Monday’s study was quite profound. I hope that it convicted you as it’s convicting me. But if you’re like me, there’s probably one person or thing that’s hard to let go of. I’ll pray about yours if you’ll pray about mine!
How many times do I need to forgive? According to Warren Wiersbe (“Matthew” in The Bible Exposition Commentary: An Exposition of the New Testament Comprising the Entire “Be” series, Vol. 1), in Jesus’ time, forgiving three times was considered “sufficient” by most Rabbis. Jesus’ answer probably stunned them!
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matt 18:21-35 (ESV)
Seventy times seven? FOUR HUNDRED NINETY times? Who is going to keep track of that many sins? Jesus was making the point that we should forgive unendingly. What would we do if Jesus only forgave seven of our sins? We’d be in hell – because our God is holy and requires perfection. So why do I choose to send you to “hell on earth” because I choose to be unforgiving?
Looking at this parable, we see a man who has an insurmountable debt. He justly deserves imprisonment, but because of the mercy of the king, he receives forgiveness. (If the parallel is not obvious, to quote one of my favorite folk singers, we are the one with the insurmountable debt). Jesus came and took our debt on His sinless shoulders. Jesus showed mercy when we deserved eternal imprisonment in hell.
The servant is released, and what is his first reaction? To forgive others just like he’d been forgiven? No. He chose to demand payment from someone who owed him a pittance.
When his friends and fellow servants saw the misbehavior, they went to the king. The formerly forgiven servant was “unforgiven” and placed in prison to pay his debt. Jesus promises that this is the fate of those who don’t forgive. Do you want to suffer that fate? I know I don’t.
What did the king expect from his servant? Why did the king forgive the servant in the first place? How does this relate to your relationship with Christ – and your prayer life?
Who do you need to forgive to infinity? Your boss? Spouse? Co-worker? Yourself? Start praying about it. God will show you the way.
See you Friday!