This is something that’s been rattling around in my heart for quite a while now. I just haven’t managed to post it until now.
My pastor was recently talking about the seriousness of unforgiveness… how it not only hurts the one holding onto it, but if you take Jesus’s parable in Matthew 18 literally, might keep the unforgiving one out of heaven. He was talking about how forgiveness is often so difficult.
Yet, for me, forgiveness is usually not difficult (at least not compared to how I see others struggle with it), and I wondered why. I thought it had something to do with the compassion that often fills my heart toward those who have wronged me or those I love… knowing that person is miserable inside – often more miserable than the one they wronged.
But then we “happened” to get to Matthew 18 in the Bible reading I (sporadically) do with my kids. Once again, God showed me things through the questions my kids asked. (For those that don’t get anything out of their Bible reading, I really do recommend that you sit down with an adult translation and just read it to your kids. It’s absolutely amazing what you’ll start to see, as you read it through a child’s eyes.)
This parable starts out saying that there was a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. The king, of course, represents God, the slaves represent us, and the debts the slaves owed represent sins we have committed against others and God.
A slave was brought to him who owed ten thousand talents of silver. Now, when you read the Bible to kids, you have to expect that they won’t be satisfied with simply being told that talents was the kind of money they used in the Bible, so ten thousand must be a lot. They want to know how much… which means you, as the reader, have to find that out. So I looked in the references of my NASB, read that a talent was worth more than fifteen years’ wages, multiplied that by the 10,000 that the slave owed, and suddenly realized that this slave owed 150,000 years worth of money! That makes the simple biblical statement that it was more than the man could repay seem totally inadequate.
So take your yearly income, whatever it happens to be, and multiply it by 150,000. Now imagine yourself owing that amount of money to a king. Let’s say you’re Average American Joe and you make 32,000/year before taxes and insurance and all the rest of the bills that must be paid before we can even throw anything against our debt. If that’s so, you would owe that king 4.8 billion dollars. Eeeek!
Let’s continue. In this story, the slave was going to then be sold, along with his wife and children, to pay back a small portion of the debt. The man fell on his face and begged the king for mercy. He vowed to repay everything, even though he had to have known that only a miracle would make that possible.
What did the king do? He didn’t say, “Okay. Keep working and paying as much as you can. I’ll take what I can get.” No, he had compassion on the man and forgave him the entire 4.8 billion dollars.
The man then went out and happened across another slave. This slave owed him one hundred denarii. Once again, my kids wanted to know how much that was. The references said that a denarius was a day’s wages. So one hundred denarii is a little more than one quarter of a year’s wages. So Average American Joe is owed roughly $8,000 by this person. That’s quite a bit of money. If someone owed me that, I would be hoping and praying that they would be able to pay it back to me.
And Average American Joe wasn’t much different, except he was more forceful. He began to choke the man, demanding the money now. The other slave fell on his face, and begged for mercy and more time, but the man said, “No!” and had him thrown into prison. This is symbolic of what we do when we do not forgive… even an $8,000 offense.
The scary thing is what happened next. The king heard of this, and condemned Average American Joe to torture!
So many Christians read this story and are instantly hit with guilt. They are having trouble forgiving someone of something, and they know it. Or perhaps they’ve never understood the significance of what happened to the slave in the end, and they’ve been unwilling to forgive someone something that the person did, or should have done and didn’t do. (Those are often the hardest to forgive.)
What I want to share is that forgiveness can be easy when you remember the beginning of this story.
What if someone walked up to you and handed you $10,000? You’d be thrilled.
Then, what if that person then told you to give someone else $8,000 of it? Could you do it? Would it be easy?
I’d like to think that I could, but I know for a fact that it wouldn’t be easy. Sure, I’d still have $2,000 left over, but $8,000 is a lot to give up!
But what if, as you were thinking and struggling with giving up the $8,000, that person informed you that the $10,000 was only a small portion of what he’d really given you. He opened up his laptop, logged into a Swiss bank account in your name, and showed you the balance. 4.8 billion dollars.
Then would giving the $8,000 be easy? Of course it would!
And that’s the point I’m trying to make. When forgiveness is difficult… when it seems that it’s just more than we can manage… when we simply don’t know how, or don’t think it’s even in us to offer… there’s an easy answer.
I think sometimes we’re guilty of thanking God for the $10,000 He’s forgiven us. Or perhaps we’re very conscious of where we’ve been and what we’ve done, and we’re so grateful that He’s forgiven us $500,000 worth of sin. In reality, I don’t think any of us really have a clue. If we could truly see that 4.8 billion dollar bank account of forgiveness… a bank account, I might add, that never dwindles, no matter how many withdrawals we make… it will be easy to forgive.
All we need to do is ask God to give us the revelation of how much He’s forgiven us, and forgiveness just gets easier and easier.