Saturday, August 27, 2022

Jesus' DIY: The Wise and Foolish Builders

Let's go shopping!

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. (Matt. 7:24-27)

Jesus has been teaching a variety of things by the time we arrive at this parable. He begins with the Beatitudes, then talks of salt and light, and how He came to fulfill the Law. He covers murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, "an eye for an eye," loving your enemies, giving to the needy, prayer, fasting, how we are to store up "treasures in heaven," not worrying for our Father supplies our needs, judging others, asking, seeking, knocking, how we are to enter through the "narrow gate," and how we must watch out for false prophets.

Holy wow!

In fact, Jesus kicked off His ministry with this Sermon on the Mount. He was baptized by John in the Jordan, called out into the desert by the Spirit and underwent temptation by Satan. He called His disciples and is now going about the Galilee, healing the sick.

Now, He climbs a mountainside, and sits down. He is inaugurating His ministry. My thanks to Ray Vander Laan for pointing out that Matthew is presenting Jesus as the new Moses. He is on a mountain and brings forth a new law--one that gives serious consideration to the Old Testament Mosaic law, but with Jesus' added elements of love, compassion and authority. He is fulfilling the Law, for He will do what the Lord spoke of through Jeremiah: "'This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,' declares the LORD. 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.'"

Moses brought down the inscribed stones of the Covenant from Mount Sinai. This Covenant was an agreement between God and His people to abide together. God expected certain things from His people, and their obedience would lead to blessings aplenty from Him. Disobedience would equally lead to chastisement from His hand.

Jesus, when finished, gets this reaction: "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law."

The crowds rightly senses a new Covenant is in the offing--Jesus is not simply reiterating what the Law said. He is teaching what the Law foretold: that God was seeking to inscribe His law on the hearts of His people, and that His definition of "His people" was going to embrace the whole world.

Did the crowds understand the bigger picture? Probably not. But the times, they are a-changing, and the crowds senses that.

So, after Jesus offers His version of the Law, He comments, 

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

His listeners are very familiar with the desert and flash floods. The Hebrews' history is desert history, and the geography influences their analogies. I thank Ray Vander Laan for his teaching on the influence of the desert on the Jewish people.

A wadi in the Middle East is a seemingly dry stream bed. The trees are rooted along its outer banks, to make use of the subterranean water. The wadi is a quiet place, with rocks and sand, and the heat blazing down.  But, way up north in Israel, storms form in the mountains.  It rains and those waters hurl themselves down these canyons and the streams that result is a mighty force of nature.  

So, Jesus starts with wise man building his house on a rock. Who is this "wise man?" The man who hears Jesus and puts His words "into practice." This guy doesn't just go and build his house anywhere. He is wise in learning where the safe and stable places are.  He might be thinking...

I might build my house near this wadi. It looks harmless enough--it is in the desert! How much water could there be? Sure, the wadi shows evidence of water flow, but I am thinking it flows more like a stream. But I know the deceptive calm of a wadi.  In a flash, the flood waters come down and everything before the torrent is swept away.  Yes, water in the desert can be nice and refreshing, but building in the wadi would be foolhardy. 

But the wise man looks for truth in where to build. He isn't dazzled by the location and its calmness. He wants a firm foundation for when life hits hard. And it does:

Hmm...looks like another sunny day in the desert.  But, way out of sight, could it be raining?  Raining hard? I know that unseen rains can lead to a raging stream, and I might not even know it had rained until I hear that roar. But by then, it may be too late for me to get out of way! 

Isn't this life? Rains come, the waters rise, and the winds beat against our house. The very ground beneath our feet is swept away by a raging torrent we didn't even know was in the making. Boom!

The wise man considers what he is potentially facing--he knows God is faithful, His Word provides guidance and he trusts in the Word, not in his own opinion.   

So, who is the foolish man? The one who looks at the surroundings: the sunny day, the heat and blue skies, and says, 

This spot looks good. All those words of this new Teacher, Jesus...Well, they sound good. But, I can't relate. I have the Law. Good enough. Yet, when life gets really tough, I am not even sure that God loves me, because I don't uphold all the rules and regulations..."

Jesus knew that the very foundation of Judaism, the Temple and its system of sacrifices, would be swept away by the raging torrent, as it were, of the Roman army in 70 AD. His listeners were going to need a stronger, more enduring foundation: not one built of stones, but one built in the heart. The New Covenant would be written on the hearts of those who believed in Jesus, and even the severest flood could not wash Him away. He was and still is the Rock.

Jesus talked of false prophets, whose words and easy demands will seduce us. They promise us an endless parade of sunny days and blue skies.

But Jesus hears the rainstorms in the mountains. He hears the oncoming torrent. He wants us to be firmly built on a rock. He offers Himself: His blood, which washes away our sins; His love, which reminds us we are sons and daughters of the King; and His grace, which forgives us when we are foolish.

Rain, wind and torrents will come, but at the end, you will be standing if you are standing on the Rock.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

God’s Economy: A Treasure, a Pearl and a Net Full of Fish

So, let's review.  In Matthew 13, Jesus goes to the lake, and because of the size of the crowd, he steps into a boat, and teaches them a little distance from shore.  He teaches the parable of the sower, which shows that the Word will produce a harvest, but not with everyone.  The soil of the heart must be open and ready to receive the Word, or you have crop failure.

Soon afterwards, the disciples ask Jesus why He uses this teaching method.  He explains that the Kingdom of Heaven is being revealed to the disciples and because of the hardness of the people's hearts, the teachings will not be understood by the crowd. 

I think He is also warning them not to harden their hearts, or they will lose the privilege of unpacking the secrets of the Kingdom.  

He then tells them that the prophets and the righteous people of old would have loved to have heard what the disciples are now hearing.  He tells the disciples, "But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear."

The Hope of the Ages, the very One promised so long ago, is now standing in front of the disciples.  They are blessed in ways they can't even imagine.  They are to possess "the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven."  They will walk in the very presence of the Messiah, and are learning of the Kingdom of God from God Himself.  The "Word was made flesh, and made his dwelling among us." (John 1:14)    

Wow.  Then Jesus expounds on the meaning of the sower.  It describes perfectly how the crowd will receive His teachings:  some will not understand, and instead of seeking earnestly, the devil will show up and snatch the seed away.  Some will joyfully receive the word, and then when any conflict arises, they fall away.  Some will hear it and yet the cares of this world and its lure of wealth will cause the word to disappear in their hearts.  

But those who hear and understand the word?  Abundance!

Then Jesus talks about the wheat and the tares.  They look similar as they grow, but at the harvest time, it will then be evident who really walked in the ways of the Father, and whose actions were a mere cover for an uncaring and dead heart.

See a pattern here?  Jesus is talking about sowing and reaping and what makes for a fruitful harvest.  This will happen when someone hears the Word and takes the next crucial step:  They seek with all of their heart and mind to understand it. 

That includes the disciples as well--Jesus calls everyone to seek and find.

Next, in Matthew 13, Jesus tells the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast:  seemingly insignificant things that will, in time, have a huge impact.  

Then the disciples ask Jesus to explain the wheat and the tares, once Jesus left the crowd.

Obviously, when Jesus is teaching the crowd, the disciples listen along with everyone else.  Then, when they can have a private moment, they ask Jesus the meaning of His parables.  

Jesus says earlier that "The knowledge of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.  Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." (Matt. 13:11-12)

While He is speaking of the crowds, I believe that a subtle but imperative warning is aimed at the disciples:  You will be tested with what you have learned when I go to the cross.  You will need to cling to what you have learned in order to stand tall.  You will have an abundance if you seek Me with all of your heart, let your roots go deep, and not allow anything--including death on a cross--deter you from doing what you have called to do.

Now, Jesus switches from the insignificant--little seeds, wheat, mustard seeds and yeast-- to what everyone will agree is important:  treasure, fine pearls and nets bursting with fish. 

In God's economy, whatever you have that you use lovingly and willingly for God, that makes it valuable, no matter what the world says.  

So, let's go to the field where a man found a treasure in verse 44.  What was he doing in that field?  He was out evaluating the parcel of land before buying it.  Was he walking around checking the quality of the soil?  Was he looking for evidence of underground water?  Was he seeing any areas that needed improving:  rocks that needed removing or burrowing animals that needed to be chased out of there?  Before he took possession, he looked carefully at what it contained. 

But:  he was out looking...seeking and then, guess what!  Finding!  That is the key.  He didn't just buy any field sight unseen and then go his merry way.  He was looking closely at this particular field and look at what he found!  A treasure!  Someone hid it there for safe keeping, and now it's his!   But to make sure that the treasure is truly his, he reburied it, "and in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field." 

In looking closely at what this field contained, he found something even better.  But he was looking.  

Then he was willing to liquidate his earthly assets to obtain something far greater:  the kingdom of heaven!  Earthly things pale in comparison to heavenly riches!

Then Jesus switches to a merchant--another seeker of valuable things--who finds a pearl of "great value."  He see a lot of pearls on his buying trips, and all sorts of other things he can potentially sell.  

But one day, as he is looking, he finds not just any pearl, but one of "great value."  Meaning that yes, there are other pearls out there that are valuable and will compete for the merchant's money and attention.  But his eye is attuned enough to spot one far greater than the others he's seen.  He is willing to sell his inventory and with the cash, buy that one pearl.  

He probably told the buyer to hold it for him.  He may have even given him a deposit.  But he wanted it so much that he was not willing to risk it being sold out from underneath him.  He hustles to liberate his assets and then hustles back to buy that pearl. 

Once he's holding it in his hand, nothing else matters.  He will not miss his other possessions.  He will not miss his money or trade.  He has found what he has been searching for his whole life.

Jesus then finishes His teaching with a net bursting with fish.  It has all kinds of fish in it.  The net was cast far and wide, to collect up as many fish as it could hold.  

Then comes the sorting.  The good fish are put into the baskets and the bad fish are cast away.  

Jesus then parallels this sorting to the "end of the age."  The angels will sort the fish of humanity and those who do not possess the kingdom of God in their hearts, by accepting the Word made flesh, will go into the "fiery furnace."

Who are the "bad fish"?  They are the ones who don't give their all to find out Who this Messiah is, and then follow Him wholeheartedly.  Their hearts are calloused by sin and they don't see anything of value coming from this Man.  They aren't willing to give up earthly things to obtain the riches of heaven, and they aren't willing to see things from God's perspective.  Yeast and seeds need time to grow and flourish, and the "bad fish" are too much in a hurry--only wanting to gratify the flesh and leaving the spirit neglected.  

Jesus finishes His discourse with asking His disciples if they "understood all these things?"  They reply "Yes."

Now, He says that "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old."  (verse 52)

Interesting.   The disciples are now being designated "teacher(s) of the law about the kingdom of heaven."  Whoa.  They are not the teachers of the law that are in the Pharisees' club...Jesus excoriates those teachers.  He is saying that with great knowledge comes great responsibility, and the disciples now bear this.  The "house" is filled with treasures, bequeathed by the Old Covenant (the Law and the Prophets) and the New Covenant, which is Jesus Himself.  

Paul puts it this way in Romans 3:21-24:

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Seek, ask, knock:  The Kingdom of God is for those who actively want what God has prepared for them.  Amen. 

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Small But Mighty! The Parables of The Mustard Seed and The Yeast

Let's dive in! 

‘The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.’

He told them still another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.’ (Matt. 13:31-33)

I so love stories, and love Jesus' rather lavish employment of them. We listen to stories because each one of us has a little kid inside, who wants to be delighted, surprised and engaged.

So, away we go! We are going to be looking at three related parables in Matthew 13. We've already explored in earlier blogs the parable of the sower and the parable of the weeds. Keep those in mind as we look at these next ones. Right after the sower and weed parables come the mustard seed, and yeast parables.

What is the common denominator of all these parables? Something small and seemingly insignificant will become something mighty in time in the hands of a skillful individual.

Let's start with the "small" part. A crop seed. A weed seed. A mustard seed. Yeast. All are small without much to recommend them to the eye. They are not shiny like precious metals, nor catch the light like beautifully cut precious stones. They have no color to speak of: not the breath-taking blue of the sapphire, the dance of rainbows in a diamond or the fiery red of a garnet.

In fact, you would not even notice them lying on the ground. They would blend in with all the other debris in the dirt. Sand, pebbles, bits of plant matter, dust...these seeds would not even be noticeable amongst all that litters the ground.

But wait! Yes, they look insignificant...but what mightiness is contained in such nondescript and wee packages. Crop seed falls from the skillful hand of the farmer. Does he see what we see? We see tiny grains landing on soil--dead, inert and lifeless. He sees a fully-flowered field of lovely wheat, blowing in the late summer wind.

We see seeds just lying on the ground--they all look the same. All the seeds spring up, and even in bloom, the wheat and darnel look the same. It is at the harvest that the difference will be evident. In full bloom, wheat and its counterfeit, darnel (a wild, useless grass) will be seen for what they are: food and fuel, respectively.

Let's look now at the mustard seed--again, it is small and insignificant looking. Set it next to a pine cone, a sycamore seed or seeds of a fig, snugly embedded in the flesh of the fruit, and it pales in the comparison. The mustard seed looks like just more road debris.

Wait a minute. It is sown deliberately by a man. It's not just blowing around in the wind.  It is sown and  then it takes root. It is sown with an insight as to what it can be. It looks insignificant and has nothing to recommend it when you look at it. But the farmer knows what he is doing with the "least of all seeds." He see a beautiful tree with strong branches, and so, he casts the seeds in faith, knowing confidently of their potential. He sows by faith, not by sight.

The farmer also knows that the seeds' mightiness will only be realized in time. Time to sow, time to grow. The farmer has enough experience and knowledge to know when and where to plant these seeds. The results will come from skillful hands and wisdom. The right soil, the right amount of moisture and sunlight will all combine to produce what the farmer already sees in his mind's eye: a tree that will forever change the landscape.

Let's switch scenes and enter into a kitchen, with a woman making bread. Jesus emphasized wheat sowing and harvesting. Now, here is the results of the harvest: the ground wheat is in the hands of a skillful woman who will add yeast to make the wheat into a nourishing substance: bread.

The work of the farmer now enters into a kitchen, and is worked by another "farmer," if you will: a skillful woman who knows her family will need to eat.

The yeast is small and insignificant. It is worked into a "large amount of flour." The contrast is there--small seeds produce wheat, and wheat is ground into flour and now, again, a small thing is brought to bear: yeast. Do you notice a pattern? Small things in skillful hands bring bigger yields and those are in turn are used again with small things to bring bigger yields.

Wheat seeds need a farmer. Yeast needs a baker. Is the farmer any more significant than the seeds he sows? Would we even notice him? Would we even notice the woman making bread in her kitchen? Is she any more significant than the yeast she works into the dough?

No. Not to the world, anyway. We are far more interested in celebrities, the kings and queens of our modern world, than we are by the average, everyday kind of people.

Yet, look at the Kingdom of God and its economy: small things, insignificant by the world's standards, become mighty. Given enough time, with skillful hands and willing workers, the Kingdom of God can take root, providing shade and nourishment to a parched and hungry world.

We all have something to bring to God and partner with Him to bring about His Kingdom. The farmer, the wife, the wheat, the our hands, not much to get excited about. But in the skillful hands of our out!

Jesus is in the business of taking small things—barley loaves and fish—and multiplying them to astronomical proportions for His Kingdom’s use.

1 Corinthians 2:9 tells us, “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”

He sows by love and we walk by faith, secure in the knowledge that He knows what He is doing. He is building His Kingdom and wants us to work with Him, trusting His timing.

Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:

“I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” (Matt. 13:34-35)

Next time, we'll see how Jesus ups the ante, and instead of picking insignificant things like seeds and yeast, he picks items that the world values. Treasure, pearls and valuable money-making fish will illustrate powerfully the Kingdom of God.

And if you have one of those days where you feel rather insignificant and rather unimportant in the world's eyes, go stand by a field of wheat or a bakery full of bread and say to yourself, "Without the tiny, almost unseen things of this world, none of this would exist.  I am insignificant and rather unimportant in the world's eyes, but I exist and in God's economy, I have work to do."

One last observation on how God's economy works, reread the passage out of Samuel about a wee stinky shepherd boy whom God chose before the foundation of the world to do mighty things:

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.”  Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah. (1 Sam. 16:1-13) 

Just tend your sheep.  One day, your calling will come.  Being anointed as the king over Israel had not even occurred to that wee shepherd as he watched over the sheep.  In God's economy, sometimes we don't even consider or think about the things that God will call us to do.  But He calls and His love is always at the center.  

Friday, August 5, 2022

Do The Math! The Unmerciful Servant (Part II)

Interesting how God's ways are not our ways. That's an obvious statement, but how quickly we forget this truth.

The disciples come up to Jesus with a question in Matthew 18: "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Not who is the most blessed, not who is the least, not who is the most qualified...just who is the "greatest." Their question is implicitly full of worldly values and they may be thinking:

Who will reign over all the sheep that You, Jesus, are constantly ministering to? We follow You every day...that should count for something in this new kingdom You are creating. May we humbly suggest that we, Your disciples, are truly the best qualified to run the show. We have sat at Your feet, managed the crowds, distributed food, answered questions and have done wonders in Your name. 

Quite the resume, I daresay.  

We think this is enough for us to get to the head of the line. Besides, who knows Your teachings better than us?

Jesus understands all too well what the disciples are really asking. They want to be the leaders in this new Kingdom. Jesus wants the children of God running things as people who see themselves as family members who serve each other, not as dispassionate leaders who lord it over others. Jesus is saying:

Look around, boys. The kind of leadership you are asking about is what we have already have here: just look at the religious leaders. Look how unloving they are. Look how much attention they want simply for being leaders. They show no real compassion. They want praise from men. They dishearten My Father, for they have the Scriptures and should know better. Do they even see the children running around them?  Or are they ignored because they can't do anything for the leaders? Do they even see the sinners around them as fellow human beings, or merely as those worthy only of contempt? 

So, what does Jesus do to illustrate His point? He places a small child in front of Him and His disciples. He then launches into a long teaching about how the Kingdom is built upon a child-like trust of God and how its members are family. He wants the disciples to have no illusions of greatness; He wants them to have a revelation of who will occupy and lead His Father's Kingdom: people who are children of the King.

He concludes His teaching by saying that just as a shepherd will seek high and low for a sheep who has wandered off and rejoices in finding it, and so too does His Father not want any of these little ones to be lost. In other words:

You are looking to be leaders, boys. What kind of leaders is My Father looking for?  Here they are: These little ones who dash about our feet and smile when I enter the town. These little ones trust that they are loved by a Father that they cannot see. These little ones rejoice in the butterflies, flowers and the stars that come out every night. These little ones understand who I am. They come with no ulterior motives, just a love that reaches out and embraces Me without reservation. These little ones demand nothing but to be loved. They sense the operating principle of My Kingdom: Love and love alone is what this Kingdom is built upon. My Father's love is as unreserved as their smiles.

He then talks of how to restore a fallen brother. The Kingdom is built on restoration of its family members.

He then talks of binding and loosening. The Kingdom is built on discerning where disobedience has led to a shackling; how those shackles need to be loosened, and how forgiveness, not condemnation, will set others free.

He then talks of asking His Father as family members: where two or three gathered together in His name, they may make requests and trust the Father for the results.

Jesus has just sketched out, in clear and uncompromising terms, the contours of the Kingdom.

Peter then pops up with a legitimate question in light of all that Jesus has been teaching.  He was probably thinking at first:

OK, Lord...we are beginning to understand. Love is the foundation. A child-like acceptance is the attitude. We approach this Kingdom as a member of a family. But, wait! Every family has its obnoxious members: the uncouth brother-in-law who can't shut up; the nagging mother-in-law and of course, the cousin who sits and does nothing while everyone else is working. What about those family members in this Kingdom?

Peter, to his credit, at least got it right: "How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?" Jesus responds with a parable in Matthew 18:23-35:

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’

In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Servants were part of the master's family. So, the family theme is maintained here.

Look at how much the servant owed his master: 10,000 bags of gold. Whoa. That is a lot to loan a servant, but obviously, the master trusted the servant to give out such a generous loan. In fact, you get the impression that he might have been at the top of the list because this servant is called up at the beginning of the accounts to be settled.

He owes a lot, so a lot is demanded from him to pay the debt. His family will be sold into slavery and all that the man owns will be sold as well. Whoa. But, the servant knowing the heart of this master, begs for mercy. "Be patient with me..." he implores. If the servant thought his master wouldn't negotiate at all, he would have accepted his fate, knowing that the master was cold-hearted and wouldn't budge.  But he didn't! He appealed to the master's heart, knowing the compassion that lingered there. He begged for patience from the master. The master took "pity" on his servant, knowing how great the debt was. So, instead of just a reprieve, he received a cancellation altogether of the debt. Whoa.

The mercy and compassion in the master's heart exceeded all expectations that the servant held. The master's heart was far bigger than the servant could even imagine.

The master "let him go." The servant was free of debt; free to start afresh; free to hug his wife and children, knowing they were safe for now on. He could walk down the street not just debt-free, but loved. Loved by a master whose mercy was great because the love for his servant was even greater.

But did this love remain permanently lodged in the servant's heart? No, like fog wafting through the trees under a warming sun, it left. Why? The servant now focuses on the debt he is owed, not the love he just received. He is focused on what is missing, not what he possesses.

It's not like he needs the money--his debt is cancelled. So, why does he look up his fellow servant? On principle:

I am owed this money. He borrowed it from me, promising me he'd pay it back. Has he? Nope. I am within my rights to demand it of him; that's what I am going to do. Promptly. What a whiner! He wants me to be patient with him! I HAVE BEEN! He's taken too long to pay. He shouldn't have borrowed it unless he planned to pay it back in good time. Maybe this choke-hold will show him I AM SERIOUS! What a baby! You're going to prison, you loser. You can rot in there for all I care. No one makes a fool out of me. What if everyone finds out I am not serious about collecting what is rightfully owed me? Everyone will then want a piece of me! Stop your begging. You lose.

Whoa. The other servants, appalled by this servant's actions, go back to the one who has the real power. This servant is pridefully waving his "power" around, acting as if he in charge. Acting as if the other servants are subservient to him. He's somehow gained the notion he's above all the other servants. Why? Because he's debt free? Because he received his master's favor? Because he is free to start again?

Whatever is going through that servant's head, it is not love.

Debt free: yes, because a great love cancelled his debt. Favored: yes, by a master who saw his need, and released him with mercy. Start again: yes, with a heart no longer burdened by fear.

The Kingdom of God is built on love, mercy and freedom from fear.

But, this servant is not using Kingdom materials to build his house. He fiercely reminds the other servant what he owes him; he shows no favor nor mercy, just violence; he puts fear into the soul of that other servant, burdening him with an even greater debt.

The master calls back the servant. He is furious with him. He reminds him, in no uncertain terms, that the mercy he received needed to be extended without reservation to this other servant. The master's cup, filled to the brim and then some, poured into the first servant's cup so he'd had enough to pour into his fellow servant's cup.

Instead, this unforgiving and unmerciful is now visited with the same measure that he measured out: He is thrown into prison, and will now have to pay the debt.

How can he pay the debt if he's in prison? Exactly: The Kingdom of God operates on impossible principles from a human point of view:

We are forgiven much; we are to forgive much. (Objection!  He owes me!)

We are given mercy; we are to give mercy. (Objection!  But he's been so mean to me!)

We have been given love in abundance, not because of what we have done or not done, but because of who are are: children of the King. (Objection!  He's a child of God? You've got to be kidding!)

Impossible with us. But God is the Master of the Impossible.


Only He can change our hearts.

Only He can open our eyes.

You and me and all who call on His name are His family. Yes, we are to see all humanity as God's children. But when we enter into the Kingdom and live under the wise rule of our Heavenly Father, love, mercy and forgiveness are the order of the day. Every day. How we treat one another, especially with forgiveness, will be a hallmark of our membership in this Kingdom.

The Kingdom needs children to lead it: forgiven and free members who cherish what the Father has bestowed on them, and a willingness to bestow it on others.

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