“Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21 – 22)
I must tell you, beloved reader, some translators think it might have been seventy time seven. Now all due respect to Peter, but I do not think he was mathematician. I would imagine for most people in Jesus’ time the simple task of counting to a hundred would have sufficed for their lives. And the admonition of seventy times what Peter thought it would/should be sounds very poetical. I do not think that Jesus meant for anyone to count off hash marks so they would know they could finally lambaste a member of their faith circle. But if you MUST count, count to four hundred and ninety.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.
When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.” (Verses 23 – 27)
You have to understand, beloved reader, several things. First, any parable about the Kingdom of Heaven is going to have an aspect of mercy and grace that is based on the standards of the Divine. Secondly, a talent would have been a large amount of money, and ten thousand would be somewhere between three to four billion. I am not sure how it would have been understood in Jesus’ time but I think we can assume the total amount the slave owed was beyond any means of repayment. That was the point. Third, just how I have to wonder did he amass such a debt?!??!
“But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt.” (Verses 28 – 30)
By contrast, one hundred denarii could be earned in four months. A while to wait for the repayment to be made, but doable. But the first slave, whose life and the lives of his family were just saved from permanent slavery, did not want to wait; however he made it impossible for the second slave to pay him back. In fact the same sort of impossibility that the first slave faced in trying to repay his enormous debt.
“When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.” (Verse 31)
It pleases me that in this parable the fellow slaves look out for one another. Yesterday my title and theme was “Caring for those we journey with”. This verse/statement alone establishes the very foundation at what I wanted to get at yesterday. No matter what the circumstances or one’s beliefs or life station, we need to support each other.
“Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.” (Verses 32 – 34)
It is important to be mindful, beloved reader, that the king in this parable is NOT the Divine. The parable itself portrays what things are like in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Lord God does not count or account for our debts and sins. We are forgiven at the asking. What this parable is meant to teach is that since grace, mercy, and forgiveness are freely given to us, we should bestow the same grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
Now I know for a fact that those who did not forgive when they have been forgiven are turned over to the “torturer” or “tormentor”. But those unforgiving souls have placed themselves in a situation where their eternal soul is endangered. Do you remember last week in the Gospel passage where Jesus is advising his listeners on how to deal with those who have sinned against them? And how to win them back? Those who even when the church body as a whole invites to them reconciliation turns it down – they will be dealt with as if they are tax collectors and Gentiles. In other words, unfortunates that need to be saved and redeemed.
“So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Verse 35)
There have been times and periods in my life when forgiving someone has stretched me thin, and taken time to leave the hurt behind. But I did it eventually. It was not for their sake that I did that, but for my own. Energy and thought that is put towards a grievance not resolved takes away from our spirit and emotions – doubly so. First there is the energy and thought that is diverted; then there is the negative energy and thought that is created. It just is not worth, and accomplishes nothing. Live in harmony, beloved reader, and “labor” well under the Lord God the Divine in whatever you are called to do. Shalom & Selah!