A friend of mine, who’s a pastor, has a saying: “Those who’ve been forgiven much, love much. Those who’ve been forgiven little love little.”
I disagree. I think this is true in some cases—people who have been forgiven for a lot of past mistakes are usually quick to love and forgive others, but not always. The Bible illustrates this in the parable of the unforgiving debtor or the unforgiving servant found in Matthew 18:21-35.
The parable itself is about forgiveness. Peter comes to Jesus and asks how often he should forgive others. Most rabbis taught that people should forgive those who offended them three times. Peter thinks he’s being generous when he asks Jesus if seven times is enough, but Jesus says, “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven”—indicating that we shouldn’t keep track. The primary lesson is that because God has forgiven each of us for our sin, we’re also to forgive others who are truly repentant, no matter how often they offend us.
The parable runs like this:
Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him 10,000 talents [375 tons of silver—millions of dollars]. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children and everything he owned—to pay the debt. But the man fell down and begged his master, “Please be patient with me and I will pay it all.” The master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
When the Scripture says that the master forgave the servant’s debt, it means the debt was forgotten—made as though it never existed. This servant left the presence of the master debt-free. What a wonderful feeling that must have been for the servant.
After leaving the king, the servant went to a fellow servant who owed him 100 denarii [a few thousand dollars]. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
Instead of leaving the king thankful and showing the same forgiveness to others, the first servant went out and found a servant who owed him money, demanding instant payment. The second servant, of course, couldn’t pay, and did the same thing the first servant did in front of the king: he begged for more time, promising to pay.
The first servant refused to show forgiveness, and had the second servant arrested and put in prison until the debt was paid. I’ve often stopped here and wondered: If the second servant is in prison instead of working, how did the first servant ever expect to be paid? That’s always confused me, but maybe the first servant just wanted to make a scene.
Anyway, some other servants saw this and told the king. The king called the first servant back in and confronted him, saying that he should have had mercy on others because of the mercy shown to him by the king. Since the servant didn’t show mercy, the king refused to show mercy to him, and had him thrown in prison as well until his debt was repaid.
Girls, when our hearts are truly thankful for what’s been done for us, we remember those things. A thankful heart affects the way we treat other people.
Returning to my friend’s quote, even someone who’s only been forgiven for a little bit can show great love and forgiveness to others if she’s truly thankful in her heart for the forgiveness she has received. Likewise, those who’ve been forgiven for a lot can be unforgiving if their hearts are not truly thankful for the forgiveness they’ve received.
That’s why it’s so important to cultivate a thankful heart, girls, because a thankful heart remembers the things for which it’s thankful and passes them on to others.
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. —Proverbs 4:23 (NLT)
Girls, how do you keep your heart forgiving toward others?
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