In the 1950’s the first credit card was created for mass usage by the general public. Today most people carry one or more of these cards, using them to pay for things both big and small. Not only do most people carry them, but the average American household carries $14,687 in debt on those cards. Debt is not something that most people seek out, but struggle to get out from under. Imagine if you woke up one day, and you were informed all of your debt had been cancelled. The head of VISA or MasterCard decided that all of the debt you owed them would be forgiven, no strings attached. Most people would line up for the chance to have their debt erased for free.
Jesus tells a story like this in the New Testament. A king is taking care of some outstanding debts owed to him, and calls in one of debtors (Matthew 18:23-35). One man owes the king 10,000 talents. For perspective one talent was about 20 years of wages for a common worker. This man owed the king 200,000 years of wages, or 1 year of wages from 200,000 people. Either way a mountain of debt that is just staggering. When the man cannot pay, the king is prepared to punish him, but then the story changes, “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.” (Matthew 18:26-27, ESV) Just like that the debt is gone!!!! I imagine the man kissing the king and dancing out the door with joy, but he does not. “But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (about 3 months wages), and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.” (Matthew 18:28, 30, ESV) When the king hears what happened he throws the debtor who owed 10,000 talents in jail because he did not reciprocate the grace and forgiveness given to him.
Why do you think Jesus tells this story to teach us about forgiveness? The end of this story trips me up each time I read it, a man who had an unthinkable amount of debt has it forgiven, and then he turns around and won’t forgive someone who owes him a drop in the bucket compared to what he had forgiven. I wonder how often we are just like the man who owed 10,000 talents. We are broken, sinful people. What we owe God to cover all our mistakes and shortcomings is an amount we could never begin to pay back. God’s call us as those whose debts have been forgiven, to share that forgiveness with others. Share it in ways that make people scratch their heads, wonder, and even ask, why? God’s grace is extended to us even though we could never do anything to earn it, so let us remember Jesus words, “For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15, TNIV) May we be bearers of God’s grace and forgiveness to others, remembering the forgiveness and grace that has been extended to us.
- Which character in Jesus parable do you most relate to? Why?
- Why do you think it is important that we forgive others in the same way we have been forgiven?
- How might you respond to God for the debt he has forgiven you from?