ACCOUNTING vs. GOD’S WAYS
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
“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. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 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.
“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
“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. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 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. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
There are certain things that we are to lose track of. Accounting is a useful tool. Accounting principles will keep us out of trouble financially but they do not govern human life. For example, there were times when King David was told to “count” the people of Israel. To take a census. There was another occasion when he took a census and it was a grievous sin and took a heavy toll in lives. For some people, counting is something that is essential for security or mental peace.
In biblical philosophy, this focus on countable things, superficial things, is actually a clear sign of mental or moral or even spiritual instability. Actions result from motivations. Motivations issue from what holds the highest value. If financial gain is of highest value, then that can be read by anyone who cares to examine the actions of that person. If intimate relationship with Jesus is the most valuable thing to someone, again the actions will tell that story.
By his question, what would you say is most important to Peter? You might immediately say that it was his approval by God, his righteousness. That is truly admirable. Unfortunately, the method by which we attain to or gain that which is most important to us, is just as important. You’ve heard it said that we must do God’s work in God’s way. In fact, Scripture as a whole points to HIS WAYS as the main issue to God.
The rules (accounts) are actually set aside in the long run by His ways, His motivation behind the rulings and the accountings. This is done in the person of Jesus and sealed with a new kind of agreement by blood. Not just any blood, but by the very blood poured out to dissolve the accounts. So Peter had gotten the proper priority through the Law but was confused about the means by which it was to be acquired.
Righteousness, if that is your goal, is acquired in one way. That way completely forgets about counting and simply loves God enough to allow Him to do what He does in you without it having to “add up” or make sense to you. So as this relates to FORGIVENESS, we must lose track. We don’t count up the times with the idea that there is a limit. We just FORGIVE. Why? Because that is God’s WAY.
Then Jesus’ story throws a real whiplash twist in. His story illustrates what happens when we forget to forget. It seems He has much more important pursuits for us to be engaged in than spending our time in counting and keeping track. If we begin to count and place limits in our application of forgiveness, then all accounts forgiven us ARE REVERSED.
I haven’t heard much preaching on this one. I wonder why. Could it be we are just as confused as Peter was? Could it be that we need the same Helper to clear it up for us that was required for Peter? Do you think it was cleared up for Peter on the day of Pentecost? Maybe we need a little of that.