednesday Click To Tweet
Lord, forgive me for where I’ve fallen short, both by what I’ve done and what I’ve left undone. Forgive me for the consequences of my errors, for I know my actions affect more than just me. Lord, help me forgive those who hurt me by their own sins and shortcomings. Help me to not only forgive the acts, but also the resulting effects on me and my loved ones. Amen.
Kathryn is an ordinary girl following an extraordinary God, writing about prayer and following where Jesus leads at www.KathrynShirey.com. A recovering prayer skeptic who’s experienced first-hand the power of prayer, she’s passionate about guiding others to discover the transformation possible through prayer.
She lives in Frisco, Texas with her husband and two children, spending most of her free time on the sidelines of soccer and baseball games.
She’s written a 40-day devotional diving deep into each line of the Lord’s Prayer. Learn more about Pray Deep: The Lord’s Prayer here: https://www.kathrynshirey.com/lords-prayer/