Through the Bible in One Year

Day 28

Matthew 18:21-35

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Jesus here is answering a very valid question from Peter, because the religious leaders at that time taught that you should forgive someone three times.  So when Peter asked are we supposed to forgive someone who wrongs up to seven times he was asking is it enough to just go above and beyond what tradition teaches.  And Jesus’ response of “seventy-seven times” does not mean that we are only to forgive someone who wrongs seventy-seven times, but it actually means that we are to keep offering forgiveness.  And Jesus illustrates this point by telling a story of two debtors.  The first one owed his creditor around 250 million dollars, and when it came time to pay and he couldn’t he begged for forgiveness and it was granted to him.  And the second debtor owed the first debtor about 100 days wages or around ten-thousand dollars.  However, the difference is that the second debtor begged for forgiveness when he couldn’t pay the first debtor refused and did the same things that he had begged his creditor not to do him to the man who owed him a trivial sum compared to the impossible debt that he had been forgiven.

Jesus here is teaching us something very important here and that is: God’s forgiveness, though freely given to those who confess and turn from their sin, still depends on each individual’s willingness to forgive others.  And we see two hugely important things in this very important parable.  The first is that a person may lose their chance to be forgiven for their sins by God if they hold on to a bitter, resentful and unforgiving heart.  In Ephesians 4:31-32 Paul writes this, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Paul here is saying that bitterness, resentment, hostility and ill will have no place in the Christian faith and must be eliminated.

The second thing that we see is the description of a person who did not want to forgive, but who also resented the fact that he needed to be forgiven.  When this person confronted those who had a small debt with him, surely he remembered the huge debt that had been removed from his account.  In fact, that seemed to be what caused his anger; he acted as if his personal debt had been caused by those who owed him.  While receiving forgiveness from God should not be a difficult matter, it does require humility, admission of guilt and a willingness to change.  Sadly, many people are not willing to adopt this attitude.  As a result, they cannot receive forgiveness from Christ.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Exodus 8-9, Matthew 19:13-30, Psalm 24:1-10 and Proverbs 6:1-5

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