Today’s Bible Reading:
Exodus 5:22-7:25; Matthew 18:21-19:12; Psalm 23:1-6; Proverbs 5:22-23
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:21-22)
To illustrate what forgiveness looks like Jesus then goes on to tell a parable to help us understand the kingdom of heaven. There was a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. A servant was brought before him who owed him “ten thousand talents.” In today’s terms we are talking billions of dollars. Just to put that in perspective; it would have taken him over 200,000 years to earn the amount he owed. This was not a debt that was ever going to be paid. The king knew that even as the man pleaded with him to be patient with him claiming that he would repay it all. It would be an impossible task. Such is the enormity of the debt we owe to God. But instead of glorying in the great mercy and grace he is shown by the king who completely forgives his debt; he then turns around and demands repayment of a loan made to a fellow servant.
Now this servant owed the man 100 denarii, which is approximately $36.00. Here he has been forgiven billions and he has not the heart to forgive $36. Instead, he treats his fellow servant with cruelty, refusing to forgive and having him thrown into prison.
Jesus closes this parable with these very sobering words,
So when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their master all that had happened. Then summoning him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his master, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he would repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:31-35, emphasis mine)
Do you see how Jesus answered Peter’s original question? If we truly grasp what great a debt God has forgiven of us we would not ask the question in the first place. We would freely forgive as we have been forgiven. And yet I struggle sometimes. How many times has God forgiven me for some sin I repeat over and over and over again? He forgives me every single time. He has forgiven me for every time I have yet to commit that same sin. There is no limit to God’s forgiveness of the great debt I owe. And He tells me very plainly there should be no limit to my forgiveness of others either. In fact there seems to be a very scary line in the close of this parable and I it makes me quite uncomfortable
John Piper illuminates this point in a sermon series he did on forgiveness:
The point of Matthew 6:15 and 18:35 is that if we hold fast to an unforgiving spirit, we will be handed over to the tormentors. We will lose heaven, and gain hell.
The reason is not because we can earn heaven or merit heaven by forgiving others, but because holding fast to an unforgiving spirit proves that we do not trust Christ. If we trust him, we will not spurn his way of life. If we trust him, we will not be able to take forgiveness from his hand for our million dollar debt and withhold it from our ten dollar debtor. (https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/as-we-forgive-our-debtors)
May grace, peace, and mercy abound,