A Real Debt
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?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. 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."
Over the years I've heard this parable so many times, and the one thing that usually gets emphasized is the huge difference between the size of the two debts. And the lesson we go away with is usually, "Look how much God forgives you. The sins that other people commit against you are tiny in comparison. So just forgive them, okay?"
The problem with this lesson isn't that it's wrong. It's absolutely correct. And yet, it's just not that helpful—at least to me.
Why? I think because what my neighbor did to me was so real and so hurtful to my eyes—so costly in terms of pain and trouble. I can't say, "Oh, this is nothing, I'll just let it go. It doesn't matter to me." Because it does matter.
Jesus recognizes this fact. In His parable, He mentions the amount the second servant owes—a hundred denarii. That isn't fifty cents, or a couple of dollars. It's the equivalent of four months' wages for one of those servants. In modern terms, we're talking the cost of a decent used car. And if someone treats us badly on that level, it matters—even if our own sins against God are astronomically higher.
So why bring this up? Because Jesus doesn't call us to pretend that our hurts and damage don't matter—they absolutely do. What He calls us to do is different. We need to face up to the pain and hurt that the other person's sin has cost us—to tell the truth, to admit that it does matter, not to minimize it—and then, with God's help, to forgive it anyway. That's real forgiveness—costly, difficult forgiveness.
Who can do this? Only someone who has Jesus living inside them—someone through whom Jesus Himself is acting. After all, when He forgave all our sins and debt to God, He knew exactly what it cost. It cost Him the cross. Jesus is the master of difficult forgiveness. And if we bring our hurts and grief to Him, He can work miracles of forgiveness in our own lives and relationships. It may take time and a lot of pain. But He can heal us—and show mercy to others through us.
Lord, help me when I can't seem to forgive others. Amen.
Dr. Kari Vo
1. When did someone show mercy to you?Use these devotions in your newsletter and bulletin! Used by permission; all rights reserved by the Int'l LLL (LHM).
2. What is the difference between forgiving and ignoring or excusing?
3. Is there someone you are struggling to forgive? Ask the Lord for help.
Over the years I've heard this parable so many times, and the one thing that usually gets emphasized is the huge difference between the size of the two debts.