The Last Farthing

—Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou have paid the last farthing.
— St. Matthew 5:26

The parable in Matthew 5:21-26 is an appeal to the common sense of those that hear it, in regard to every affair of righteousness. With respect to what claims lie against you, do at once what you must do one day. As there is no escape from payment, escape at least the prison that will enforce it. It is useless to think to escape the eternal law of things. To the honest man and to the man who would be honest, the word is of truly gracious import. To the untrue, it is a terrible threat. “Thou shalt render the right, cost you what it may,” is a dread sound in the ears of those whose life is a falsehood; but for those who love righteousness, it is a joy profound as peace to know that God is determined upon such payment, is determined to have his children clean, clear, pure as very snow; is determined that not only shall they with his help make up for whatever wrong they have done, but at length be incapable, under any temptation, of doing the thing that is not divine.

There is no escape from strict justice, from doing all that is required of us. A way to avoid any demand of righteousness would be an infinitely worse way than the road to the everlasting fire, for its end would be eternal death. No, there is no escape. There is no heaven with a little of hell in it. Out Satan must go, every hair and feather!

Commentary

The Impossibility of Avoidance
by Stephen Carney

Sooner or later we must take the right path, come around to the right way of things.  Created within us is a moral law, according to C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity), that we must come to terms with.  This moral law is what Satan tempted Adam and Eve with as he induced them to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  He told them that God was being unfair to them, and if they ate of this tree their eyes would open and they would be as God.  The catch was their finite minds were no match for such knowledge.  To know the depths of good and evil requires one to explore the issues at hand, and we, like children who refuse to listen to guidance, find ourselves stumbling in dark places, getting hurt and hurting others.  We lose our way, but still there is written upon our hearts God's commandments; and therefore we struggle. 

We are rushing to do as we please, but the moral law that is innate within us convicts us, or maybe haunts us.  We feel awful at times but try to ignore this moral law by going into denial.  We may even go so far as to try to say, “God doesn't exist!,” but it is of no use, the moral law within is still there haunting us, we cannot escape ourselves and therefore we cannot escape God.  Just as a stone cannot disobey the law of gravity when tossed in the air, so we cannot escape that most divine part of us, this moral law written upon our hearts by the finger of God.  We can silence it for a period of time if we can intellectually minimize, deny, and justify our actions.  But we find ourselves soon caught off guard with the thought, “If what I'm doing is okay, then why do I feel so defeated?”  We can, without ourselves even realizing it, find ourselves being weighed down by our own actions, becoming depressed, sad, and feeling depleted of life.  The commands of God are for our good, not to keep us from fun.  They were written for us to experience the fullness of life.  It is how God has wired us. 

If someone should say, “Well then, why did God give us this taste for sin?”  I would reply, it wasn't God who gave us this taste, it was we ourselves who wanted to know good and evil for our own selves rather than trust the voice of God that just wanted us to experience the abundant life that lies within our great Creator.  We want life on our terms, but our terms can mean only that we would cut ourselves off from that Way that is abundant living, from the Truth that sets us free and from the Life that is eternal.  Insist on your own way if you must, but it is a dead-end road.  Having life on one's own terms is pointless and will leave you adrift.  Sooner or later you must come to terms with the fact, as the Apostle Paul did, “It's hard to kick against the goads.” 

We all must see the limits of our self-determination and the futility of having our own way.  We soon discover what we thought was the freedom to do what we want has quickly become a prison from which we need to find a way out.  Billy Graham once said, “Hell in the end, may be insisting on your own way and actually getting it.”  Hell is the great self-imprisonment.  We cannot escape ourselves by continuing to insist that we get our way, our way is the prison and our torment, because once you fully get your way you discover that it is an awful ending.  I have discovered that there is nothing more empty and hollow than having my own way, and of course you really cannot fully have your own way without denying others their freedom as well.  Hence there is no escaping the moral law, the right way.  We must come to it sooner or later, and the sooner the better.

Lewis again writes, “It begins to look as if we shall have to admit that there is more than one kind of reality; that, in this particular case, there is something above and beyond the ordinary facts of men's behaviour, and yet quite definitely real—a real law, which none of us made, but which we find pressing on us.”  We cannot escape ourselves and the law of the righteousness that lies within us, so that leaves only one way out.  The moment we start upon doing the things required, our chains begin to fall off, doors begin to open, and freedom lies before us.  Begin upon the way you know you should go, make the least little effort in the right direction and the Father will run out to meet you, throwing his arms about you, and then the party begins!