Forgiving Debt and Lending Money

Q. Mt 18:23-25 That is why the kingdom from heaven may be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he had begun to settle the accounts, a person who owed him 10,000 talents was brought to him. Because he couldn’t pay, his master ordered him, his wife, his children, and everything that he owned to be sold so that payment could be made.

Lk 6:34 If you lend to those from whom you expect to get something back, what thanks do you deserve? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back what they lend.

The theme of the parable of the unforgiving servant is not about money but about forgiveness. However, on the surface, it looks look Luke is stepping on the toes of Matthew. What is your verdict on lending money or other things?

A. You are right in observing that the parable of the unmerciful servant in Mt 18:23-35 is not about money but forgiveness. Although the text mentioned “owed” and “debt”, the amount is simply too big to be considered ordinary lending.

If you read your NIV footnotes, you will see that a talent was worth about 20 years of a day laborer’s wages. He owed the king 10,000 talents. Let’s bring this to today’s terms. Assuming a round C$12/hour, 8 hours/day, 300 days a year (no work on Sabbaths & feast days), a year’s wage = C$12 X 8 X 300 = C$28,800, more if he works over 8 hours a day, say C$30,000 in round terms. So 10,000 talents = C$30,000/year X 20 years/talent X 10,000 talents = C$6,000,000,000! There is no way a king would lend his servant $6 billion! Possibly, the servant was one of the king’s officials who mismanaged the kingdom’s finances and lost this staggering sum, just like our current ministers :-).

Lk 6:34, on the other hand, is about “love your enemies” using lending as an illustration. It is real lending since “lend” is repeated 3 times in v 34-35, and “expecting to be repaid” twice. Matthew and Luke are not contradicting each other.

My verdict on lending money depends on whether I am the borrower or the lender. If I were the borrower, my guiding principles are:
Rom 13:7-8 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

I would avoid debt if at all possible, except things that are too big for me to handle such as buying a house, in which case I would take out as small a mortgage (by using as big a down-payment I can afford) and as short an amortization as possible. It’s not that I don’t know about leverage, as I was a finance professional for over 3 decades before becoming a pastor. It’s just that I believe the Bible more when it comes to financial wisdom.

If I were the lender, my guideline would be:
Lk 6:35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

I would be judicious in discerning whether the borrower has legitimate needs, as I am also a steward of the resources God had entrusted to me. I would balance extending help to relieve the burden, while not encouraging shirking responsibility and dependence on others. If the debtor can repay me, I would accept repayment to use the funds for other worthwhile causes. If he/she cannot pay me back, that’s fine as I do not expect to get anything back. Just helping someone in need is sufficient.

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Imprecatory Psalms versus Love your Enemies?

Q. Jesus taught us that we should love and pray for our enemy. Mt 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Why is it that in Ps 109 David curses his enemies before God?

A. Imprecatory psalms and prayers invoking curses on ones’ enemies are a problem to many Bible readers, who find it difficult to reconcile these passages with Jesus’ command to love your enemies. And it’s not just David being vindictive, but involves other people such as prophets as well, who are God’s spokesmen and ought to know better e.g.

Jer 18:21 Therefore, give their children over to famine
And deliver them up to the power of the sword;
And let their wives become childless and widowed.
Let their men also be smitten to death,
Their young men struck down by the sword in battle.

It is especially problematic in view of God saying, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” (Deut 32:35; Rom 12:19; Heb 10:30) What were these people thinking? Don’t they know what God said? Some therefore consider such passages as sub-Christian and shouldn’t be in the Bible. How do we reconcile them as they are indeed part of Scripture?

Rather than consider those who call upon God to judge their enemies as being mean-spirited and beneath what a Christian should do, my opinion is that it is us who are not as close to God as the imprecatory psalmists were, who were more concerned about God’s name being profaned by their enemies than seeking revenge for themselves. David did evil in the sight of the LORD when he committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11:27, 12:9) and when he ordered a census of Israel’s army (1 Chron. 21:7), but God never faulted him for his imprecatory prayers. That should alert the critics that they overlooked something.

The LORD called David a man after His own heart (1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22). David knew “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully (Ps 24:3-4). He was not afraid to call upon God to “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me,” (Ps 139:23-24a). I would not dare to do so unless my heart was totally free from personal motives and 100% pure before God.

And his actions vindicated his thoughts. David had the opportunity to get back at those who wronged him, but he did not take matters into his own hands, instead leaving it to the LORD to exonerate him e.g. sparing Saul’s life twice (1 Sam 24; 1 Sam 26).

My conclusion is that unlike us who often view things through jaundiced eyes tainted by self-interest, David saw things in sharper contrast of right vs. wrong, conformity to God’s character or against it, positive or negative impact on God’s name etc. He therefore called upon God to deal justly with His enemies and give them the punishment they rightly deserved. Notice that in v 6-20 all the righteous judgment are taught elsewhere in the Bible, including doing unto his enemies what they did to him, and David had not gone overboard in retaliation against his enemies. He left the “settling the scores” entirely in God’s hands.

My last comment is that biblical ethics is a progressive revelation. While there is continuity between OT and NT ethics, with the coming of Christ in the age of grace, people receive a fuller understanding of what God requires of us than in OT times. We should therefore not read back NT standards into the OT and expect full compliance.

Christian Suicide?

Q. This is a true story from the YouTube. The jihadists told a Christian to denounce his faith or watch his wife getting raped. He killed himself. I don’t think he would have killed himself if the jihadists threatened to kill his wife instead. They may just kill his wife after his suicide instead of raping her. Where would his soul go? Both denying Jesus and killing are sins. I don’t see any way out.

A. Some accept what the jihadists say at face value, that if the Christian denounce his faith then his wife won’t be raped. Others are less trusting and assume the worst based on what the jihadists had done in the past, that they would coerce the Christian to apostatize, rape his wife, then kill them both. You can speculate the outcome; my opinion is that the latter is more likely.

I don’t know why the Christian killed himself, possibly because he made up his mind not to renounce Christ, but could not bear to see his wife raped before his eyes. He believed that to apostatize is worse than death, therefore he committed suicide.
Heb 10:26-29 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

I have written on Christian suicide before and refer you to my previous post:
https://raykliu.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/where-does-a-christian-who-commits-suicide-go/

Where would his soul go? Since he decided that he would rather die than renounce Christ, he is not an apostate. He has not blasphemed against the Holy Spirit and committed the unpardonable sin. Although he committed suicide or self-murder, he was compelled to do so under threat of violation to his wife. It is forgivable. Therefore my opinion is that he went to be with Christ.

Forgive & Forget?

Q. In Mt 5:24 What if the brother does not want to make peace? I was going to tell my friend that he is not sincere enough when he was trying to make peace with his co-worker who insists on not accepting his apologies. Should he go on trying to make peace with different methods?

In Mt 18:21-22 A sister in Christ says to forgive because God would revenge for us (Rom 12:19). I think when we forgive, we do not want God’s wrath to be on that person either, right? But I imagine eventually God would avenge because He is just. That means our blessing and prayer would not be effective, unless things happen like in Jobs 42?

Lk 6:27-28 Is it right to forgive but not to forget? I think when we forgive, we should try to forget. It would make it ridiculous to ask us to give an example from our experience in following Jesus’ advise to forgive (in a group meeting?

A. In Mt 5:23 the brother has something against you, i.e. you have offended him, so the onus is on you to make reconciliation. If he does not want to be reconciled, then the procedure in Mt 18:15-17 kicks in, but with a difference. The difference is that there your brother sins against you and he is at fault. You are not the guilty party but nonetheless take the initiative to make peace. First it is just between you and your brother in private (v 15). If that fails, then take one or two with you to try again (v 16), not to gang up on him, but as witnesses so that everything would be fair. If that fails, tell it to the church, starting with the elders (v 17). They have the discretion as to how to treat the grievance, whether keeping it low profile or bringing it to the open, depending on what is at stake. If that still does not work, then the brother who sins will be excommunicated (v 17).

Now, in Mt 5:23 you, not the brother, is the one giving offense. You wanted to reconcile but he refuses. He is not acting graciously in this case, but since you cannot force someone to forgive you, there is not much you can do if he keeps on refusing after repeated attempts. However, because you were in the wrong in the first place, he won’t be excommunicated. There remains a stain on him because of the lack of grace, but it also reflects poorly on the church. So be gracious as much as you can, It is in short supply these days.

Yes, when we truly forgive, we don’t want God’s wrath on our enemy. The context of Rom 12:19 is v 17-21:
17. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.
18. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
19. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.
20. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.”
21. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Some misinterpret “heap burning coals on his head” as wishing something bad on your enemy. No, three times Paul said “never pay back evil” (v 17), “never take revenge” (v 19), and “do not be overcome by evil” (v 21), so how can he wish evil on anyone? Heaping coals on his head is not to burn him, but to keep him warm, to allow him to prepare his meals. It is overcoming evil with good (v 21). God will repay because He is just. We don’t need to take matters into our own hands.

The expression “forgive and forget” is actually not in the Bible. When we say to forgive and forget, we mean we no longer hold the perpetrator who wronged and harmed us responsible. We choose to move on with our lives instead of being stuck in the past. It does not mean we wipe our memory bank and can no longer recall the evil done to us as if it never happened. Human nature being what it is, we can forget a lot of mundane details, but not the way people treated us, both hurts and acts of kindness. We remember and can give glory to God as to how He delivered us from holding a grudge and remain bitter years after the evil happened. We got over it and won’t dig it up again. In this sense we have “forgotten”.

Transgender

Q. Ontario public schools are pushing transgender education” to keep people safe”. What’s your opinion?

A. I am all for keeping people safe from being bullied, but I’m afraid all this rhetoric is clouding up the real issue. Let’s define what we mean. One common definition is transgender or trans denotes or relates to a person whose sense of personal identity does not correspond with their birth sex. Gender means the state of being male or female, typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones. Sex is biological and objective, whereas gender is social-cultural and subjective.

My opinion is that our “liberal” education had dumbed down people so that they can no longer think critically and clearly. The confusion arises in our post-modern society when people accept the subjective or relative as truth, over and above the objective or absolute. Let me use a simple example to illustrate. When you change the label on a can of “corn” to “peas and carrots”, does it change it into a can of “peas and carrots”? No, it doesn’t. The label is changed, but not what’s inside. It remains a can of “corn”, mislabeled to fool those who don’t know the contents. Yet many are foolish enough to accept such “re-definitions” as legitimate, under the guise of “human rights” or other fancy labels when they are nothing of the sort.

When educators focus on what people “feel” as opposed to who they really “are”, it’s like changing labels without changing the substance. The birth sex is determined by sex chromosomes. Individuals having one X chromosome and one Y chromosome (XY) are male. Individuals having two X chromosomes (XX) are female. It has nothing to do with “feelings”, which doesn’t change anything except how one feels about oneself.

When a person elevates feelings above fact, they are self-deceived and deceiving others. I am not saying feelings are not important. They are, but not at the expense of truth. Nowadays to justify themselves, people “redefine” things to suit their own preference, including when does life begin, gender, marriage, and many other things besides. The worst is when they not only choose the alternative for themselves, but force it on the majority by changing the legislation to offer them protection and impose heavy penalties on anyone who oppose them. This is the warped world in which we live now.

But by abandoning the tried and true throughout human history, they are only distorting things to sooth their own conscience. However, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Gal 6:7). God will hold us accountable to His standard, no matter how we redefined things.

Homosexuality (2 of 2)

(Continued from yesterday)

God forgives adultery and idolatry. He forgives homosexuality too when they repent:

1 Co 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Some of the Corinthians were fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, and homosexuals, but they were washed, sanctified, and justified.

I disagree that God didn’t warn Sodom and Gomorrah because they were Gentiles. The classic counter-example is God sending Jonah to warn Nineveh, capital of Assyria, a Gentile empire. In fact, God asked His prophets to prophesy against many Gentile nations, including Ammon, Babylon, Egypt, Moab etc. For example:

Ezk 25:2 Son of man, set your face toward the sons of Ammon and prophesy against them,
• Ezk 29:2 Son of man, set your face against Pharaoh king of Egypt and prophesy against him and against all Egypt.
• Ezk 38:2 Son of man, set your face toward Gog of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him

But a final objection is based on Lot:
2 Pet 2:7-8 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men or by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds),

Although some saw Lot as an ineffective witness in not being able to convince even his sons-in-law, and his subsequent debasement in getting drunk and committing incest, the final comment on his life in the NT is that he was righteous (three times). I believe that he did warn the Sodomites, but they did not repent because of the depth of their depravity.

Abraham was indeed a prophet as God Himself said so:
Gen 20:7 Now therefore, restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”

He bargained with the Lord in Gen 18, persuading God not to destroy Sodom if there were 50, then 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, and finally just 10 righteous people there. Even then they could not find 10, and Sodom was destroyed.

Is it extremely difficult to correct homosexuality? I don’t know how difficult it is, but there are many successful cases. In any event, I believe Jesus’ principle applies:
Mt 19:26 With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Also Mk 10:27; Lk 18:27)

Homosexuality (1 of 2)

Q. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God. Was it because of their homosexuality or their un-repentance? The OT and NT show clearly that God forgives adultery and even idolatry. Homosexuality is not mentioned. God sent prophets to warn the Israelites of their idolatry, and Nathan to King David for his adultery. Prophet was not mentioned in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. Was it because Sodom and Gomorrah were Gentiles? Or was it because there was no prophet at that time other than Abraham? Or because it is extremely difficult to correct that perversity?

A. “Sodom and Gomorrah” occurs in 23 verses in the NASB, but not together with the word “homosexuality” as pointed out by gay apologists. They therefore proposed that the reason they were destroyed is not homosexuality, but violence and un-repentance. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is given in Gen 18 and 19:

Gen 18:20 And the LORD said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave.
• Gen 19:13 for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the LORD that the LORD has sent us to destroy it.”

It is true that in those two chapters “their sin is exceedingly grave” and “their outcry has become so great”, the sin was not named. But what the gay supporters conveniently ignored is the context:

Gen 19:4-5 Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter; and they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may have relations with them.”

The word “relations” in Gen 19:5 is literally “intercourse”. It was the men of the city demanding to have sex with Lot’s men visitors, so clearly the sin was homosexuality. Furthermore, the English word “homosexuality” is a relatively modern term not used in older versions like KJV, NKJV, or NASB, only in more contemporary versions like the NLT (4 times), ESV (twice), or NIV (once). However, the condemnation against same-sex relations is uniform across all versions.

In addition, the commentary on Sodom and Gomorrah in the NT is that they indulged in gross immorality:

Jude 1:7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.

It is therefore not what the gay supporters suggested, but indeed homosexuality.

(To be continued)