Ep.142: When to Quit Forgiving.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.  

In Matthew 18, Peter asked Jesus, “How many times should I forgive a persistent sinner? Maybe seven times?” Jesus replied, “Don’t stop at seven, try seventy times seven!” 

Then Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a king whose servant owes him twenty bags of gold. In today’s money, that’s 20 or 30 million dollars. 

The servant begs the king, “Be patient and I will pay it all back.” Right. That’s likely to happen. At day labor rates in Jesus’ time, it would take 10,000 years to earn just one bag of gold. This guy is going to pay back 20 bags on a servant’s salary? But the soft-hearted king says, “Why don’t we just forget it? Your debt is cancelled! Off you go.”

Now this servant had a fellow servant who owed him one piece of gold. Not a bag, mind you, just one piece. The servant who just lost his multi-million dollar debt was determined to collect that one piece of gold. The debtor begged, “Be patient with me and I’ll pay it back.” But the forgiven servant sued for his piece of gold, and threw the debtor into prison. 

When the king heard about it, he was angry. He said, “What’s up with this? I forgave your huge debt. That’s a hint about how things work in my kingdom. Clearly you didn’t catch the hint, so now you owe it all again. Off to prison with you, so the jailers can torture you until you pay back all 20 bags worth.” 

Now only death can set that servant free. 

Here’s a list of things that are wrong with the story: 

  1. First, how in the world did the servant manage to rack up a multi-million dollar debt? Didn’t the king do a credit check on him? Why didn’t the king fire him after the first bag or two? I think the king was an irresponsible manager.
  1. Second, the servant’s offer to pay back the debt was totally implausible. The king should have said, “That’s impossible. Can’t be done.” Instead he says, “Let’s just forget the debt.” My credit card company could take a lesson from this king.
  1. And third, when the servant didn’t forgive that small debt , the king retracted his forgiveness and reinstated the multi-million dollar debt. Kind of arbitrary, don’t you think? Does the king just go about offering forgiveness and then retracting it and throwing people in jail? 

But Jesus ignored all that and spelled out one lesson from the story. He said, “This is how my heavenly father will treat you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” 

Let’s pray. 

Jesus, is that how the kingdom of heaven works? We humans owe this massive debt to God because he’s given us ourselves and the whole world, and we’ve messed it up and squandered it and we’re unable to put it right? 

But you say that God will forgive all if we just forgive each other a bit? Is there no sense of proportion? No bookkeeper to track God’s losses? No list of wrongs we must right to make forgiveness kick in? No enforcer who tells applicants to repent?

Jesus, it seems from your story that the only way to receive forgiveness is to give it away. God’s forgiveness is not a bag of gold to hide under a mattress for judgment day. It’s a river that flows from God’s heart into our hearts, washing us clean as it flows in us through us and out into the lives of others. If we try to dam it up into a lake, it no longer works.  

O Jesus, let the river of forgiveness flow. Let it flow from you to us. Let it flow from us to everyone we know. 


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.