The Debt We Owe

Peter asks Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” With this simple question in Matthew 18 this week, Jesus taught His followers how forgiveness “cut against the grain” of human nature. Peter asked Jesus about the actual extent of forgiveness; was seven times enough? (Note the number “seven” meant complete). In this case, the disciple asked if total forgiveness (seven times) meant the offence would not be mentioned again in a social context. But Jesus knew the human heart; the sin could be set aside in public but fester in private, so He insisted upon continual forgiveness (seven times seventy). Such ongoing forgiveness was part of one’s daily spiritual struggle against personal pettiness.

To drive His point home, Jesus told a parable about a court official who had borrowed (and presumably squandered) an amount so large, it could represent the Gross National Product of the kingdom! The Lord got the attention of His audience with that outrageous claim, but then would top it when the king forgave the man’s debt. Yet when it came to someone owing the court official far less money, he had the man put into debtor’s prison for 100 days wages. In today’s money, the official owed the king over £12 trillion while his fellow servant owed the greedy man more than £20,000. The disparity was obvious and only heightened the moral of the story found in Matthew 18:33 this week: “Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?”

We might get angry when we don’t receive our due. This of course extends beyond monetary issues and includes the many ways in which we may feel done down by others and yet called to forgive.  At those times, we might remember the debt we owe to our Maker, for we owe Him everything.


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