One of the largest wildfires in California history is the Day fire in Los Padres National Forest in 2006. At that time, it was the 6th largest fire in California history when measured by acreage. The Day fire started on Labor Day, 9/4/2006, at a campsite in Piru Canyon. It took thousands of firefighters 39 days to contain the blaze. The fire destroyed more than 162,700 acres of land, including 11 structures.
18 people were injured in the fire, but thankfully, no one was killed.
Investigations revealed that the fire was inadvertently started by Steven Butcher at his campsite. John Schelbe reported that on 11/17 2008, “U.S. District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank sentenced Butcher to 45 months in prison & ordered the self-described nature lover to pay the $101.6 million that it cost to fight the Day fire.”
Mark Windsor, who represented Butcher in his trial, stated that the $101.6 million fine had to be “one of the biggest monetary amounts ever levied against a person.”
$101.6 million is a lot of money, especially if you are homeless, mentally ill, & financially poor – as is Steven Butcher. In 2008, Butcher’s only income was $1,000 a month in Supplemental Security Income. He was ordered by Judge Fairbank to pay $25 four times a year to Los Padres officials while in prison & $50 a month after he’s released. At this rate, Butcher will have to keeping paying over 2 million years in order to pay the fine! *
But Steven Butcher is not the only one with an unthinkable debt. Nor is Steven Butcher the only one who has made some terrible mistakes.
YOU & I have amassed an unthinkable debt due to our sins. It’s not because of mental illness, but it is due to wrong decisions that we have made – wrong decisions that have led to sin (see James 1:13-14).
Because of who God is & what He has done for us, you & I are “indebted” to God. We owe Him our love, our loyalty, & our very lives, but when we sin, we fail to meet our obligation. Thus, we are “in debt” to God. Sin is like an unpaid debt, & it is a debt that every one of us owes (Romans 3:23). The debt of sin is so great that none of us can be good enough or do enough good to pay off the debt. We just do not have enough resources to remove the debt that we owe to God.
However, because of His love for us, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the debt for OUR sin. The Apostle Peter reminded some Christians of the price of their redemption from sin: “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
The blood of Jesus removes the debt of those who will: place their faith and trust in God (Hebrews 11:6), repent of their sin (2 Corinthians 7:9-10), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). The blood of Jesus continues to keep one’s record clean as he continues to live for the One who made His redemption possible (1John 1:7)
We don’t have enough resources or enough time to ever pay the debt that we owe to God, but God loved us so much that He paid our debt through the GIFT of His Son.
In order to have our debts paid, however, we must accept His offer on His terms.
David A. Sargent, Minister, Church of Christ at Creekwood