Happy Thanksgiving from Taking the Epistle – Be thankful, forgive and love one another – Matthew 18:21-35
Matthew 18:21 (ESV) Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
As I was praying about whether to share this thanksgiving or not I came across an old bible study that I had done for our Sunday evening “Agape bible study group” and it was entitled “forgiveness part one” and the basis of the bible study was the verses above which I am sure you can understand why I would use this as a good example when we would be speaking about forgiveness but why would I use this example or why did I receive confirmation to do these verses for a Thanksgiving post? Please let me explain…
For me this passage of scripture is in two parts…
• The initial question from Peter regarding how often shall we forgive
• Jesus responds with a parable, describing a situation that is recognizable to help them understand.
Peter starts this whole passage of scripture off by being Peter and lets be fair to Peter, we are all a little “Peter-like” sometimes when he starts off well by asking a question and if he had left it there then we would have commended Peter for his pursuit of knowledge, however Peter does what he does and this is why I relate to him so well by giving a “holy answer” as to appear correct. Jesus blows his mind by stating that he should not hold a standard “3 times and you are out” or an elongated “I will do it seven times” but you should do it seventy times seven, not hold an account of forgiveness but actually have that heart of forgiveness and that is why he tells the parable.
What does this have to do with Thanksgiving?
Quite a lot actually! Today we will gather together with people who we have prearranged to do so, in some cases and especially if it is a family situation you will have to forgive those who have slighted us or wronged us because let us face it, we will tick each other off occasionally. We all have folks in our lives that do things that rub us up the wrong way but on holidays such as this then we will attempt to rise above this. To achieve a sense of true thankfulness you have to forgive first. Jesus talks about the heart of forgiveness when you are going to sacrifice in the following passage of scripture…
Matthew 5:21 (ESV) “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
If you are being truly thankful then you must rid yourself of the things that eat you up, as Jesus says here in Matthew 5 be reconciled to your brother (whether he accepts it or not but do your part) and then with clean hands and a clean heart offer your gift at the alter (or your praises to God) and this is as true today as it was when it was written, I have experience of this as recently someone I had been ministering with was hurt by actions taken and I felt that I had to have it resolved by the following Sunday as I did not want to offer praises to God without reconciliation being offered. I wanted to resolve the issue with my spiritual brother so I could be genuinely thankful for what the Lord had done for me.
Give thanks with a grateful heart
In the Matthew 18 parable we see that the servant who had been forgiven of so much did not show the same restraint to one who owed him much less and do you think that he was thankful for his current situation? He still had his wife and children and they were not in slavery, he still was in favor by the ruler, and he had been forgiven a great debt and had you have been in the same situation would you have been praising God for all that had been done for you, having a heart of thankfulness for the blessings bestowed upon your life as you had been given a great gift and one that could not possibly repay or would you respond as he did.
The forgiven man goes out into the street and does he show thankfulness or give thanks? Do you think that as he was throttling the man who owed him a small debt he had a heart of thanksgiving? I would say of course not and we have to be careful today that we do not let the cares of this world, the slights that we think we have against folks, the gossip that we breathe against our friends or whether we are getting a big enough slice of the pie or whether we feel that someone owes us steal away the reason for this season that we are giving glory and thanks to God for all he has provided for us this far in the year and we gather the ones that we want to be around and want to spend quality time with. I lament that I will not be with my parents this year but I will give thanks for them when they are here in the New Year.
Examine what irks you about that person and establish whether that price is high enough to lose that person in your life. There is a flippant saying in Scotland that states “If you lend a friend 20 pounds and you lose that friend over it, it probably was a fair price for the friendship you had!” if the issue is money then that is easy! You either forgive or make arrangements that suit both parties to repay, or if the issue is pride then swallow it, if the issue is forgiveness then forgive them and pray for them, if they choose to be spiritually immature then that is on them. Do as much as you can, but if you forgive then do not bring it up anymore, bury it.
And thanksgiving does not have to be just one day a year and I challenge you this in this New Year give thanks to God regularly and give thanks often have love feasts on a regular basis and invest in your brothers and sisters, both family and spiritual. I am grateful for this holiday that we get to focus on God for all he has provided for us, but let us not just make it one day a year, let us be giving thanks with a grateful heart on a regular and ongoing basis. This year my wife and I had a Thanksgiving Love Feast last Sunday for 27 people in my small house and that is where the above picture comes from, what was really cool is that my wife looked up verses that spoke about giving thanks and our people read these out to set our hearts on God. We do this as well as meeting with her family (it is important to invest in your spiritual and relational family often) on the day itself and I commend you that if you know someone who will be alone this Thanksgiving then please invite them over and bless them because you know that as followers of Jesus we are to love one another and be a friend to the friendless.
One of the modern trends that I hate (and this is from a guy who has done it on the first year folks were doing it) is that people swap time with the folks who made an effort to spend time with them at Thanksgiving in order to line up in the cold for the latest and greatest gadget at a rock bottom price, or to make their Christmas cheaper and that part is admirable, but instead of us using that money wisely we use it to cram one more gift into that budget and our stores on “Black Thursday” (formally known as Thanksgiving) turns from that picturesque image of people being genuinely thankful to running around to get more stuff and not actually be thankful for what we have and we end up looking like the opening scene of the movie “The Grinch that stole Christmas”.
Days like this I usually avoid as it brings out the worst in people, I have seen Target associates be verbally abused because there was a limited stock on a bargain, a woman swooping like a vulture when I put a crock pot back on the shelf, I have had carts wrestled from my hands as that lady “needed two” and lastly a lady organizing her kids at various stores like a military general on a cell phone to make the maximum impact at all the stores at the same time. It truly saddens me as a few hours after we claim to be thankful we go look to get more. At church on Sunday the pastor quoted that of all the stuff we buy, only 1% of what we buy as comfort items is still in use after 6 months, the rest are given away or stored “for future use”. (I bet you are thinking about your cupboards now)
God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to. I truly wish you and yours a happy and safe Thanksgiving season. Love your families and pleas give thanks to the one who has given you and forgiven you of so much.