MATTHEW18: 22- 35 (about forgiveness)
Jesus said, “I say not unto thee, until seven times; but until seventy times seven, therefore, the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a certain king who would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one servant was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents. But he could not pay, and his lord recommended him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
The servant therefore fell down and worshiped him, saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the Lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and released him, and forgave the debt.
But that same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him a hundred pence, and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, ‘pay me what you owe me.’
And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and begged him, saying, ‘have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not; but went and cast him into prison until the debt was paid. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry and told their lord all that was done.
Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, ‘O, you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you desired me (to do so), Shouldn’t you also have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you?’
And his lord was wroth (angry), and delivered him to the tormentors until he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise, shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one of his brothers their trespasses.
It is the time of the year for separating out a huge pile (or stacks upon stacks?) of receipts and filing taxes by using accounting practices that match the requirements of both federal and state laws. Then all the forms must be filled out, or, if you are like me, a CPA really saves a few headaches and worries.
Financial accounting practices are called upon, not only at tax time, but in budgeting and spending income so that both groceries and the mortgage gets paid, not to mention insurances and medical bills. Such accounting is a huge part of life. To be sure, sometimes the IRS forgives a huge debt to those who have fallen upon hard times. To forgive a debt is to erase it as if it never existed.
The New Testament has several parables and stories about financial accounting practices. In one story, a king forgives a man of a debt that he could never repay “if he lived to be 100 years old.” This same man, forgiven of such a great debt, throws another man in jail who only owed a debt easily payable if given enough time. Upon hearing of this travesty, the king ordered the man whom he had forgiven to prison. Yes, this is a financial story, but it is far more: it is a story about good accounting practices. In other words, those who have been forgiven of a great financial debt should be gracious to those who can’t pay a piddling debt on time. Truth be told; the implication of this biblical story goes far beyond the financial transactions or lack thereof; it reaches deep into the human heart with a message about forgiveness that cannot be ignored, namely, each one of us has received a gracious forgiveness that stands in sharp contrast to our stinginess in overlooking the faults of another person.
Good accounting practices go far beyond mere finances. A judge may grant leniency toward a person who has the fortunate letters of recommendation that describe compassionate and generous behavior in the defendant’s past. A judge hears the particulars of the misdemeanor or crime in court, with such commendatory letters from
reputable people a judge can see an accounting of a person’s motivations and influence within a community.
Good accounting practices go far beyond mere finances. The difference between factual data and hearsay/assumptions is based on giving a full accounting of all pertinent information. As a member of a genealogical society, I needed to prove that one of my ancestors lived in that county between 1792 (the county’s establishment) and the 31st of December, 1800. My ancestor, William Kyle, moved there in 1792 and was named a juror and an overseer of building a road in that county by 1795. I descend from his son Charles Kyle who also had several records in that county. But I had to prove that Charles was the son of William. I could NOT use DNA tests, family genealogy charts, a biographical sketch, etc. I had to have a legal or an acceptable document that actually stated or gave evidence “beyond reasonable doubt” that Charles was the son of William. I had no Bible record, nor a deed in which the son purchased land from the father or the son inherited land from the father, I had no will of William Kyle that mentioned any of his children. That genealogical society certainly demanded good accounting practices.
What was I to do? I found online the history of Tabernacle Methodist Church established in 1837; the church was located near the old Kyle property. So I read it. Lo and behold, it stated that Charles Kyle had donated three acres of land for the church at the cost of a dollar. It named Charles as one of the nine sons (no daughters) of William Kyle, so I sent that page. I was surprised to find that my application proving that I descended from a first family (William Kyle) was accepted, so I emailed the society, asking them what document made the difference. I was told that I had this church record on the very bottom of all my documentation, and they were about to reject it, when this church history record was finally viewed. Church records are considered primary records! It turns out that several descendants of the Kyles were members of the church and they used data that had been passed down to them. Facts have to be established by good accounting.
Good accounting practices go far beyond mere finances. Rarely in our lifetimes have we witnessed the challenge to factual data because of information and misinformation about covid, vaccinations, prior elections, etc.
What is fact? What is assumed or alleged? Or whether it be local gossip, court trials, family lore, or mind-boggling mysteries, there is always a desire and a need for good accounting practices to establish truth. As for our own day and age, at some point in the future, good accounting practices will allow us to sort out, decipher and interpret what we hear and read so that truth may become the center of life in our community, nation, and world.
Good accounting practices go far beyond mere finances. In fact, the Bible speaks of each person making a final accounting before God of our life on earth. AH! If the truth be told, none of us could “pass muster” and none of us shall be called “good.”
But a Righteous and Holy God has placed in the hands of the Son, Jesus Christ, the power to be gracious and merciful to those who proclaim faith in Him, the Son of God. Thus, in Him and through Him, we will be forgiven of a debt that we can never repay.
Back to the story of a king who forgave a great debt, but the one forgiven could not forgive a minor debt. What is the real message here? Is it saying something about the nature of forgiveness? Certainly. But perhaps the real point of this parable is this:
In Christ, we have received a GIFT.
Does that GIFT obligate us to Jesus? Certainly.
But more so, that GIFT obligates us to our neighbors.
But more than anything, that GIFT obligates us to the people to whom we have the power to make their lives miserable or blessed. It takes good accounting practices to handle this power! No matter what role a person finds himself or herself (parent, profession, family life, etc.), there is this power to make life miserable or blessed. Such power belongs to all of us, and each of us probably hold some deep regrets about those times we have made life miserable for someone, whether intentionally or inadvertently, even if it was only a short period of time. It is difficult to keep in mind the times that we have benefited from the graciousness of others and “pay it forward.” You see, good accounting practices demand that, upon reading this parable, that we discover that we think of the ways that we identify with the man who didn’t erase a small debt of a fellow servant. To ignore the power of that man to make life miserable or blessed for his fellow servant is to ignore the power that we ourselves hold.
It is easy to demand financial accountability; not so easy to demand accountability of our powers to make life miserable or blessed.