WHY I NEED SO MUCH MERCY

Critics of  evangelicalism sometimes complain that we are always concerned with sin and judgment. We are said to take the bible too literally and are the source of most of the Western hemisphere’s corruption and greed. Essentially, we are presented as the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand and the ‘Fred Phelps Society of God Hates Everything’.

I can always take constructive criticism, point out that I’m not like that and make a case for what I believe; but the follower of Jesus does not need to defend his or her self. Following Jesus when done with the right heart will include an occasional crown of thorns and being vilified by a more politically correct or theologically astute crowd. The gospel is after all foolishness to those that perish. It is a stumbling block and affronts human nature in a scandalous way. I must own the offense against me first, though...

I for one, have no defence against the words of Jesus. He says awful things about the heart of man and has the truth that sets us free from all of our delusions. He hits us harder than the world when it comes to our religious hypocrisy and lack of love.

I find myself in his story of the man with an impossible debt.


Matthew 18:
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 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.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.


To the first century listeners, the debt was beyond comprehension. No one owed that much money to a king. It was the King’s right to throw the man in prison and in the same way that Adam’s sin was passed on this man’s family also were about to pay the price for his mistakes.

Although the talent's worth varied in different periods, ten thousand talents represented between sixty and one hundred million denarii, or between thirty and one hundred million days' wages for an average peasant-a lot of work… the poor man owes the king more money than existed in circulation in the whole country at the time! … So here he compares God with a king who let a subordinate get too far into debt to ever pay him back. The grace of God is so deep and unimaginable that it repeatedly bursts the bounds of Jesus' metaphor.[1]

I find myself kneeling before God to confess my sins and am aware of this unapproachable debt. Every way that I have failed to honour God in my life has accumulated with interest. I am morally bankrupt in the sense that I cannot pay it off. Still, as I beg God for mercy, I make lame promises of paying it all back.

The King in the story felt pity for the debtor. I’m sure that God finds our lame attempts to make things right in the Universe, pitiful. He knows that our debt is impossible to pay off. But, God is merciful. The enormity of the debt is much larger than we naturally can admit to. It cannot be that bad can it?

The very zealous, self-disciplined Law-keeper Paul described himself as the chief of sinners. He came to see how serious his debt load really was. The debt is unimaginable! The greatness of the King is measured by his capacity to forgive his greatest debtor. You might think that God’s forgiveness of our sin would cause us to be eternally grateful, stop trying to pay it off and change our essential nature.






[1] The IVP New Testament Commentary Series

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