forgiving non-monetary debt

7 08 2009

I recently heard someone speaking about the parable of the unmerciful servant, and it got me to thinking (which got me to writing).  Let’s start with the passage, from Matthew 18:21-35:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.”

Notice that the servant was not able to pay — there was no possible way.  And if you translate ten thousand talents into today’s money, it’s around 20 million dollars, so you can see why.  I’m not sure how a servant ran up that kind of debt back then, but that’s beside the point.  He couldn’t pay, yet he was completely forgiven.  Can you imagine how he felt?  Suppose the creditors were about to take away all your belongings, including your wife and children, but then they forgive your debt at the last minute.  Wouldn’t you think he would feel about as good as one could possibly feel?   Maybe he did, but if so, it didn’t last long, as we see in the next part of the story:

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.”

A hundred denarii is about $20 in today’s money.  I could understand him wanting to collect on the loan because he was so deep in debt — except, his debt had been forgiven.  He had been shown incredible, even miraculous, mercy.  He freely received forgiveness, but wouldn’t free give forgiveness, even for a much smaller debt.

But let’s not keep discussing money, because I think this can apply to a lot more.  There are other types of “debt”.

Sometimes we refuse to forgive someone, choosing to hold on to the bitterness and resentment, because of what they did to us.  And in some cases, there is no way for them to repay the “debt”.  Maybe they embarrassed you in front of many people, and there’s no way to undo it.  Or maybe they ruined a few years of your life.  Sometimes there is nothing they can do to resolve the problems they created, even if they apologize and repent with 100% sincerity.  So, basically, they would owe a “debt” they cannot pay.  Except that they might have already asked forgiveness for it from God and thus moved on.  It could be that you’re trying to extract “payment” from them which they cannot pay and may not even owe in the first place.

How might a person be trying to extract “payment” from someone else?  Maybe by talking bad about them, to damage their reputation.  Maybe by getting an attitude around them, wanting them to feel guilt or shame.  Maybe by refusing to talk to them, thinking “that’ll show ’em!”  There could be other ways, too.

What we usually fail to realize is that we’re hurting ourselves by not forgiving other people.  Sure, we may hurt them, but it will do more damage to us.  It hurts our personality, it damages our relationships, and it hinders our relationship with God.  Actually, it could keep you out of Heaven!  Consider the last part of the story:

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

That’s a stern warning from Jesus there!  And let’s not reword it into something He didn’t say — He was very clear with His wording there.  If you don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive you. That is serious!  And notice that the servant had been forgiven of his debt, but then because of his unforgiveness toward others, he lost the forgiveness that was given to him.

We tend to forget how many times God has forgiven us.  Sure, you probably got saved just once, but how many times have you failed God, even since getting saved?  How many times have you thought something you shouldn’t have?  How many times have you been stressed and/or anxious?  How many times have you done your own thing with your time instead of God’s will?   How many days do you live without walking in the power of the Holy Spirit like Jesus did?  Dozens?  Hundreds?  Thousands?   Probably several thousand, if you’re willing to be honest with yourself.  So how many times has God forgiven you?  And let’s remember that we don’t deserve it any of those times.  That’s why God is so adamant that we extend forgiveness to everyone, even if they don’t deserve it.

So pray that God would show you any areas where you hold any bitterness or resentment because of unforgiveness.  And remember it doesn’t matter how bad they did you wrong — mankind treated Jesus much worse than any of us have ever been treated, and He didn’t deserve it at all, yet He forgave them all.  He expects us to do the same.




2 responses

9 08 2009

Preach on!

21 09 2009

very well written.

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