Service for July 12, 2020 — “Forgive Us Our Debts as We Forgive Our Debtors.”
15When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.
18His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.
19But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
Psalm: Psalm 98 on page 89 in Christian Worship
Sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things.
The Lord has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing.
Shout for joy before the Lord, the King.
He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
2 Corinthians 2:5-11:
5If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
21Then 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?”
1 22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Or seventy times seven).
23“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold (Greek ten thousand talents; a talent was worth about 20 years of a day laborer’s wages) was brought to him. 25Since 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.
26“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins (Greek a hundred denarii; a denarius was the usual daily wage of a day laborer ). He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
You come across this every once in a while. A movie or TV show will tell a story in backwards order. You will see the last scene and then each scene that you see will explain a little bit about how the characters got there. Maybe the most famous example of that is the movie Memento in which you watch how a person with no short term memory was brought to the point where he killed somebody. The TV show Seinfeld also did this in one of their later seasons. In that episode, you finally find out why it is that Kramer is always popping over into Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment. Today, I’m going to ask that you try to do that with this parable. It is a familiar parable. I have preached on it several times. But I want you to imagine that you’ve never heard the parable before and I’m going to start with the end of it and work toward the beginning. While we are doing that, we are going to look at the 5th petition of the Lord’s Prayer.
Forgive Us Our Debts
I. As we forgive others
II. So forgive us.
So, here is this servant. He is standing before his King. His King has just pronounced the harshest sentence that he could possibly dish out for the man’s particular crime. He sentenced this man to life in prison with hard labor added every day of his miserable future existence. The man is shaking in his shoes. He knows that he deserves exactly what he is going to get. How did this man Get there?
Let’s go a little back in story. Here this man is, an official who serves the King and who is in charge of gathering the tribute of the nation that the King has made him an overseer of, and he is just walking down the street one day when he sees someone that he recognizes. This man is a fellow servant. And all of a sudden, it occurs to him that this is a man who owes him a debt. How much of a debt is it? Well, when we Read this parable in the Gospel of Matthew, we hear that the debt is 100 denarii. Well, that doesn’t sound like an awful lot. But let’s look at it through the eyes of this man. We hear that amount and we think of maybe about $100. That’s no sweat. That’s something I could do without for a day or two. However, this is actually the equivalent of 100 days wages. Let’s figure a day’s wages being about $100 in and of itself. That means this man owes him $10,000. Is that an amount that you could just blow off? Well, this man certainly didn’t think that it was.
When he saw this man and realized the debt that he owed to him, he did what he thought was reasonable. He went up to the man and demanded repayment. After all, $10,000 could go an awful long way to making his life a little bit easier. He could maybe pay off some debts, or buy something that he’d been thinking about getting for some time, or put it away into savings, etc etc etc. This man, though, told him that he just didn’t have it. This enraged the man , this servant of the King. He grabbed his fellow servant, shook him by his shirt collar, and said that if he couldn’t pay back what was owed him he would throw him into debtors prison. All of the man’s pleading went to no avail. The servant took his fellow servant to the debtors prison, handed him over to the jailer, and hoped that this action would bring him his money back in a speedier fashion than he was expecting at the time. This is something that played itself out many times in Jesus day. Roman records show us that this is how debts were handled on a regular basis. If someone could not repay their debt, they were thrown into jail. This man thought he was justified.
His actions, though, were absolutely not justified. It was almost as if he had forgotten what had just taken place. He forgot that he had been in the same position that this fellow servant of his had been in, except that his position had been much, much worse. He had stood before the King before whom he would stand at the end of this parable. He, because of his position, owed the King quite a lot of money. How much money did this man owe him? We are told that he owed this King 10,000 talents. Again, since we are not familiar with Roman weights and measures, this figure doesn’t mean an awful lot to us. What is a talent? A talent is a unit of weight which has been calculated at differing amounts depending on which system of weights and measures is used. It was quite a lot, though. People usually calculate a talent’s weighing somewhere between 60 and 75 pounds. So, how much did he owe? Well, let’s assume that he owed 10,000 talents of gold. This would be a fair assumption since this man was the representative of his government. And that is how official national debts would be paid. This means the man owed the King somewhere between 600,000 and 750,000 pounds of gold. Keep in mind, Jesus was trying to make this as big an amount as you could possibly make it. In the Greek numbering system 10,000 is the highest number that they had a name for. Jesus was telling the people to imagine as much money as they possibly could and that this was how much this man owed the King.
This man did not have the money. He was shaking and quaking before the King knowing that the King had the right to make him a slave for the rest of his life. So he did the only thing that he could do, he got down on his knees before his King, and he begged that the King would have some kind of mercy on him. The King took pity on the man And forgave him everything. He forgave that entire amount of the 750,000 pounds of gold that he owed him. what an amazing thing! The King had shown The most amazing amount of mercy that anyone could possibly imagine. Think of it, writing off a debt that size.
This is something that should have stuck with the man for the rest of his life. He should have gone through his life thinking of almost nothing but the great kindness that the King had shown to him. But what do we see, he pounces on someone who owes him a pittance in comparison to what he had told the King. $10,000 is nothing in comparison to the millions and billions of dollars that he had owed the King. Yep, it seemed as if the King’s unbelievable act of generosity had not rubbed off on him at all. He demands payment, he throws the man in jail, his actions are reported, and we are where we were at in the beginning of this sermon. We are watching this man Being thrown into debtors prison to be tortured for the rest of his miserable existence.
I have always thought that this was one of the clearest parables that Jesus never spoke. We know who the King is, we know who the servant is, we know what the amount is the King forgave, we know what was owed this servant by his fellow servant, and we know what the final destination of that servant is. There is a reason why I told the parable in reverse order, though. It has to do with the way that we perceive the sins of others against us.
There are some sins that we can just blow off when someone commits them against us. Someone steps on our foot and they clearly didn’t realize it. They say that they’re sorry. We forgive them. Someone gets angry at us. We see that it was just a momentary lapse. They think about it after a little while. They come back apologizing profusely. We forgive them. It’s no problem at all.
However, there are those sins that seemed to be just above and beyond all those normal sins. When someone deliberately hurts us, when they take away something that is precious to us, it seems like all of that $10,000 debt that the one servant owed the other one. There are things that people do to us it just seemed to be unforgivable. You know the kinds of sins that I mean. You know the ones that you can remember that people did to you years and years ago as if it just happened a moment ago. You know those incidents of betrayal and cruelty that people have committed against you. Those are the things that seem impossible to forgive.
It is when we consider sins like that that we need to remember this parable and we need to remember what it seems as if we have forgotten. We need to remember that our sin against God is that amount of 10,000 talents in this parable. It’s an amount that is so huge that it is hard to imagine. That was the point in Jesus parable. However, that kind of debt was hanging over our heads. That debt consists of everything that we have ever committed against over God. It includes all the times where we did not put him first in our lives. It goes on to all those times that we did not keep God’s name holy through the things that we said and did. It continues on all through the 10 commandments. Every single one of those contains examples of ways in which we have thumbed our noses at our God. Any one of them would be worth the ultimate punishment from a holy God. And look at how many of them we have stacked up. What has our God done, though? He did exactly what the King did in this parable. He Simply put all of those aside. More than that, he had his son pay the debt that we owe through his life and through his death. He even put aside all those times that we carry a grudge and refuse to forgive.
That brings us, in a roundabout way, to the subject of today’s sermon. We are talking about the 5th petition, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” If we look at this petition in a backwards sort of way, we have to remember that we have not done what we speak about in this petition. There have been so many times when the sin committed against us seems so grievous that we did not forgive it. However, we know that our God offers forgiveness even for this. That is why, when we pray this petition, we are asking that God remind us of the incredible debt that we owe him, a debt that was completely forgiven. We want that, therefore, to live and breathe in our lives so that we see the sins of others as God would have us see them. We are praying for our forgiveness and we are also praying for our ability to forgive.
This, finally, brings us to the introduction of this parable. Peter asked his Lord how often he should forgive someone when they sinned against him . He thought he was generous in saying that he would be willing to forgive 7 times. Jesus reminds Peter that, just as he has been forgiven an infinite number of times for his sins, God would like us to forgive as many times as we need to forgive. with this question and this parable in mind, we pray this petition in the Lord’s prayer. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Amen.