Why forgive?

“Resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other person dies.” – Augustine of Hippo

My sermon on Sunday is on Matthew 18, where Jesus outlines the process of establishing reconciliation when your brother sins against you.  It’s an amazing passage, closing with the brilliant parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35).

In the parable, Jesus describes a servant who owes his master 10,000 talents.  A talent was worth about 20 years salary for a regular worker, so figure $25,000 x 20 x 10,000 = $5,000,000,000. It’s a purposely absurd number for Jesus to use, and highlights the desperate situation of the debtor.

Can you imagine what you’d say to Visa if you were $5 billion behind on your credit card?  “Just give me another month”?  That’s the servant’s reaction. Yeah, like another month or two is going to make the difference.

Then something weird happens: the master forgives the debt, because he has compassion on the man that is $5 billion is debt. Impossible?  Of course.  That’s the point Jesus is trying to get across.  The sort of forgiveness God gives is impossibly extravagant.

The servant then goes out and finds someone who owes him 100 denarius.  A denarius was a days wage, and 100 was about a third of a year’s salary.  Using the $25,000 number from before, that means we’re talking about a debt of $8,000 or so.  The bummer is that sometimes people misrepresent this as “just a few bucks” or an insignificant value. The debt is significant.  $8,000 is a lot of money. Just not in comparison to $5 billion.

Why do I care? Because the debts people owe us (debts Jesus asks us to forgive) are real. Being sinned against hurts, sometimes extraordinarily so.  It’s not insignificant, but it can still pale in comparison to the debt we’ve been forgiven by the One who is perfect.

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