Jump Start # 2078
Matthew 18:34-35 “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should 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.”
Our verse today comes from the parable about forgiveness. Parables teach the principles of Heaven. They are not happy stories in which everyone lives happily ever after. Case in point, our verses today are the concluding thoughts of that parable. It ended with a man who was once forgiven being tortured the rest of his life. Not a pleasant thought, nor the way we’d expect a parable ought to end.
This all began with Peter’s question about how often should one be expected to forgive. He suggested up to seven times. The Lord magnified it to seventy times seven. Then the parable. The books are opened and the king finds out that one of his servants owes him 10,000 talents.
A footnote in the New American Standard says “a talent was worth more than 15 years’ wages of a laborer.” This man owed 10,000 talents. Ten thousand times 15 years equals 150,000 years of wages. The time from Adam to Jesus was less than 150,000 years. The time from Adam to us is less than 150,000 years. The earth itself is probably not 150,000 years old. It’s hard for us to understand how this one person got into such a financial hole. Obviously, there was no limit on his credit. He was in big trouble. There wasn’t enough years left in him to even get close to paying this back.
The king orders the man and his entire family to be put in prison. He falls to the ground and begs for forgiveness. It is here that we find the Biblical definition of forgiveness. “The lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.” He was free and clear. Today, he’d be calling in on Dave Ramsey’s program to scream, “I’m Debt Free.” He owed nothing. A new life. Hope. Freedom. All of this is wrapped around the concept of forgiveness.
The forgiven man finds someone who owes him. The amount owed is 100 days wages, about 3 months of pay. Not enough to buy a car. Just a bit more than a security deposit and first month’s rent on an apartment. Easy to work out. The forgiven man began choking the man who owed him. He refused to have patience and ordered the man to be thrown into prison. It seems the forgiven man could not do what was done to him, and that is, forgive. He lacked patience, mercy and kindness. Anger and hatred ruined his heart and colored his vision. He was violent and mean towards the man who owed him. The man says the same words, “Have patience and I will repay you.” Those were the words used from the man who owed 10,000 talents. Those words brought compassion from the king. But now, those same words mean nothing to the forgiven servant. He demanded the man to be thrown into prison. No mercy.
Now, word gets back to the king about what the forgiven man did towards another. This is where our verses are found. This is how the parable ends. The king reversed his ruling, and ordered the man to pay the 10,000 that was owed. The forgiveness was taken back. The debt was put back on the books. He was sent to the torturers until he should repay ALL that was owed to him. The man was back in trouble again. He owed 150,000 years of wages. He would die in the hands of the torturers.
Jesus adds a concluding thought, “My Heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” What does that mean?
We have come to believe that once we are forgiven those sins are gone. They have vanished. They are no where to be found. As Micah states, they are in the depth of the sea. We are washed and we are clean. God has forgotten them and we are set free. However, these verse teach us something else.
First, my forgiveness can be reversed. That’s what happened to the man who owed 10,000 talents. He was forgiven, but later it was reversed because of the way he treated someone else. He owed all 10,000 again. Not just some, but all of it. So, it is possible that all of my sins that have been forgiven can be reversed? I may owe God everything? All the debt? From high school? From college? Decades and decades of sins? This puts us in a hopeless situation. This is the worst thing that could happen. Our sins back on the ledger? We thought they were blotted out. We thought they were washed away. And, here they return.
I haven’t heard many talk about this. I think we hold the view of once our sins are gone, they are gone forever. But this passage doesn’t allow that. The forgiveness was reversed and the what was owed was put back on the books. For us, that means we are not saints, but sinners. What that means is that we do not have Christ. What that means is that we are lost. I wonder how many among us may be like this and do not realize it. I wonder how many continue to worship on Sunday, read their Bibles and believe that they are Heaven bound, but in truth, they are owing God everything. All their sins are back. They are not forgiven. God has reversed things because of how they have treated others.
Second, how we treat others impacts how God treats us. We can’t be mean toward others and expect God to be kind and merciful to us. James says there is no mercy to the one who has no mercy. If we don’t forgive, we won’t be forgiven, is found in the Lord’s example of prayer. So, we best be forgiving others from our heart. Let the bitterness, the demands, the expectations of perfection and the hatred go. Forgiveness is a choice. To forgive is to release a prisoner and to find out that the prisoner was us. Not forgiving chains us to the pain and the hurt. It compels us to tell everyone about it. There’s no moving on, until forgiveness takes place.
The magnitude of this and the seriousness of this is found in that if we can’t forgive someone of something minor, like 100 denarii, God will not forgive us of our 10,000 talents, even if He already has. God can reverse what He has done because of the way we treat others.
Third, nothing is more like Jesus than forgiveness. Anyone can be generous. You can be generous and still and old fool. Anyone can open a door for someone, smile at someone and speak kindly to someone. There are many good parents in the world who are not Christians. But to forgive, is to stand in the shadow of the cross and to take on what Jesus has done to us. Forgive each other, the Ephesians were told, just as God in Christ has forgiven you. God doesn’t owe us forgiveness. God has suffered the hurt. God was the one who was wronged. We are the ones who owe God 10,000 talents or 150,000 years of wages. We are the ones who are in trouble. His compassion, His love, His mercy is what allowed us to have another chance. He released us and forgave us. We owe nothing. That’s the standard. That’s the example. That’s what we must do when we’ve been hurt.
“Well, they at least need to say that they are sorry and that they’ll never do it again.” That means they owe something still. That means they have not been fully released. There’s one final payment and you won’t consider it paid in full until they do that. The king released the debt to the servant. He was debt free. He owed nothing.
It is a haunting thought to think that forgiven people could fall back into massive guilt and debt that is owed to God because we refused to forgive others. Do you want God to demand that you repay all that you have owed to Him? Do you want God to say that you are not forgiven? All your sins are back? All of them! This is not a little thing. Sent to the torturers was the worst thing that could happen. Losing our soul, after we have been forgiven is the worst thing that can happen to us. Losing our soul because we won’t forgive someone else.
Our sins back…what a thought. Forgiveness reversed. Instead of the debt being canceled, the forgiveness was canceled. All because we won’t forgive someone else. The next time you say, “I’ll never forgive him for what he did,” you best think that out. Decades of sin back. Forgiveness canceled. Freedom gone. Back in ruin. Destined for Hell. Why? Because you refuse to forgive.
“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you…”