Allowance is a financial term and refers to an amount of money that is given to someone regularly or for a specific purpose. Obviously, you cannot provide an allowance unless you have money. Paul’s encouragement to making allowance for each other’s faults falls within the realm of emotions, but the same applies here: you cannot make an emotional allowance for someone, unless you have something to give. In the first case scenario you would have to have money in the bank. A bank account is built up over time, and money as we all know does not grow on trees. Money is the reason why people go to work. In a non-monetary society people also work to build up their storage with goods they need to sustain their life.
Translating this experience into the realm of emotions, your heart’s account is being built up over time with your relationships; and relationships are always a give and take – not unlike your financial institution where money is either deducted or credited to your bank account. Let’s just pretend for a minute that you lost your source of income and you would have to live on what is left. Depending on how much is left you’ll be out of resources in no time and would be getting deeper into debt by the minute. An unsettling thought, and yet I find this also to be true with relationships. Relationships are fine as long as there is a balance of give and take. It’s when the balance is off when it becomes dangerous. A bank institution will not consider you creditworthy if you are running out of funds and people will not consider you worthy of their trust if you only take their love and appreciation without giving anything back. So, if you are running on empty and feel you have nothing left to give, you would have to take a long hard look at your emotional bank account and examine your credit history, aka relationship history.
By the way, this is what the Bible is all about – your relationships. Some may consider the Bible a book of rules with the 10 commandments being a great representation of this underlying notion (even though the 10 commandments are only the tip of the iceberg). Playing a sports game we would want to play by the rules, otherwise there would be no game to play. Human society without rules is thought to fall apart but there really is no need for rules in human society if all humans had a great relationship with each other. And that’s where the rubber meets the road; this is where God steps into the equation; and this is why the Bible is written. In the beginning of the Bible we read about a great relationship, followed by a broken relationship, followed by God’s generous attempts to fix a broken relationship. So the first question that comes to mind as you examine your heart’s account: where does this leave you? We have a Creator who wants to be in relationship with us, but that does not necessarily mean that we want to. That’s the tension we feel reading throughout the Bible.
In terms of allowance, God has given us a huge allowance when He sacrificed His Son Jesus, but here is the difference to the financial world I have been referencing to throughout this post: unlike a financial institution who gives us credit so we become debtors and are obligated to pay back with hefty interest rates, God gives us His huge allowance but does not consider us debtors that are obligated to pay Him back with charities and lots of good deeds. He gave us Jesus to fix a relationship not to put us into debt, a debt we couldn’t pay back in the first place. And by accepting this allowance we do our heart accounts a huge favor. Guess what: now we have something to give when others wrong us. And then loving a downright hostile person does not seem so impossible anymore. We’re humble and gentle because we have a humble and gentle God. We’re patient because God is so patient with us. This profound change comes entirely from the Lord, happens from within, and changes the world in the process.