A Slave For Christ Part 5
Scripture: Matthew 18:21-35
This morning we will begin reading some of the parables and other teachings Jesus gave as it related to slaves and their relationship with their masters. As we read through these different scriptures, please keep in mind that the messages that Jesus is delivering is really about our relationship with Him and His Father. If we learn to become slaves to Christ mentally then it will become evident physically as we live our lives here on earth. Let’s begin with Matthew 18:21-35.
I. A Message About Forgiveness
In this first parable Jesus uses the relationship between a slave and his master to teach the disciples about forgiveness. In verse twenty-one, Peter asked Jesus how many times he had to forgive his brother when he sinned against him and he asked if it was seven times. The reason Peter asked if it was seven times is because that is what the current teachings were at the time. Seven was the number of completeness and plurality and some rabbis had fixed this limit on forgiveness based on their interpretation of Amos 1:3. The Jews during this time were very fond of defining and limiting moral obligations, as if they could be accurately prescribed by number. When Jesus gave him his answer, it was not what Peter was expecting to hear. Jesus basically told the disciples they are to forgive a brother as often as they sinned against them. Christ demolishes the attempt to define by law the measure of grace. To make His point, Jesus told the following story. Let’s begin reading at verse 22.
(22) “Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (23) For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. (24) When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. (25) But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. (26) So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ (27) And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. (28) But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ (29) So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ (30) But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. (31) So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. (32) Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. (33) Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ (34) And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. (35) My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
We have all read this Scripture and we understand God’s view of forgiveness. Forgiving someone is the hardest thing that we are commanded to do in this life. So many times we place conditions on the forgiveness and yet when we go before God for forgiveness, we want it without any type of conditions whatsoever. Even though we understand God’s position on this subject, this morning I want to examine this Scripture from a slave’s viewpoint. Now you may be considering what is the different between our current viewpoint and the viewpoint of a slave and it is about relationship. Currently we view forgiveness as something we “ought” to do or something we have been “asked” to do. A slave would view forgiveness in these verses as something they “had” to do; without having the option of not doing it. This is the difference between our mentality and that of a slave. Let’s begin with Peter’s initial question.
Peter asked this question out of a true curiosity. He knew what the rabbis taught and he had been with Jesus long enough to know that Jesus’ thoughts on the subject might be totally different. When he asked the question and threw in the option of forgiving someone seven times, that was based on the current teaching at the time as I’ve already mentioned. In asking about the seven times, Peter was confirming what he thought was the correct answer. In verse twenty-two, Jesus told him he was wrong and in his statement told Peter that you forgive whenever there is an offense. Even though Jesus used the statement “up to seventy times seven” what He was saying was that there is no limit. No one would keep track of having to forgive one person 490 times so the actual number is irrelevant. After Jesus said this, He told Peter “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.” (23) For what reason? For the very reason that Peter asked the question; people did not feel obligated to forgive freely and without condition. Again, if you’re thinking like we do today, forgiveness is an “option” based on our choice to do it and the person’s deserving it. Because of this, Jesus wanted Peter and everyone else to know that in God’s eyes, there was no limit or “option”. To fully convey this thought Jesus turned to the relationship between a king and his slave. In this relationship the slave has no choice. Jesus said that this mentality can be compared to the Kingdom of God because if we are slaves of Christ and therefore of God, we have no choice. But I am getting ahead of myself so let’s go back to the story Jesus told His disciples.
Jesus began telling His disciples about a king who decided to settle his accounts with his slaves. The king called his first slave to him. This slave owed the king ten thousand talents. So that you have an idea of how much this was, one talent was equal to more than fifteen years wages for an average laborer. Let’s say the average laborer wage today is $8 per hour and they worked 40 hours per week. This would equal an annual wage of $16,604. If you take this amount and multiply it by fifteen years it would equal $249,600. One talent today would equal $249,000. This means that this slave owed his king $2,496,000,000. Keep this in mind for later that this slave owed his king over two point four billion dollars if we used today amount of $8 per hour. When the king asked his slave to pay, the slave could not. The king then ordered that the man, his family and everything that he owned to be sold to make the repayment. The slave then fell to the ground and asked the king to have patience with him and he would repay all. The king felt compassion for his slave and forgave him the debt.
Before I go further in the story I want you to consider what this king did and how Jesus said this was like the kingdom of God. Consider the multitude of things we have done and had to go before the throne of God for. We have stood before His presence and asked for forgiveness. We did not ask God what penance or conditions He would place on Him giving us the forgiveness, we just asked for it and believed that we had received it. As I am writing this message today, they are having the funeral of Whitney Houston. This week the news has been flooded with her image and all of the things that she did wrong. They focused on the drug and alcohol abuse and all of the things that went wrong in her life. They talked briefly about how she grew up in Church but they did not go into her love for God. They did not talk about the good she did even in the midst of her addiction. I was talking with someone this week about the stress and pressure she was constantly under and how that can cause someone to look for peace and relief in drugs and alcohol. But what has been most disturbing to me is how some Christians have regarded the failures of her life as overshadowing what she knew her within herself about her relationship with God. You see believe what was placed within her at a young age remained until the day she left here last Saturday. I don’t care what the pundits say about what she did, I believe that in her lowest moment the God she believed in was there for her. Yes she was not perfect, but neither are we, but we are striving to get there. But this week and I thought about this message and the whole concept of forgiveness and if God can forgive me, He could forgive Whitney Houston. I cannot stand and judge her life as I have not taken one step in her footstep. But what I can tell you is that if she loved the Lord as much as she said she did and it appears that she did, then the struggles she had are over; her forgiveness complete. But for those who remain behind and are still talking about her life and failures, they need to consider this story. Jesus said the actions of this king are comparable to those of our Heavenly Father. Please keep this in mind. We love it when God forgives us, but there is more.
After this slave had received his forgiveness, he left the king’s presence and went out and found a fellow slave who owned him a hundred denarii. The denarii were equal to one days’ wage. So using the same example from before of a laborer’s wage of $8 per hour working eight hours a day his fellow slave owed him $6,400. Remember that he owed the king two point four billion dollars or 390,000 times more than what his fellow slave owed him. If anyone had a reason to forgive the debt of another, it was this slave. But that is not what happened. He demanded that his fellow slave pay him what he was owed. When the slave begged for patience and promised to repay it all instead of forgiving his fellow slave, he took the slave and threw him in prison until he could repay. This slave did exactly what we often do. We ask for forgiveness for ourselves (without conditions) but when we are dealing with our “fellow slaves” we want what we believed we are owed. If the person we believe owe us something does not pay up in the way in which we want them to, then not only are we not willing to forgive them, we are not willing to consider forgiveness without conditions. We need to read this story! Let me continue with the story.
After the other slaves witnessed what this slave had done, they went to the king and told the king about the situation. The king was furious. He summoned the slave to his presence and reminded him of what he had done for him. Then he told the slave because he had done same for his fellow slave, he would require that he make his payment. The king was so mad that he did not sell the slave and his family he turned him over to the tormentors until he could repay all. Did you see the change? When he summoned the slave to his presence, he called him a wicked slave. The king believed that he was wicked because of his actions in not willing to forgive a fellow slave. Before when he initially forgave the slave, the slave just represented a slave who could not pay his debt and therefore the king was willing to sell him, his family and all that he owned to get his payment. Now because his opinion of the slave had changed, he was turning him over to the tormentors until he could repay the debt. This change was caused by the slave refusing to forgive his fellow slave after he had received forgiveness. His choice to not forgive caused the king to label him as a wicked slave. Look at the last verse, verse thirty-five.
Verse thirty-five says “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” Jesus did not say that that God “might” do the same. He did not say that God “probably”; “could”; or possibly do the same. What Jesus said was that God “will” do the same. This is a given. If we failed to forgive then our heavenly Father will respond to us just as this king responded to his slave. This is about relationship.
II. A Slave’s Mentality On Forgiveness
I have shared with you previously that our view of forgiveness is that it is optional based on the circumstances; the person causing the offense; and whether or not the person asks us to forgive them. We believe that we have options as it relates to forgiveness. We have the option to forgive or not forgive based on the seriousness of the crime. We believe that God will be ok with us not forgiving because we were hurt so badly. We believe that we have the right to justice and part of that justice comes through us not having to forgive someone, especially if they are still doing what they did to begin with. In our mind forgiveness is earned and when it is not earned it is not given. In our minds, the option of forgiveness rests solely with me since I was the one offended.
As I’ve shared with you before, this is about relationship. If we have a slave’s mentality then by the shear understanding of being a slave we know that when the Master says to do something we have to do it. Forgiveness for a slave of God is not a choice; it is not an option; it is a commandment!
I wanted to share this story because it is easy for us to say that we want to be a slave for Christ, but in reality we do not really know the fullness of what it means. If you read this story and apply the logic of being a slave then you must ask yourself if you are a slave for Christ. Do you have a slave’s mentality? In the area of forgiveness; are you holding on to something and not expecting God to honor His word? Are you refusing to forgive and not expecting God to do something about it? Unforgiveness has been linked to a lot of things, but especially physical ailments. If you cannot forgive are you really expecting God to forgive you? Do you have a slave’s mentality as it relates to your relationship with God or do you think you have options?
I will continue next week. God bless.