July 21, 2022

Worth Billions – Forgiveness At Work

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What mistakes drive you crazy? For some it’s people who are late for meetings, for others it’s people who don’t read emails or texts and then ask questions about information they already have, or people who are ungrateful, or maybe people who are greedy — always putting themselves at the center of the issue at hand. We all have something that bothers us, and it is rarely our own mistakes.

All these mistakes can bother me at times. However, one thing that bothers many people that does not bother me as much is horrendous driving. I think it’s because I am a terrible driver, perhaps the worst driver on the road. Trust me — my coworkers, friends, and family can make this case!

When it comes to driving, I am overwhelmed by God’s grace and the patient forgiveness of others — to the point that I almost never get aggravated by the poor driving of others. However, I cannot claim this type of empathetic understanding with other ordinary mistakes, especially when it’s something I think I do well. Why is this?

Costly Behavior

Too many of us look down at our coworkers, neighbors, and family members for struggling with things we think we do well. This common behavior is incredibly costly at work and in our personal lives. Jesus was deeply concerned about this type of self-righteous behavior, so He told this parable to those who were listening:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” - Luke 18:9-14

When Jesus told this parable, Pharisees were some of the most respected people in Jewish society. In fact, Pharisees received honor in social, political, and religious circles. Tax collectors, on the other hand, were despised by most Jewish people because tax collectors sided with the Romans — who were enemies of the Jews — for personal gain.

No Resume Needed

Jesus turns the tables on the way to think about self-justification, personal righteousness, and people who look down on the mistakes of others. Jesus makes it perfectly clear: those who see themselves as better than others have the biggest problem. The Pharisee gives God his religious resume and in judgment looks down on his neighbor. Looking down on others’ mistakes and not showing kindness, patience, humility, and forgiveness to our coworkers, friends, and family is a costly mistake. Most importantly, believing we are justified by our righteousness is the worst way to stand before a perfect and holy God.

Our Proper Position

The only way to properly approach a perfect and holy God is with a full understanding of the nasty brokenness of our sin. The tax collector’s physical demeanor and contrite words, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” adequately represent how all of us ought to stand before God. Due to our indwelling sin, it is only by God's mercy and grace that we exist — much less do anything of value. This proper position of “you are God, I am not” should translate from how we see God to how we see all people, including our coworkers, that God has made.

When we approach God with the same authentic inadequacy and remorseful brokenness that the tax collector shows, God’s perfection and limitless forgiveness in His Son, Jesus, breaks forth as the dawn into our hearts, as our yoke of sin is crushed by the blood of our Savior. This understanding of self, facilitated by a humble disposition of our heart, allows us to receive God’s unfailing love and grace — that permanently and completely removes our sin so that we can live in fellowship with Him, both now and forever. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” - Psalm 103:11-12

Forgiveness → Flourishing

It is impossible to fully comprehend how much we are forgiven. Yet, to understand we are forgiven — infinitely more than we can think or imagine — is the best and only starting point that leads to true human flourishing. Dallas Willard once said, “God knows that forgiveness is more powerful than unforgiveness.” The forgiveness of God is our lifeblood, both literally and metaphorically. We cannot properly order our lives without knowing just how forgiven we are. The opposite is also true: when we fail to understand how much we are forgiven, we are unable to forgive others.

The Apostle Paul understood why God forgives us, and this forgiveness — the grace and mercy of Jesus — became the power of Paul’s life and work. The power of God’s forgiveness led Paul to, and sustained him through, 25+ years of fruitful work that led to the spread of God’s word across the world — the reason we know God today. Paul had every reason to boast. Yet, even in all of Paul’s intimacy with Christ — such as, meeting him face to face and talking with him — Paul never lost his humble position before God of “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  Paul knew that keeping this position of humility before God reminded him of his only purpose in life. Paul knew even his sin was used to demonstrate the glory of God.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16

If, after all these years of saying “imitate me as I imitate Christ”, Paul still calls himself the “worst of sinners'', the statement above — 1 Timothy 1:15-16 — is much more than humility: it is the way to be a witness for Christ. So, let’s take on this same position of displaying what God did for us. This is the call on the life of a follower of Jesus.

Our Struggle Is Real  

Which do you struggle with more: accepting forgiveness or forgiving others? Those who follow Jesus know they are forgiven for egregious acts against God. Yet, instead of forgiving others, we often want to make others pay for mistakes that are far less significant than, and often trivial when compared to, our own sins that have been forgiven.

Jesus knew even his closest followers struggled with forgiving others. It was Peter who asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22), then, Jesus told his disciples this parable:

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 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. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.'“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.“Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” - Matthew 18:21-35

Context Matters

To correctly understand this parable, we need to see the king, who wanted to settle the accounts, as God. God is going to settle accounts with each of us one day. Jesus knows His audience always has this fact on their mind, “Am I right with God…is it possible to be forgiven with all I have done?”

It’s also helpful to look at the math of what each servant owed. We live in a culture where we think about money in terms of total dollars, but in the time of bondservants, those listening to Jesus were thinking in terms of how many years of service it would take to pay back the debt. Here is a breakdown of what each servant owed:

  • Servant who owed the king 10,000 bags of gold — ($12 billion dollars of gold today) was equivalent to over 200,000 years of wages.
  • Fellow servant who owed a hundred silver coins — ($16,000) was just over ⅓ of a year's wages.

A Hard Heart Wants Others To Suffer

The difference between a debt of $12 billion and a debt of $16,000 — and the responses of each creditor — is staggering! The king, who represents God, started his settlement with the servant who owed the ten thousand bags of gold by giving his servant a way — at least a meager start — to pay back the 200,000 years of wages. To actually pay the debt back would have been impossible, but the king mercifully allowed the servant to have dignity in the face of utter impossibility. However, the unmerciful servant did not provide a way for his fellow servant to pay the debt back, even though it was possible for the servant to do so by working for about 20 weeks.

After being forgiven, the wicked servant incurs a much more damning judgment for not passing on the mercy he received from the king, his master. His account ledger just received a $12 billion dollar credit! The wicked servant was forgiven 200,000 years of work for himself and his family. How could this wicked servant not be gracious and allow his fellow servant to work off 20 weeks of work?

Freedom to Forgive

James Montgomery Boice, in his commentary on this parable, says, “The only sure proof of a person’s having received God’s forgiveness through true faith in Jesus is a transformed heart and a changed life…[transformed to seeing ourselves] standing before the thrice holy God and thus seeing ourselves as the vile sinners we are — vile and yet forgiven through the death of God’s own beloved Son. That awareness should humble us so that we have simply no other option but to be forgiving to others from our heart.”

This is the way God works, He offers us complete forgiveness for the debt of sin we can never repay. As He told this parable, Jesus, of course, knew He would personally bear the full punishment of our sin through His infinite and incomparable suffering on the cross. However, Jesus cared more about saving the souls of men than avoiding His own suffering. Jesus desires for all people, including you, to see and accept the forgiveness He accomplished by pouring out His blood on the cross, and Jesus desires and commands us to pass on this forgiveness to others — pointing people, including your coworkers, to the ultimate forgiveness they desperately need.

Jesus’ point is clear: God forgave the debt that we can never repay, and because Jesus paid for the full price of your sin, you have no option but to freely forgive others — no matter how egregious the offense, for any offense of theirs against you is less egregious than your sin against God. In other words, Jesus canceled all of your debt to give you the freedom to forgive others.

7 Keys to Forgiving Others

  1. Know you are forgiven. Jesus paid for your guilt and shame (Romans 8:1) — release it!
  1. Know that grace is costly and cannot be earned or paid back (John 3:16) — it is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8).
  1. Forgiveness means releasing the intention to receive payback. It will cost you something to forgive others. They will likely not be able to pay you back — accept this.
  1. The grace you are offered is limitless — you have been, and are currently, forgiven billions! You lack nothing (Psalm 23:1). Give forgiveness freely, don't count how many times (Matthew 18:21-22).
  1. You are an heir of the king with limitless resources (Romans 8:17); therefore, go and disperse grace and forgiveness freely, in your workplace and beyond. This may be the best way to introduce your coworkers to King Jesus.  
  1. True forgiveness seeks human flourishing for all parties  — treat them as you would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). Any solution should be full of love.
  1. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. You may not be able to keep doing business with them or stay in a relationship with them. In order to enjoy new mercies, flourishing for all parties may mean starting over (Lamentations 3:23-24).  
Share this post
Howard Graham
Howard Graham
Executive Director

What mistakes drive you crazy? For some it’s people who are late for meetings, for others it’s people who don’t read emails or texts and then ask questions about information they already have, or people who are ungrateful, or maybe people who are greedy — always putting themselves at the center of the issue at hand. We all have something that bothers us, and it is rarely our own mistakes.

All these mistakes can bother me at times. However, one thing that bothers many people that does not bother me as much is horrendous driving. I think it’s because I am a terrible driver, perhaps the worst driver on the road. Trust me — my coworkers, friends, and family can make this case!

When it comes to driving, I am overwhelmed by God’s grace and the patient forgiveness of others — to the point that I almost never get aggravated by the poor driving of others. However, I cannot claim this type of empathetic understanding with other ordinary mistakes, especially when it’s something I think I do well. Why is this?

Costly Behavior

Too many of us look down at our coworkers, neighbors, and family members for struggling with things we think we do well. This common behavior is incredibly costly at work and in our personal lives. Jesus was deeply concerned about this type of self-righteous behavior, so He told this parable to those who were listening:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” - Luke 18:9-14

When Jesus told this parable, Pharisees were some of the most respected people in Jewish society. In fact, Pharisees received honor in social, political, and religious circles. Tax collectors, on the other hand, were despised by most Jewish people because tax collectors sided with the Romans — who were enemies of the Jews — for personal gain.

No Resume Needed

Jesus turns the tables on the way to think about self-justification, personal righteousness, and people who look down on the mistakes of others. Jesus makes it perfectly clear: those who see themselves as better than others have the biggest problem. The Pharisee gives God his religious resume and in judgment looks down on his neighbor. Looking down on others’ mistakes and not showing kindness, patience, humility, and forgiveness to our coworkers, friends, and family is a costly mistake. Most importantly, believing we are justified by our righteousness is the worst way to stand before a perfect and holy God.

Our Proper Position

The only way to properly approach a perfect and holy God is with a full understanding of the nasty brokenness of our sin. The tax collector’s physical demeanor and contrite words, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” adequately represent how all of us ought to stand before God. Due to our indwelling sin, it is only by God's mercy and grace that we exist — much less do anything of value. This proper position of “you are God, I am not” should translate from how we see God to how we see all people, including our coworkers, that God has made.

When we approach God with the same authentic inadequacy and remorseful brokenness that the tax collector shows, God’s perfection and limitless forgiveness in His Son, Jesus, breaks forth as the dawn into our hearts, as our yoke of sin is crushed by the blood of our Savior. This understanding of self, facilitated by a humble disposition of our heart, allows us to receive God’s unfailing love and grace — that permanently and completely removes our sin so that we can live in fellowship with Him, both now and forever. “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” - Psalm 103:11-12

Forgiveness → Flourishing

It is impossible to fully comprehend how much we are forgiven. Yet, to understand we are forgiven — infinitely more than we can think or imagine — is the best and only starting point that leads to true human flourishing. Dallas Willard once said, “God knows that forgiveness is more powerful than unforgiveness.” The forgiveness of God is our lifeblood, both literally and metaphorically. We cannot properly order our lives without knowing just how forgiven we are. The opposite is also true: when we fail to understand how much we are forgiven, we are unable to forgive others.

The Apostle Paul understood why God forgives us, and this forgiveness — the grace and mercy of Jesus — became the power of Paul’s life and work. The power of God’s forgiveness led Paul to, and sustained him through, 25+ years of fruitful work that led to the spread of God’s word across the world — the reason we know God today. Paul had every reason to boast. Yet, even in all of Paul’s intimacy with Christ — such as, meeting him face to face and talking with him — Paul never lost his humble position before God of “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  Paul knew that keeping this position of humility before God reminded him of his only purpose in life. Paul knew even his sin was used to demonstrate the glory of God.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners — of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16

If, after all these years of saying “imitate me as I imitate Christ”, Paul still calls himself the “worst of sinners'', the statement above — 1 Timothy 1:15-16 — is much more than humility: it is the way to be a witness for Christ. So, let’s take on this same position of displaying what God did for us. This is the call on the life of a follower of Jesus.

Our Struggle Is Real  

Which do you struggle with more: accepting forgiveness or forgiving others? Those who follow Jesus know they are forgiven for egregious acts against God. Yet, instead of forgiving others, we often want to make others pay for mistakes that are far less significant than, and often trivial when compared to, our own sins that have been forgiven.

Jesus knew even his closest followers struggled with forgiving others. It was Peter who asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22), then, Jesus told his disciples this parable:

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 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. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.'“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.“Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” - Matthew 18:21-35

Context Matters

To correctly understand this parable, we need to see the king, who wanted to settle the accounts, as God. God is going to settle accounts with each of us one day. Jesus knows His audience always has this fact on their mind, “Am I right with God…is it possible to be forgiven with all I have done?”

It’s also helpful to look at the math of what each servant owed. We live in a culture where we think about money in terms of total dollars, but in the time of bondservants, those listening to Jesus were thinking in terms of how many years of service it would take to pay back the debt. Here is a breakdown of what each servant owed:

  • Servant who owed the king 10,000 bags of gold — ($12 billion dollars of gold today) was equivalent to over 200,000 years of wages.
  • Fellow servant who owed a hundred silver coins — ($16,000) was just over ⅓ of a year's wages.

A Hard Heart Wants Others To Suffer

The difference between a debt of $12 billion and a debt of $16,000 — and the responses of each creditor — is staggering! The king, who represents God, started his settlement with the servant who owed the ten thousand bags of gold by giving his servant a way — at least a meager start — to pay back the 200,000 years of wages. To actually pay the debt back would have been impossible, but the king mercifully allowed the servant to have dignity in the face of utter impossibility. However, the unmerciful servant did not provide a way for his fellow servant to pay the debt back, even though it was possible for the servant to do so by working for about 20 weeks.

After being forgiven, the wicked servant incurs a much more damning judgment for not passing on the mercy he received from the king, his master. His account ledger just received a $12 billion dollar credit! The wicked servant was forgiven 200,000 years of work for himself and his family. How could this wicked servant not be gracious and allow his fellow servant to work off 20 weeks of work?

Freedom to Forgive

James Montgomery Boice, in his commentary on this parable, says, “The only sure proof of a person’s having received God’s forgiveness through true faith in Jesus is a transformed heart and a changed life…[transformed to seeing ourselves] standing before the thrice holy God and thus seeing ourselves as the vile sinners we are — vile and yet forgiven through the death of God’s own beloved Son. That awareness should humble us so that we have simply no other option but to be forgiving to others from our heart.”

This is the way God works, He offers us complete forgiveness for the debt of sin we can never repay. As He told this parable, Jesus, of course, knew He would personally bear the full punishment of our sin through His infinite and incomparable suffering on the cross. However, Jesus cared more about saving the souls of men than avoiding His own suffering. Jesus desires for all people, including you, to see and accept the forgiveness He accomplished by pouring out His blood on the cross, and Jesus desires and commands us to pass on this forgiveness to others — pointing people, including your coworkers, to the ultimate forgiveness they desperately need.

Jesus’ point is clear: God forgave the debt that we can never repay, and because Jesus paid for the full price of your sin, you have no option but to freely forgive others — no matter how egregious the offense, for any offense of theirs against you is less egregious than your sin against God. In other words, Jesus canceled all of your debt to give you the freedom to forgive others.

7 Keys to Forgiving Others

  1. Know you are forgiven. Jesus paid for your guilt and shame (Romans 8:1) — release it!
  1. Know that grace is costly and cannot be earned or paid back (John 3:16) — it is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8).
  1. Forgiveness means releasing the intention to receive payback. It will cost you something to forgive others. They will likely not be able to pay you back — accept this.
  1. The grace you are offered is limitless — you have been, and are currently, forgiven billions! You lack nothing (Psalm 23:1). Give forgiveness freely, don't count how many times (Matthew 18:21-22).
  1. You are an heir of the king with limitless resources (Romans 8:17); therefore, go and disperse grace and forgiveness freely, in your workplace and beyond. This may be the best way to introduce your coworkers to King Jesus.  
  1. True forgiveness seeks human flourishing for all parties  — treat them as you would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). Any solution should be full of love.
  1. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. You may not be able to keep doing business with them or stay in a relationship with them. In order to enjoy new mercies, flourishing for all parties may mean starting over (Lamentations 3:23-24).  

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