Speaking of Life 5043│Too Good to Be True
You’ve probably experienced a situation that just didn’t make sense to you. It was too good to be true, and you weren’t sure if you should believe it. Well, you’re in good company because Jesus shared a parable in Matthew 18 about God’s way of moving in the world that definitely sounds too good to be true.
The story begins with a slave in debt to a king for a lot of money, and he couldn’t pay it back. When the slave acknowledged his inability to repay and asked for more time, the king had a surprising response. Let’s read it together:
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, the 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 would pay the debt.
Matthew 18:23-30 (NRSVUE)
If we look at the context of this parable, we see it’s a response to Peter’s question about how many times he was required to forgive someone. Though we don’t know why the first slave behaved as he did, we might speculate that his reaction was selfish human nature, accepting the forgiveness of his own debt, but being unwilling to do that for others.
We also could speculate that the first slave was afraid and didn’t trust the king. The slave couldn’t believe the forgiveness was true, and so he reacted out of fear. He terrorized those who owed him money because he didn’t believe the king would treat him so graciously.
From this story, we might deduce that this slave didn’t know the king’s character, and as a result, he didn’t trust him. He wasn’t sure the king would keep his word about the forgiven debt. As a result, he transmitted his fear about his financial matters to those who owed him money, and he behaved as if his debt was not taken care of.
This parable from Jesus gives us a chance to consider how we feel about forgiveness. Do we believe we’re forgiven for our sins and brought into a loving relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? If we do, then that belief will inform our relationships with others.
When we grasp that we’re known and loved despite our shortcomings, we’re more willing to love and accept others despite their shortcomings. Instead of acting selfishly or transmitting fear and behaving as if we have to earn the right to be forgiven, loved, and included, we can relax into the loving arms of God.
It might seem too good to be true, but if we believe Jesus came to show us God’s heart for humanity, we know we can trust that we’re forgiven and in the right relationship with God. And when something is that good, we have to pass it on to others. Rather than transmitting fear, we lovingly extend grace and forgiveness to others, trusting that there are some things that aren’t too good to be true. This helps them understand that they are also under the Father’s forgiveness.
May we believe in God’s goodness and love, trusting that it’s not too good to be true, knowing we’re forgiven, and extending the same grace to others.
I’m Jeff Broadnax, Speaking of Life.