Devotional Thoughts for Today
Matt. 18:23-35 (ESV): “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.  Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Many years ago, I returned home to Virginia from California to work so I can save money for my seminary education; that included helping out at my father’s business. One day, I saw a customer fuming with anger, leaving the store, and discovered later that my dad had yelled at him for walking on mopped floor. So, I asked my dad, “Why do you always get mad at customers?” Not liking my attitude, he said something that really upset me; so for the next five weeks, I didn’t speak to him
Jesus tells this parable to Peter who asks Jesus how many times someone who sins against him should be forgiven. Whereas Judaism put the cap at three, Peter increases it “up to seven times” (Matt. 18:21). Not impressed, Jesus says, “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (v.22), that is, infinitely. It’s likely that this is when the other disciples joined Peter in retorting, “Increase our faith!” (Lk. 17:5).
In the parable, Jesus has the master cancel the unpayable debt owed to him by his servant. But when that same servant refuses to be merciful toward his fellow servant who owes so much less, the master becomes furious and punishes his servant. Now, the master represents God; the unpayable debt is the “wages of sin,” which is, “death” (Rom. 6:23); the act of cancelling it is Christ’s death that “takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29). The servant with the cancelled debt represents us whose good works can never atone for our sins against God and fellow men. The fellow servant, whose miniscule debt isn’t forgiven by his coworker, represents my father whose sin I wouldn’t forgive because I was being ungrateful to God who forgave me of much greater debt.
As a result, the jailers—my conscience and the devil—began questioning my character, faith and fitness for ministry. The freedom came when, prompted by the Spirit, I asked my dad for forgiveness. I did it for me because being tortured like that was agonizing. So if you’re caught in the middle of a story like mine, don’t wait: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13).
O loving God, how gracious and merciful You have been to me all these years. Sadly, I’ve held onto any and every pettiness that came my way, often letting it simmer in my soul to the point of losing joy and peace. I need to forgive; I need to be forgiven. So I confess my sins to You and to those who are affected by my unforgiveness. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 57
Lunch Break Study
Read Matt. 6:14-5 (NIV): “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Col. 3:12-3 (NASB): “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;  bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
1 Jn. 1:8-10 (ESV): “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
Question to Consider
- Does God take this matter of forgiveness seriously? If so, why do you think so?
- How would you understand Matt. 6:15: “If you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins?”
- Ultimately, what will restore a broken fellowship between God and us?
- There are a number of ways to capture what salvation implies: justification, redemption, born-again, saved from going to hell. But one prominent way is the forgiveness of sins. So, what will show that we truly understand and appreciate what was done for us? Forgiving those who have wronged us.
- It’s like any sin that is unconfessed and unrepented by believers: it breaks the fellowship between God and the impenitent believer. So, “Your Father will not forgive your sins” refers to a broken fellowship due to, in this context, unforgiveness, which is a sin.
- Confession (admission) of our wrong doings. While unforgiveness is a sin, pretending that all iswell only makes it worse: We become deceivers who are sold to lies. To validate our confession of sins to God (vertical), we also need to address them horizontally (confessing to the affected party).
Did anyone upset you today? Is there a situation in your life where you have been dealing with an unforgiveness issue? Perhaps, you are upset at God over some disappointments. Don’t linger anymore: talk to the affected party, including God if that’s your case. Now! A phone call. An e-mail. A text. A prayer.