This morning, when I got to this text in chapter 18 of Matthew's gospel, the Lord stopped me:
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.” (Matthew 18:23-27)
The margin of my Bible explains that a ‘Talent’ was worth 15 years of wages. So, do the math. The slave owed his master 150,000 years worth of debt.
One hundred and fifty thousand YEARS.
He could never, ever have repaid his debt. Even after the sale of his wife and children into slavery, the debt could never have been paid. Not in nearly 2,000 lifetimes. They all would have died still owing an impossible debt.
And that is precisely the point the Lord Jesus was trying to make to His hearers in the first century. And that is precisely the point the Lord Jesus was trying to make to me as I read this text this morning.
And, oh, by the way, that is the point the Lord is trying to make to you, as well – because just as the sale of his wife and children could never compensate for what he owed the king, no amount of good works, or tithing, or reception of the Eucharist, or teaching Sunday School or Catechist classes – no amount of ANYTHING that we can do on our own and without genuine faith in Christ can suffice to pay our impossible debt.
It was the king’s kindness ALONE that freed the slave from that hopeless debt. It was the king’s grace ALONE that, shall we say, “saved him.”
Such an immutable truth of Scripture then reminded me of a song Nancy and I learned many years ago: “I owed a debt I could not pay; He paid the debt He did not owe. I needed someone to wash my sins away. And now I sing a brand-new song, “Amazing grace,” because Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.”
Please hear this. Please ‘get’ this:
We each owe the King of kings and Lord of lords a debt of sin we could never, ever settle on our own. Not in two million lifetimes.
It is by the King’s grace alone through our genuine ongoing faith in Christ that we are set free from our debt. It is the King’s kindness alone through our genuine ongoing faith in Christ that our sins have been forgiven, remitted, erased completely from the ledger.
Let us not trample His kindness and His grace by attempting now to ‘earn’ His forgiveness. As it is written: “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-6)