URC Daily Devotion 7th March 2023

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7th March 2023

St Matthew 18: 23 – 35

‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.”  Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.”  But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’


This is a story about Gentiles.  It has a king – only Gentiles had kings. The man in debt begins to grovel or fall down worshipping –  something a Jew would never do.   And finally, Jewish law forbade a mother and child being sold into slavery to pay off a debt.   This story confirmed the stereotype at the time, of how vicious and cruel Gentiles could be.   The King’s action becomes a huge surprise to the crowd because he has chosen mercy.   By linking this parable with a discussion about sin, Jesus must be saying that unforgiveness is a sin and we pay a terrible price for it.  In fact, it creates baggage in our lives which holds us back and can even cause us to stumble.

Perhaps the most difficult thing Jesus calls us to do is to forgive, and yet it is absolutely essential for our lives and our wellbeing.

We need to realise the power of forgiveness.  When the king forgives this man of his debt, he wasn’t just forgiving the debt – he was giving this man his life back.  Not only could a debt this large never be repaid, but it was in the right of the king to throw the man and his family into a debtor’s prison until he paid it back.  The point that Jesus is making is when the king forgave the man, he was releasing him from a life of misery.  The same is true for us when we show mercy and forgive.  The only difference is, when we don’t forgive, we’re the ones in prison.  Unforgiveness is a prison.   When we won’t forgive, we become that man.


God our Father, give us the will to forgive those who have wronged us, and to move on in love – even to those who it is difficult to love, lest we too should not be forgiven.
In Jesus’ name,  Amen.


Today’s writer

Ann Barton, Lay Leader at Whittlesford URC in the Eastern Synod 

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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