“As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him along the way, lest he drag you before the judge, and the
judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper”
(Luke ch12 vv58-59).
This advice is given to people who are debtors, in one way or another.
Readers in the time of Dickens, when they still had debtors’ prisons, would have had no difficulty in recognising the situation.
Your accuser is your creditor. That is why it is acceptable, as it would not be in the case of a criminal charge, to offer him money to forestall your
appearance in the courtroom. You are offering payment on the first demand letter, instead of ignoring the increasingly strong language, with red type
and underlined headings, and waiting for the bailiffs to arrive.
William Dorrit will tell you- Once you get into the Marshalsea, you won’t get out again easily.
(I must admit that the Wiki article on debtors’ prisons ignores this Biblical reference and treats them as a mediaeval invention.)
This is good prudential advice, of course, in its own right. But it comes in the middle of passages about anticipating the judgement of God. The
previous passage (ch12 vv54-56) is Luke’s version of the complaint that people can read the signs of the sky but not the signs of the times. That
is, they refuse to see the warning signs that judgement is coming. The following passage (ch13 vv1-5) is the warning that the people in general are no
better than the victims of the falling tower of Siloam, who have already been punished.
So the advice about “getting your debts paid early” is really about our relationship with God. He holds many debts of ours, and it would be
advisable to sort out the problem now instead of waiting for the Final Judgement.
Matthew arranges these passages differently. His version of “signs of the times” is inserted into the middle of a voyage across the Lake (ch15 v39
to ch16 v5). He does not have the discussion about the Galileans and the Tower of Siloam. And his version of “Settle with your accuser” is brought
forward into the Sermon on the Mount (ch5 vv25-26). But it remains in the context of “anticipating judgement”.
The previous passage there is “leave your gift at the altar and be reconciled with your brother” (ch5 vv23-24) which has the same theme. Indeed,
we may need to look twice before we can recognise that “be reconciled with your brother” (v24) and “make friends with your accuser” (v25) are
dealing with two different situations. At first glance, the first passage appears to run into the second, with a sudden change to a more ominous mood.
They have been placed together because, in both cases, the prudential advice about our relations with other people is also about the need to be
reconciled with God.
edit on 25-6-2021 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)