Tuesday 09 March 2010

Bible Book:

"Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart." (v.32-35)

Matthew 18:21-35 Tuesday 9 March 2010


Matthew chapter 18 is one of five blocks of Jesus' teachingwhich this Gospel-writer inserts into the selective story of hislife; its theme is building good relationships within the Church.Forgiveness is a central aspect of maintaining good relationships -it is at the heart of the Lord's Prayer, and when he gave thatprayer Jesus felt it important to add afterwards a comment on thattheme: seeMatthew 6:9-15.

So Peter, who in the Gospels is often the disciple who acts asspokesperson for what all the disciples want to say, asks how oftenhe should forgive a Church member who wrongs him. It was a questionthat we know the Jewish rabbis (teachers) discussed, and the mostgenerous view was 'three times and that's it!' So by suggestingthat maybe he should forgive as many as 7 times, Peter may appearto be showing that he'd partly grasped Jesus' message! But Jesusimmediately suggests otherwise in suggesting 77 times (or possiblyit means 70 x 7), to all intents and purposes meaning 'withoutlimit'.

Jesus reinforces the point and justifies his answer by one of his'parables of the kingdom'. One secret of identifying the key ideain a parable is to look for the feature that isn't true to life.Here it is the size of the debt, 10,000 talents. It took a typicalworker 15 years to earn 1 talent, so the sum translates to abouttwo billion pounds in today's terms!

When the slave has had that impossible debt wiped out he browbeatsa fellow slave for a sum equivalent to three months wages... not aninsignificant sum until you see it in the light of what the firstslave has been released from. The story ends, as a good story mustdo, with justice done.

Jesus often does not apply the moral of his stories, leaving it tohis hearers to think for themselves. Here, however,he does choose to make clear just howcentral it is to our relationship with God that we pass on theforgiveness we have received.

To Ponder

Do you think God may take back the forgivenessthat has been offered to us if we do not pass it on?

Is it true, as this parable may suggest, that oursin builds up an unimaginably huge debt to God relative to anywrong somebody may have done to us? Or might it be that theunrealistic size of the debt, and the unlimited number of times wemust forgive, are teaching us not to 'keep accounts' at allconcerning what people owe us? What do you think?

In the last verse Jesus speaks of 'forgivenessfrom your heart', perhaps suggesting that some forgiveness is notreally genuine. What examples, if any, have you come across?

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