What is Your Debt? $12,000 Versus $7 Billion
by Heather Bock
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Sometimes I struggle to forgive right away. Sometimes grace is hard to conjure. Sometimes anger rises so fast the well-thought-out phrases aren’t there for the taking; in my offense, the quick, biting words come to the surface instead.
Lord, someone might ask, how long do I have to put up with this coworker treating me like this and stealing my clients?
A mother: How long until my child understands not to behave this way toward me?
Someone else: How many times do I have to forgive this person? This has been going on for a whole week!
Jesus’ answer: not just a week, but a week times seventy.
Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:22).
Jesus illustrated with a story (Matt. 18).
Once upon a time, a slave owed a king more than he could possibly pay back, even if he could live and work 200,000 years with 100% of the money going straight to the king. According to this calculation, we’re talking somewhere around 7 billion dollars in today’s terms. I have no idea how he wracked up so much debt, but I doubt it could have been accomplished legally. He and his family all faced a life of slavery at one word from the king.
The slave bowed himself face first to the ground, begging the king for patience, promising to repay all, as if he could ever earn enough to settle that debt on his own.
Maybe it was the pitiful sight of the man or the impossible promise he made, but something about the slave moved the king’s heart, and right then and there, he forgave him the entire debt.
Perhaps the slave took it into his head that instead of accepting that grace, he would figure out a way to pay the king back somehow. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for what he did next: he searched out another slave, an acquaintance of his, who owed him the modern equivalent of a little less than $12,000.
Now, is $12,000 (four month’s salary) a lot of money? Sure, and especially to a slave. However, it was also .000017% of what he owed the king, or rather, what he used to owe the king. It was 4 months compared to 200,000 years worth of work. In other words, it wouldn’t make much of a dent if he used it to try to return the money to the king.
The other slave also fell on his face, begging for patience. He also promised to repay (and he actually had a chance of doing it). Nevertheless, the first slave was so harsh to the one who owed him money, he had him thrown into prison, a fate that ultimately became his own once the king heard of his lack of mercy.
My community group discussed this parable a few Sundays ago. We discussed the point of the parable: the grace given to the first slave should have made him into a grace-giving man, but it absolutely did not. It seems to me that instead of accepting the grace, he decided he would earn his right standing before the king.
A few days later, my daughter was throwing a fit about something. I was impatient with her behavior, and I didn’t even take the time to really learn why she was wailing. I just wanted her to stop and get back to her homeschooling work.
I walked away, removing myself from the aggravating sound. However, another sound followed me: a still, small Voice that I could have pretty easily ignored. It said, Remember the grace I gave you? Remember the parable from Sunday? What are you going to give to this young one of yours?
The comparison was clear, and it softened my impatient, hard heart. Have patience with me, the slaves had begged. Would I have patience with my daughter? It became even more clear once I turned back out of my room, knelt down with my sobbing girl, wrapped my arms around her, and patiently let her cry it all out into my shoulder. I asked her to tell me all about it, letting go of my assumptions for her tears. It was then I learned that her sin was minuscule. Her tears were less about defiance and selfishness as I had thought and more about sorrow over what she judged was a breach in her relationship with me. Talk about $12,000 vs. $7 billion–it felt more like $2 vs. $7 billion.
I held her; I comforted her; I repaired breaches made more by me than by my eight year old.
I grieve at how close I was to missing that. Pain would have remained in my precious girl’s heart if I had kept my own heart hard, if I had ignored that Voice, if I had continued to assume her past offenses were what made up her present. A small rip between us might have begun.
Will you listen to that Voice with offenses given to you? Will you forgive not just seven times, but seventy times seven? You’ll need God’s help to do it, I can assure you, but I believe you will be glad you did.
Photo by Aidan Bartos on Unsplash
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0 thoughts on “What is Your Debt? $12,000 Versus $7 Billion”
Wow Heather that is so great. I recently went over this parable with my two sons as they were having a hard time forgiving each other. I love how God touched your heart and how you decided to trust Him. Praise the Lord for your obedience. I am praying for myself to be more patient and also remembering how much I have neeen forgiven.
This parable is one I need, that’s for sure!
Forgiveness can be difficult. I know from experience. But I also know that the Lord forgave me so much more. So I pray for the strength to forgive as the Lord forgave me.
This is a great parable. Thanks for sharing it.
Yes—it’s worth it!
Forgiveness is a toughy. I’m so glad you listened to the Holy Spirit. Thanks for sharing how to listen to His still small voice.
Thanks, Beckie! Now, will I listen to His still, small voice tomorrow? God help me!
Beautiful parallel to Scripture and one I’ve experienced too! So thankful you stilled and waited for her to express her heart. Love this!
I’m really thankful I did, too! I hope I continue to do this even when I’m angry or frustrated. I hope others do, too, with their own family members!
Gorgeous post, Heather. I am very frequently guilty of assuming I know all my kids motives and not wanting to “hear a single word” from them when they appear rude or ungrateful. I needed to read this.
Thank you, Kate! I do a good bit of assuming, too. I’m glad when God wakes me up from doing it!
I’m so glad God is patient with me. Thanks for sharing your story too
Thank you for commenting! May we all share our stories of God’s great patience and faithfulness.
Heather, your post brought back happy and sad memories. My children are grown now, but I can remember just a few occasions when I lost patience with them and either walked away (as you mention) or I snapped at them in anger. I apologized later, but I didn’t forget the pain I caused them (they probably didn’t forget either). The grace that we have been gifted with through Jesus Christ should guide us to be loving at all times, but I guess our human nature gets in the way. Thanks for sharing this beautiful post on forgiveness.
I’m sorry to bring back the sad memories! God has brought me a long, long way when it comes to my quick anger. In fact, although I do still get angry sometimes, He’s quite broken me from the control it had over me. So thankful!