“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.” — Matthew 18:23 (NIV84)
Now, this is the side of God we all fear. The side that wants an accounting. Who of us could stand unscathed if God were to call us to an accounting right now? Ugh! Exactly! That’s exactly how the servant of the master was feeling when he got called before him for an accounting. The master quickly reviewed the books and saw that the servant’s debt was greater than he could possibly pay off. Can you relate? Ugh! We know what happens next (eviction, foreclosure, maybe even imprisonment if illegal activities were the reason the debt got so big). And what if this were spiritual debt being called into accounting by our God and Creator? Again, who of us could make it through such an accounting? We know what happens next (judgment, punishment, separation, hell).
But, as we continue this parable, we see that the Master did the most remarkable thing. He forgave the debt. He wiped it away completely. In one act he tore up the recorded debt and the servant was debt-free. Instead of facing the consequences he would have faced in the kingdom of this world, in the heavenly kingdom he faced grace and forgiveness. The same is true when it comes to the eternal debt we face in our spiritual lives. Jesus satisfactorily paid the debt of our sin in His death on the cross. Our recorded debt is gone. We are completely debt-free because of God’s great love for us. Could there be any greater news than that? Obviously not! This contrast between the two kingdoms is that vast and different. In both, debts exist. In the heavenly kingdom, they are paid in full by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross.
So, we leave the Master feeling like the weight of the world has been taken from our shoulders. We feel free! Now we begin to live again in the kingdom of this world. How are we to deal with those who might be indebted to us? How are we to deal with those who might have sinned against us? The kingdom of heaven would have it that we would be as gracious and forgiving as the Master was with us. But that is not what the servant in the parable did. He refused to deal with his fellow servant with grace and love. By his actions he revealed his lack of understanding of what was truly done for him by the master. The master became furious and condemned the servant for his lack of grace.
May we see, experience, and accept the grace offered to us from the Master of the kingdom of heaven. May our lives as they are lived out in this world be characterized by that same love and grace.