Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold–along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned–to pay the debt.
“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
That’s A Lot of Dough!
In 2015, the average salary in the United States was between $23,000 – $48,000. The median would be $30,500 per year. In this story, according to the King James Version, the man owed 10,000 talents. Both words have deep significance.
Ten thousand was the largest numeral in the Greek language, and a talent was the largest unit of currency of the day. In literal terms it meant this man owed 200,000 years worth of an average man’s wage.
In 2015 terms, this man owed $6.1 billion.
One time I was in debt $100,000 from a business deal gone bad. That stung. I thought I would never get out of the pit I dug. It was only 61,000 times less than what this guy faced.
For him, there was no hope. This guy was up a creek with no paddle in a boat full of holes, and a 10,000 foot waterfall was moments away.
Kingdoms at War
The story isn’t about money though. It’s about two kingdoms at war.
The Kingdom of God is in direct opposition to the kingdom(s) of this world. The deeper you dig into the teachings of Jesus, the more obvious this becomes.
God’s Kingdom is about mercy.
“Then his master was filled with pity for him…”
God operates out of a “mercy first” policy. He forgives when we don’t deserve it. He pardons the sins of the worst sinner. God grants grace upon grace to His creation.
This doesn’t match the kingdom of our every day life. That kingdom says, “You owe me.” Period. No debate.
Do you need a more clear an example than this man? He walks out the gate, sees a man who owes him a fraction of this debt, and he assaults the man.
“He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.”
We read this passage with horror, but why wouldn’t this servant act this way? It’s the culture he lived in (we live in). You owe me! I don’t care what you say. I don’t care what you do. I don’t care about you. You owe me!
Where Do You Live?
Which kingdom are you living in? Are you from the Kingdom of mercy first, or are you dwelling in the kingdom of you owe me?
Forgiveness is releasing the debt owed to you. One of the most difficult challenges in life is truly forgiving someone who has truly hurt you. It’s why Jesus commands Peter to forgive 490 times. I don’t forgive my enemy (or my brother) one time only, but I forgive each time the hurt returns to my heart. That can be over and over and over again.
Search your heart. Are you holding a debt against a friend, a neighbor, a family member? They probably owe you, but will you show mercy anyway? Will you forgive?
Allow the Kingdom of God to enter into that relationship. Forgive.