15 December 2013

Forgiving and Unforgiving

Matthew 18:23-34
1599 Geneva Bible (GNV)

23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain King, which would take an account of his servants.

24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which ought him [a]ten thousand talents.

25 And because he had nothing to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and his children, and all that he had, and the debt to be paid.

26 The servant therefore fell down, and [b]worshipped him, saying, Lord, [c]refrain thine anger toward me, and I will pay thee all.

27 Then that servant’s lord had compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

28 But when the servant was departed, he found one of his fellow servants which ought him an hundred pence, and he laid hands on him, and throttled him, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

29 Then his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Refrain thine anger toward me, and I will pay thee all.

30 Yet he would not, but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

31 And when his other fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came, and declared unto their lord all that was done.

32 Then his lord called him unto him, and said to him, O evil servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou prayedst me.

33 Oughtest not thou also to have had pity on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?

34 So his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him.

You know that WWJD or WWJS (do or say, are these real distinctions?) facile prompt to reflection which likely no one who might use that bumper sticker acronym could actually apply having not studied or even read much of what Jesus is claimed to have done or said?

Well, what exactly would Jesus do here? And what exactly is said here? That is, what's the advice?

Should we first ask questions about the participants in the parable? (Or maybe out first act of understanding might be to wonder what a parable does and why Jesus might have "spoken" this way.) What about the money here?

Well, what do you think?


  1. yes let's treat others like we want to be treated but maybe the guy is resentful that he had to pray to this king to have his debts forgiven and took it out on others around him. How do you avoid that resentment? It seems Jesus is suppose to be above all that.

  2. Well, let's first try to remove the theological expectations...perhaps if we remove Jesus and insert maybe Laotse, would it be a different story or have a different meaning to the reader (listener with ears to hear)?

    Also, our "naming" of elements of the story really do indicate what we're meant to pay attention to I think. So, we have a King, a servant who owes him X, another servant who owes the first servant an amount of relational equivalence, other servants to judge the transaction, and finally, and maybe most importantly we have the "debt" owed. I suppose the consequences are the real final aspect here.

    Can one "square" a debt to a King? (Doesn't the king "own" everything and thus one owes him everything?)

    Adding resentment to the tale is interesting--in effect you are saying that because one finds treatment unjust one then visits injustice on others?

  3. Yes I like removal of the theologics... it just muddies the waters. Whether the king owes everything or not, this guy owed him a debt. Maybe there was no avoiding that however. How did the debt accumulate. Was it for services rendered like prtection from the neighboring kingdom or was it just some silly ass tax? Maybe one inddividual would see it one way and the other a different way. Resentment eats at the self and if some justifcation can't be reconciled then that unjustness becomes real. Is injustice black and white? Perhaps a majority might agree such as in jury trial. But if the king owns the court, then what?

  4. We can remove the theology, but we can't remove the form--this is a parable. So, there is no king and no servant and no money. There is the king as a story element, the servant as a story element and so on. That is, the story is supposed to unfold a meaning.

    So let's just look at the first "relationship."

    Replace King with ALL POWERFUL BEING and replace servant with "insignificant wretch"--now before you object to theology creeping back in...let's call it a "metaphysics" instead. In any event, one being has ALL, one owes all (the servant owes a sum that is hyperbolic--akin to millions upon millions). That is, even though there is the idea of "repayment" (redemption), there is no possibility of repayment here.

    What kind of relationship is that?