Remember This The Next Time You Can’t Forgive

We’re not very good at forgiving, are we? We tend to hang on to our need for justice.

When it comes to airing grievances, Lori and I are pretty much opposites. She is a firework: It’s epic, it’s loud and then it’s over. Time to move on.

I’m more like a sparkler. It takes a lot to get me lit, but once I’m mad I burn for a long, long time.

While Lori has long forgotten the argument—Hey, what sounds good for dinner?—I’m still stewing.

In my life there have been times when I was ridiculed, times when I’ve felt betrayed, times when people have exploited me.

And, there have been many, many times when I have not wanted to forgive; to be honest, times I have refused to forgive.

We’re not very good at forgiving, are we? We tend to hang on to our need for justice.

And then, the Holy Spirit comes and lovingly convicts us. Take for instance, Jesus’ telling of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant:

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 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.
So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 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.’
So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 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.
Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:23-35 (ESV)

I have read this passage many times, but never fully understood the depth of the Jesus’ message until I did a little investigating. Here’s what I found:

The second servant, the one who was indebted to and mistreated by the first servant, owed 100 denari. A denarius was a Roman silver coin that, for common laborers, equaled a day’s wages (something Jesus confirms in Matthew 20:1-2). Let’s say the second servant could give a fourth of his daily wage toward the debt. Doing so would settle his account with the first servant in less than two years. Very manageable.

The first servant, however, had a debt that was unpayable; he owed the King 10,000 talents. Just one talent was a huge amount of money, equal to 6,000 denarii, or roughly 16.5 years of wages. Multiply that by 10,000 and it would have taken the first servant 165,000 years to settle his debt. It was humanly impossible!

By the way, the largest unit of currency in those days was the talent and the largest number that could be expressed was 10,000.

Why was Jesus using such gross exaggerations in teaching his disciples? To drive home his point: It is impossible for any of us to ever repay our debt to the one true King.

But, what does the king in this parable do? He forgives the debt; 165,000 years of payments canceled! Surely this had to be the largest forgiving of a debt in history.

Can you imagine having such a burden lifted from you? What would you do? I might be tempted to kiss everyone coming down the street!

But, what does the servant do? His impossible debt now forgiven, he is merciless toward someone who owes him a relatively small sum.

Are you seeing the deeper meaning here?

After what Jesus did at the cross to wipe away a debt I could never make right, how can I not forgive?

Jesus loved those who crucified him. Can I not love those who have wronged me?

Let’s not overlook the warning that Jesus gives about harboring unforgiveness: the unmerciful servant was sent to prison until the debt was repaid; in essence, sentenced to eternal imprisonment and torture.

God is loving and he is merciful. But, he is also just.

Choose today to forgive, as you have been forgiven.

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The Epistle of Jesus to the Church: A Commentary on the Revelation

How Much is 10,000 Talents…?

Author Rodney Brandt

Rodney Brandt is passionate about his Christian faith and helping others discover the life God has intended for them.

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