Talk 13: Sentencing Servants and Forgiven Debts
Welcome to our exciting trip through Matthew.
Today, I want to preach the message, “Spit it out”.
I know that sounds gross, but believe me, it’s exactly what God wants us to do with anything that robs us of life (more on this later).
Question: Have you ever experienced getting choked?
I’ve never experienced choking—thank God—but I witnessed someone who did. While I was eating in a restaurant, the man right in front of me started choking. He held his throat, trying to make a sound but unable to produce any. And his entire face turned red as a tomato.
I got scared. First, because I didn’t know how to do the Heimlich maneuver. Goodness, I didn’t even know how to pronounce the word.
Second, the guy was extra-large. From what I recall, I had to grab him from behind and lift him up. Mama Mia. How can I carry 280 pounds? (I later learned that everything I knew about the Heimlich was wrong. And the first thing I should have done was to encourage him to cough, bend over, and I should give him at least 5 big wallops on his back…)
But thankfully, on his own, after a few seconds of his violent grunting, the man was able to dislodge the food and spit it out. And he spit it out hard, making that thing fly to the next restaurant. I’m exaggerating, but man, I’d spit hard too if it was killing me.
Choking is a life-threatening emergency. A choking death occurs every two hours and 70% of the time, food is the culprit. When a piece of meat is stuck in your throat and blocks your windpipe, it’s really scary.
Where am I going with this?
T.D. Jakes preached about how unforgiveness is like choking…
Blockages In Your Spiritual Windpipe
When you have bitterness, resentment, or in Tagalog, sama ng loob, it’s a blockage in your spiritual windpipe. God’s supply of love, joy, peace, and power cannot flow into your life. Unless you remove the obstacle, your spirit will ultimately die.
That’s why when it comes to unforgiveness, you must spit it out. If you know that this thing called unforgiveness, or bitterness, or resentment, is killing you, you’ll spit it out hard.
But I’m going ahead of the story…
We’re Looking For An Upper Limit
In today’s key reading, Jesus tells an amazing story about forgiveness:
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” (v.21)
Peter was groping for an upper limit to forgiving others.
For the Rabbis at that time, the upper limit was three. Based on their interpretation of the Book of Amos in the Old Testament, they taught that you’re supposed to forgive three offenses, but you’re not expected to forgive on the fourth offense.
So Peter probably expected Jesus to say, “Wow Pete, ang holy mo naman!” Because he doubled the required amount of three and added one more for bonus pogi points.
Peter must have been shocked when he heard, “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! (v.22) In the Bible, the number seven represents totality. Completeness. Perfection. Thus, 70 x 7 is a metaphor for an attitude of forgiveness that has no limits.
But I usually hear these exasperated words from those have been offended: “Bo, ayoko na, tama na, sobra na. I’ve forgiven him enough!” How can we reconcile our own limits to forgive vs. this command not to have any?
Here’s how I nuance this debate: “There are limits to friendship, there are no limits to forgiveness.”
Friendship vs. Forgiveness
I’m sure you’ve heard me say this before, but I must repeat this to avoid any catastrophic misunderstanding: Forgiveness and friendship are two different things.
God wants you to forgive everyone. Without limitations. (I’ll explain later why.) But when you forgive, it doesn’t mean you bring back your friendship to the same level before you were wronged.
Because forgiveness is given, but trust is earned.
If a business partner stole from you, you’re called to forgive. Always. To clear the blockages in your spiritual windpipe. But forgiveness does not mean you’ll be business partners again. That’s a second decision you’ll have to wrestle with.
If a boyfriend cheats on you, God calls you to forgive, to apply not the Heimlich maneuver, but the Holiness maneuver—to let the Holy Spirit dislodge the block of your spiritual esophagus. But forgiving him doesn’t mean you’ll accept him again as a boyfriend. That’s a totally different discernment you’ll have to make.
A Story of Staggering Numbers
Jesus then tells a story to explain why we must forgive without limits: “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. (Note: In Greek, the word used for “Servant” may also mean a ruler or manager that served under the King.) 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. (v.23-24)
In the original Greek manuscript, it said this guy owed the king “10,000 Talents”. One Talent is worth 15,000 years of wages. Pretty wild, right?
This is how preposterous 10,000 Talents were. In biblical times, the total revenue of the entire province of Galilee was 300 Talents only. So 10,000 Talents was an out-of-this-world figure for a personal debt. One commentary said that if you convert that amount to today’s money, it wouldn’t be worth millions of dollars but trillions.
Here’s what happens next: He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. (Meaning: He and his family will be sold as slaves.) 26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. (v.25-27)
Friend, this is the mercy of God. This is what we receive every single day of our lives. God writes off our debt completely. It’s illogical. It’s irrational. It’s undeserved.
Compare this now to the another number in the story: 28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. (v.28) The amount in the original Greek manuscript is “100 Denarii”. A Denarius was a day’s wage of a working man. Compared to the first amount, it was tiny.
4 Reasons You Should Forgive
Here’s the first one.
- Forgiving Others Is A Natural Response To God’s Generosity
We owe God everything.
Our very existence comes from Him.
God loved us into being.
Perhaps this was one point why Jesus used a preposterous amount. Before God, we’re all beggars who have received grace upon grace, mercy upon mercy. So how can a beggar-turned-ruler (that’s you!) whose every breath comes from God, not be generous to other beggars?
Here’s the second reason…
- Forgiving Others Is A Natural Response To God Forgiving Us
William Barclay says it this way: “Whatever wrong others have done to us is small compared to the wrong we’ve done to God.”
Yet I’ve met people who can’t forgive others because they don’t think they need to receive God’s forgiveness. They tell me, “I’m a good person. I didn’t kill anyone…”
To answer them, I like sharing this little analogy: If I slap my neighbor, I’ll be called to the Baranggay. Worst scenario, he may sue me and I’ll get fined.
But if I fly to Washington DC, march to the White House, and by some miracle, pass through the tight security, enter the Oval Office, greet the President of the United States, “Hi Joe!” and then slap him on the face… What do you think would happen to me? Would I be just called to the Baranggay? I don’t think so.
Our sins are big because we go against a big God.
And yet this big God forgives us in a big way.
Which brings us to the third reason we must forgive…
- Forgiving Others Is The Natural To Heal Ourselves
Let’s continue the story. This servant, who was just forgiven by the King, is now collecting from a fellow-servant who owed him. And he was pretty violent. Jesus says, He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. (Note how he was “choking” his fellow-servant.) 29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. 31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. 35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” (v.28-35)
Friend, do you feel like you’re in prison?
This is what unforgiveness does.
That’s why unforgiveness is evil.
Do you feel that the flow of grace and healing and joy in your daily life is obstructed? Check for blockages. I repeat what I shared at the start of this talk: Unforgiveness will block your spiritual windpipe. And the only way to let His grace to flow again is to let go of the blockage. Truth: Complete healing of your hurts can only happen when you forgive.
Here’s the fourth reason we must forgive…
- Forgiving Others Should Be As Natural As Breathing
Let me talk about breathing.
Breathing is part of the respiratory system. Our body is governed by many systems—cardiovascular, immune, nervous, reproductive, and digestive. We call it a “system” because each part runs like clockwork. If the system is broken, the body gets sick and dies.
In the same way, God created within us a spiritual respiratory system called forgiveness. We inhale forgiveness, and we exhale forgiveness. If you inhale God’s forgiveness, you also exhale that same forgiveness to others.
If you stop inhaling, you stop exhaling. And if you stop exhaling, you stop inhaling. You need to do both. You need to receive God’s forgiveness in order to share that forgiveness to others. And you need to forgive others in order for God to forgive you.
God expected us to forgive every single day.
If we breathe every day, we also should forgive every day.
You Must Forgive Every Day
St. Paul says, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…” (Ephesians 4:26 NIV).
It’s okay to get angry. Jesus got angry. But you only got till 5:59PM to be angry. After 5:59PM, you’ve got to spit it out and let it go. So, whether you’re angry at your spouse, child, friend, boss, co-worker, that anger has an expiration date. In fact, an expiration time. And for the sake of your peace, set your alarm right now to sound-off every day at 5:59 PM as the cut-off point of your anger.
You’re not designed to face every day with bitterness.
God is prodding you today, “Release it. Let it go.” Spit it out.
Not because they’re innocent. Not because they’re right. Not because they’re faultless. Forgive because forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. God is asking you today to put this system in place, the System of Forgiveness.
Are You Choking Others Because You’re Choking Too?
Dear friend, are you choking? Are you like the Unforgiving Servant who is choking someone else because he’s choked up himself?
Is there an obstruction blocking out God’s breath of life into your life? Is there a break in the systematic flow of grace in your life? That obstruction could be past hurts, or grudges, or something you just can’t let go.
Unforgiveness will choke you. It will rob you of the flow of life, joy, peace, and love. And if this goes on, you won’t be able to breathe. And eventually, you’ll die. As we close, I invite you to run to the Lord now and…
Open Up To God’s Heimlich Maneuver
Today, allow God to perform a spiritual Heimlich maneuver on you, to remove the obstruction, the blockage of unforgiveness that has been choking you. But for Him to do this, you need to let go.
In God’s Presence, you need spit out all your hurts, grudges, trauma, bitterness, resentment… So that you can regain your joy, peace, and passion for living. So that you can be free again.