Let me introduce you to an acquaintance of mine, Beelzebub, Mr. B. for short. Mr. B. is a great accountant. He keeps the ledger for souls, your soul and mine. Meticulously, he records every deed, every selfless, honorable act we’ve ever done, as well as every selfish, unkind word or act anyone has ever committed. He even keeps track of all those good deeds we could have done or meant to do, but never actually accomplished. With great relish, he keeps track of our every word and deed. Let me take you to his office where we can watch him work with his latest client, Mr. Everyman, or Mr. E.
As the door creaks open, we see Mr. B. seated behind an enormous, highly polished wooden desk. Mr. B. sits in his black leather chair, perched on the very edge, leaning toward Mr. E. who fidgets in the opposite chair. Wide open on the desk lays a gigantic ledger, its pages opened to the E’s.
“Ah, friend,” Mr. B. exclaims, “I see you shoveled snow off the sidewalk for the elderly widow in your neighborhood. That definitely earns a plus sign on your soul’s ledger.”
Mr. E. shifts in his chair and smiles tentatively, his chest rising slightly with pride in his good deed. A shadow of a sly smile creeps over Mr. B’s face and his eyes glitter with excitement. “But,” he exclaims triumphantly, “You failed to shovel last month, you only mowed her yard three times last summer, and you rarely visit her. That comes to four marks on the plus side, and…let me see…20 marks on the negative side. That makes your overall score a negative 16.”
Mr. E’s shoulders visibly slump, and his eyes drop to the tops of his shoes. “But I thought….”
“You thought!” interrupted Mr. B. “Let me remind you that I am the bookkeeper. I will let you know your score! At this point in your life, you are definitely in the red. You must try harder!”
“Yes, sir,” Mr. E. mumbles, “I will try harder to do good deeds. Honest, I will.” Slowly, he stands up, turns and shuffles out the door.
As the door closes, Mr. B. chuckles. “What a sap!” he says to himself. “He’ll be mine soon. Then he’ll pay dearly for what he owes!”
Many years later, Mr. E. once again enters Mr. B’s ornate office. Even though he is now elderly, he walks with a straight back and chin held high. Mr. E. sits in the guest chair and makes eye contact with Mr. B. Once again, the huge ledger lays open on the shiny desk. “Well, well, well,” Mr. B. says, examining the open book. “You have done many honorable deeds since we last met. Feeding the hungry…check…giving to the poor…check…volunteering at your local school…check….. Well, you’ve earned several hundred points on the plus side. “Now for the negative…you lost your temper…check…said a few bad words…harbored a grudge…didn’t forgive your neighbor…Hmm, it seems you have far more than one hundred checks on the negative side. That means you owe me—you are at a negative three hundred and sixty-three. Since your time on the earth is nearing its completion, it appears you will be in debt to me. But don’t worry, you have all eternity to pay off this debt.” As Mr. B. looked up from his ledger, a broad smile covered his face, but his eyes stared coldly at Mr. E.
Mr. E. sat straight in his chair, a slight smile playing about his lips. He shifted his weight in his chair and reached into his pocket, pulling out an official looking paper. “I believe you have made a mistake,” he simply said.
“What! How dare you question my bookkeeping!” shouted Mr. B. He stood up and lunged over the desk toward Mr. E., glaring at him. “You are mine; there is no mistake!”
“Oh, but there is a mistake. You see, I have a receipt. Here is a copy of it.” As he said this, he handed a small slip of paper to Mr. B.
“This is impossible!” sputtered Mr. B. as he read the neat printing on the tiny sheet of paper. “He can’t have paid your debt. You are mine!”
“Oh, but you are mistaken.” Mr. E. spoke his words quietly and calmly. He paid my debt many years ago. He willingly left his heavenly home to become a man. He willingly died a painful death on a cross, all to erase my debt. If you don’t believe me, just look.”
Mr. B. glanced down at his carefully written ledger. His face turned red, then even brighter red as he stared at the “E” page. Right before his eyes, every mark slowly erased itself until all had disappeared.
“You see,” said Mr. E. My ledger is clean. I owe you nothing. My soul is free of debt.
The printed words on the little slip of paper simply said, “Mr. E.’s debt—PAID IN FULL.” Signed, Jesus Christ.