“My family would have starved if your dad hadn’t allowed us to charge groceries at his store.” That’s what Joe said about Earl the grocer. Joe’s story was the fourth in recent weeks heard by Earl’s only daughter about her dad’s grocery business.
Earl owned Quality Grocery, a neighborhood grocery store that served the families living on and around Jefferson Street. He worked hard, coming from a Welch coal-mining family. Fondly known as “Earl Only,” and much to his sister’s dispute, he supposedly possessed no middle name. He served the Jefferson Street neighborhood made up of families living in stately single family homes and families living with much less. To those families living with much less, Earl delivered bags of groceries for which the family could not pay. This was Earl Only’s way.
Mid-1969 after years in the grocery business, one day he just up and decided he was done. Earl Only closed the doors of Quality grocery and that was that.
Earl Only’s only daughter recounts how after her mother passed away, she found stacks of charge accounts left as they were the day Earl shut Quality grocery’s doors. Sifting through the stacks, those accounts mounted to thousands of dollars. Any good accountant, really any sensible person, or for that matter, Earl Only’s Only, knew that thousands of unpaid dollars for an independent grocer leaves the books unbalanced! Balance forwarded charge accounts and the delivery of unpaid groceries just doesn’t add up.
Yet this was Earl Only’s choice. It was his business and his decision. And for that, for the stacks of unpaid charge accounts mounting to thousands of dollars, Joe and his family did not starve. Their hunger was satisfied. They lived!
This is Love’s accounting!
It reminds me of another Only. This Only recounts how after Curse’s much passing away, He finds stacks of accounts left as they were the day the door slammed shut on Eden’s east side. Sifting through the stacks of accounts Only finds that none have been paid, mounting from thousands to millions upon billions! The books found unbalanced, a debt owed with no way to be paid. Stately house or house-of-much-less, all in the neighborhood lack the True Resource to pay.
And, this reminds me of me! Mistake-making, cruddy choices me. Shame-shackled, condemnation- carrying me. Pit-parking, darkness-dwelling me. Love-looking, soul starved me!
Spread too thin, treading to keep my head-above-water me. Cupboard bare, “I ain’t got nothin’” me. Bankrupt with no-resources-to-pay me. Balance forwarded. Account unpaid. Any good accountant knows that our unpaid debt leaves the Book unbalanced.
Then Only shows up! Only sees self-struggling me! Even though I can’t pay He’s delivering for hungry and soul-starved me! Grace and mercy, and hope and life! It just doesn’t add up.
Yet, this is Father and Only’s way! Only’s only choice! Only – God’s One and Only Son – Jesus the Christ! It is His business and His decision.
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
“And you…He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)
“For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Now to him who works the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness. ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.’” (Romans 4:3-5,7-8)
“’For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’” (Hebrews 8:12)
Our sin and sorrow accounted to Him; He accounts to us His righteousness. This is His accounting! This is Love! Oh Hallelujah! This is Love’s accounting!
And, this is Love’s accounting!
“If he…owes you anything, charge that to my account.” That’s what the Apostle Paul said about Onesimus, the AWOL slave of Philemon.
Onesimus, whose name means useful, stole from his master, running away and running himself right out of his name. In his flight from the city of Colosse he meets Paul in Rome, becoming as Paul says, “my son” by faith in Jesus Christ. In his letter Paul beseeches Philemon to receive Onesimus back, not as a slave but as a beloved brother! The account unpaid, the book unbalanced. Onesimus possesses no resource with which pay.
Yet, Paul says “charge that to my account.” Onesimus’ account reads balance forwarded. Paul covers it.
This is Father and Only’s way! Grace and mercy, and hope and life! It just doesn’t add up. This is His accounting! This is Love! Oh Hallelujah!
This is Love’s accounting!
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also do.” (Colossians 3:12-13)
This is Earl Only’s accounting! This is Love’s accounting! This is our accounting!