Text: Romans 5
Here’s a good incentive to teach your kids not to play with fireworks in a tinder-dry forest. When a 15-year-old boy ignited a wildfire in the scenic Columbia River Gorge on Labor Day weekend, public outrage mounted with calls for stiff consequences. One possible penalty is to pay the costs of fighting the Eagle Creek fire—to the tune of millions of dollars. He also could face prison. The teenager and his group of friends are feeling the punishing scorn of an angry populace forced to leave their homes, breathe in smoke and ash, and worry about the ravages to treasured trails and landmarks in the Gorge. “Over the years, the state has sought payback from hundreds of people who negligently started fires and has won million-dollar judgments in some cases,” said Jeff Bonebrake, cost recovery coordinator for the Oregon Department of Forestry. The boy could be on the hook for making a lifetime of payments even though he’s just a minor.
The boy’s parents are also liable to pay. Oregon law says parents can be accountable for up to $5,000, payable to the firefighting agency, for any fires started by their children using fireworks. Oregon law also states that parents are liable for up to $7,500 for any intentional or reckless act of their children that has harmed people or property. This second law carries a kicker: it allows $7,500 per “claimant.” That means thousands of people afflicted by the Eagle Creek fire could seek $7,500 a piece from the teen’s parents. They could seek payouts for the costs of evacuating their homes or money for burned homes or structures. They could seek reimbursement for lost income for missing work or lost commerce from truck and river traffic that came to a standstill when authorities closed Interstate 84 and the Columbia River commercial transportation. The parents could pay a stiff penalty for their child’s foolishness for a long, long time.1
This week’s lesson considers the penalty that Jesus paid for Adam’s foolishness. When Adam submitted to Satan’s overtures, he essentially handed the deed to the planet to the devil, as well as ownership of humanity. The only remedy to escape the slavery brought by Adam’s sin is for someone else to pay the penalty for that one foolish act. Jesus stepped up and offered to pay that penalty. Those of us who suffer the results of Adam’s failure can get a “do-over” by accepting Jesus as our second Adam.
Jesus endured Satan’s overtures—in much greater force than Adam faced—and prevailed over the devil. As our substitute, Jesus willingly offers to pay the penalty that the law demands: either the death of the sinner, or the death of the Savior. One inherent role of parenting is to cover the costs of the foolishness of their children. As our Creator, Jesus accepted that role to protect and redeem us from the penalty of sin.