Have you ever wondered why doesn’t God just wave a cosmic hand over the universe and forgive everyone? Well, Jesus tells a story in Matthew 18 that helps to answer this question that many have asked…
The story begins with a King who wishes to settle accounts. If you have ever borrowed anything from the King, if he has ever been gracious to you with resources, he now wants to be paid back, and one servant apparently owes him an astronomical amount: 10,000 talents. A talent was equivalent to 20 years of wages, so just assume a very modest salary of $20,000 a year – a talent would therefore be worth $400,000, and 10,000 talents would be worth…$4 billion dollars.
Even if scholars are off on the exact amount of a talent, however you slice it, when Jesus tells this parable, he means for us to understand that it is a huge amount of money, impossible for any lowly servant to pay back.
So the king does what you do in a world of slavery and debtor’s prison – he orders the man and his wife and kids to be sold on the auction block. At least he will receive something from him.
And this brings on the begging…
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.
Matthew 18:26, 27 (ESV)
Now we often talk about the huge debt that was forgiven and what that meant for the servant; what we don’t often talk about is who absorbs the loss: the King, the master of the servant. As they say in financial circles – the King takes a bath. Because, you see, in forgiving the servant, the King actually loses 4 billion dollars.
So let me rephrase the question once again: why doesn’t the King of kings just wave his hand and forgive everyone? And the answer is this: because, as the parable illustrates, forgiveness is never free to the one who grants it. In fact, true forgiveness is always very costly.
You might put it like this: true forgiveness always involves suffering. Because Sin always demands a price that someone, either the offender or the offended…must pay.
If you loan your friend your car, and they crash it, someone has to pay. Another may say that you should just forgive them. Okay, sure. But it will cost you.
If someone tells a lie that defames your character, and you confront them and they ashamedly admit that they did it, then there are two options: either you absorb the sin, giving you a lesser reputation, or they admit to everyone that they lied, and their reputation is ruined. Someone might say that you should just forgive them, in the same way that they say God should just forgive everyone. The problem is that the world doesn’t work like that. Someone always has to pay.
And here we begin to understand why God does not simply wave his hand over all creation and simply say, “FORGIVEN!” Because a price must be paid…always.
And praise God…it was.
For more reading on Matthew 18, see My Favorite Prayer Partner
Tomorrow, Tuesday January 27th: Matthew 19