Matthew 18:21-22 – “Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.“ NKJV
If you will notice from verse twenty-three forward Jesus relates one of the incredible parables about ‘forgiveness’ and/or the lack thereof. We have the ‘king’, the ‘servant’ he forgave and the ‘servant’ whom this servant refused to forgive. In verse thirty-two when the king finds out about this he summons the unforgiving servant and said, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.” Incredible!
I have learned that in Christianity or Christian circles so often the claim to spirituality fails miserably on the forgiveness front. We are to forgive ‘just as…’ but here we see something of what is involved in ‘forgiveness’ and ‘unforgiveness.’ We read this story with a Western mentality and miss some of the revelation provided. The coinage is important for they do not speak in dollars and cents they talk about talents and denarii so we must wrap our heads around a society over 2,000 years ago and hear what they heard. They are hearing it from one of the most astounding story tellers of all time, Jesus.
The servant is brought before the king and owes ‘ten thousand talents’. We have little concept of talents and/or denarii so what does that equate to for us? 10,000 talents = 6,000 denarii and the average worker earned about 6 denarii a week. It would take 1,000 weeks (20 years) to earn 1 talent but this is 10,000 x 1000 weeks. What is Jesus saying? The debt was impossible to repay. In fact the annual taxes for Judea, Galilee, Samaria, Pariea and Idemoea were only about 800 talents total and this man owes 10,000 talents. Can you feel this? The man pleads for an extension and the king refused to give an extension but rather ‘released’ and ‘forgave’ the debt. It is important to see both words in this context. The king let the man go free. However you have to understand that debts do not just go away so in a real sense the king paid the debt and it was an incredibly costly act of benevolence on his part. The wages of sin is death and Jesus paid our debt! This is more than just an act of benevolence that can be causally passed over it is astounding!
This servant apparently missed the awesomeness of this act of the king for we find him confronting another who owed him 100 denarii. Comprehend this if you will 100 Denair is 1/600,000th of the debt the other was forgiven. 100 denarii is a sizable debt but payable. If you converted 10,000 talents into nickels it would take 8,600 men carrying sacks of nickels weighing 60 pounds each. If they walked with about 3 feet between them the line would be 5 miles long but if you take 100 denarii and convert it to nickels you could carry it in your pocket. Are you catching this?
The debtors used the identical words asking for patience one was forgiven an unpayable sum and the other refused patience for a payable sum. When we forgive, we release or we have not forgiven! We unlock the prison and let them walk free for we are releasing them to God! Likewise when we refuse to forgive we ‘put them in chains’ and in so doing bring to ourselves incredible hurt. There will never be a moment peace as a result we cannot retrieve that which is owed and the wound festers and grows.
Notice the king did not intervene it was a matter between servants. One person with an unforgiving spirit can wreck the local congregation. Remember Achan? One man affected the entire nation of Israel. When I refuse to forgive I am blocking the supply route spiritually to that person and affecting the entire body. I won’t get into it but if you read the rest of the story you find that the king called the unforgiving servant back in and ultimately turned him over to the torturers due to his unforgiving heart. The king did not reverse his decision he and his family were not thrown into prison as was first decreed. No he was handed over to the torturers until the debt was paid which it would never be. They were Middle-Eastern bill collectors and nasty folks at that. They came by regularly as a reminder and although he was still in his home and his family not sold as slaves it was mentally, physically and emotionally draining. He left the other servant in jail so he clearly did not get it.
Here is what I want you to catch in verse thirty-five Jesus said, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespass.” Remember the words of the Lord, “Forgive us our debts AS we forgive our debtors.” Sin is our debt we owe God and it is a debt that can never be satisfied by man. I owe and have to pay but I cannot pay for you cannot forgive yourself and wipe away sin. But Jesus comes and forgives us and opens the supply routes so that we can be free. If I have been forgiven an unpayable debt how can I refuse to forgive pocket change?
How often shall I forgive my brother? The message of Jesus was an infinite number of times if necessary remembering our own forgiveness! You will hurt me if you fail to forgive me but you will hurt yourself even more. When we forgive we release those we have forgiven and the life flow of God comes to us like a refreshing river.
May God be with you as you go through this day!