Summary: Forgiveness is an act of understanding how much God has forgiven us; of the heart, making a changed spirit possible; and of the will, opening up all that God wants to do in us.
First Baptist Church of Gaithersburg, MD, October 4, 1979; Cresthill Baptist Church, Bowie, MD, June 8, 1980; Calverton Baptist Church, Silver Spring, MD, May 16, 1982; Takoma Park Baptist Church, Washington, DC November 24, 1985
Back in my early teen years I was a Monopoly freak. Not an ordinary freak, mind you, but a Monopoly freak. My best friend and I would sit at the table in our basement for hours upon hours, rolling the dice, going to jail, dealing for Boardwalk, putting up hotels at a rate that would make Marriott dizzy, and generally wallowing in imagined luxury. Monopoly was our game, and we played it with a vengeance. We yelled and screamed at each other, and occasionally brought down upon our heads the wrath of my father, trying to take a nap; and we played so much and so long that my friend's grandmother coined a new name for the game. Bringing to it her own sense of values, she called it Monotony!
But the reason we could play for such a long time and could get so wrapped up in doing each other in was that we altered the rules to suit ourselves. We first decided that whenever anyone bought one of the properties in a set, then the rest of that set was off limits to the other player. No broken sets, and thus, in the end, great long rows of hotels and houses and high-priced properties. Everything on our Monopoly board was in the high rent district!
And another significant rule change was that we allowed credit. If you didn’t have the cash to pay your rent, that was OK. Even without the blessings of MasterCharge we just made notations on a piece of paper as to who owed what, knowing that sooner or later you would have to park on my Park Place and. I would earn all that debit back. Of course sometimes it didn't work out that way, and we would find that one or the other of us just continued to get deeper and deeper into debt, and we finally decided that when you got up to a million Monopoly dollars behind, you were finally out. Run up the tab to seven figures, and you lose.
Our parents were grateful that we had finally found a way to end these games; my mother was glad to see the top of her table occasionally, my little brother had hopes again of getting somebody to repair his tricycle for him, and all was blissful in the household again, until we hit on a new device: we would just forgive debts and start all over again. And so with abounding generosity, when one of us would run up the proverbial tab to a million Monopoly bucks, we would just write off a few thou and keep right on going. The prevailing philosophy seemed to be, "If it's hopeless, so what; if it’s insurmountable, forget it. If it is so gigantic it can't be paid, then you don’t have to pay for it. We discovered all this well before the U.S. government did … wonderful, but a bookkeeping nightmare!
Something like that Monopoly-monotony game must have been what those who heard Jesus that day were thinking about. They heard him tell a story about a king who decided to settle his accounts, to collect the debts owed him. The king took out his ledgers and listed all those who were in his debt, and then he began to summon them before him. The first among these was a man whose debt was an enormous sum, a debt of 10,000 talents. In contemporary terms that is something like $10,000,000. An impossible debt, a crushing obligation.
And so the king determined to do what any creditor would do in the circumstances; he began the proceedings necessary to liquidate his debtor. The man's property was to be sold, and in fact, he himself and his wife and his children were to be considered as part of his assets, and they were to be sold into slavery so that this unspeakably sizeable debt could be satisfied.
But then Jesus asks us to picture this ne'er do well, this hopeless case, pleading for just a little more time to take care of his problem, "Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything." And I can really imagine Jesus’ eyes twinkling just a little at this stage in his parable, because this really is ludicrous, isn’t it? "Have patience, indeed; just a little more time, huh? You see, Jesus chose a figure so impossibly large that everyone knew it could not by any stretch of the imagination be dealt with. Maybe you could pay off ten dollars a day for the next 2,739 years?! Ridiculous! Meaningless!
So what does the king do in the face of this plaintive plea, this incredible whine? "Out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt"