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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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)

Divorce or Forgive?

woman caught in adultery 1

Q. We’ve been married over 20 years but my adulterous husband lost our store and all our savings at the casino. On top of that he has a mistress who is only after his money. Can I divorce him, or should I forgive such a deadbeat dad?

A. It is extremely difficult when your husband is like that, when the man you have entrusted your life to caused all the pain by his philandering and gambling addiction. Whether you should divorce or forgive him depend on two biblical principles and his repentance.

Although God hates divorce (Mal 2:16), He allows it under one exception:
Mt 5:32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
• Mt 19:9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Unchastity or immorality is any illicit sexual intercourse, including adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, sexual relationship with close relatives (Lev 18), and with a divorced man or woman (Mk 10:11-12). When a husband or wife is unchaste or immoral, they have broken their marriage covenant, and the innocent spouse is allowed to divorce the guilty party. This is a permissible exception to the general rule of “no divorce”, though not mandatory. Forgiveness is possible if the guilty party repents.

The second principle is based on how Jesus dealt with the situation in John 8:3-15. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus to test Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger. Then He straightened up and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” They began to go out one by one, and He and the woman were left alone. Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.

The Bible did not say what Jesus wrote, but scholars have suggested the 10 Commandments as the essence of the Law, or the sins the crowd were guilty of. They did not condemn her because they themselves are not without sin, so were not qualified to stone her. Jesus forgave the adulteress, but with a condition, that she sin no more. He asked her to repent.

The same applies to us. Which one of us is without sin? We may not have committed the act of adultery, but Jesus said in Mt 5:28 that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. We may not be compulsive gamblers, but if we have been greedy we are covetous and will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Co 6:10; Eph 5:5). If God has forgiven us our sins, we can forgive those who sin against us, including unfaithful and squandering spouse, provided they repent.

What if the womanizing and prodigal spouse does not repent? Do we still take him back? In this case I believe the right thing to do is to protect the children. They are innocent and do not deserve to be dragged down with their irresponsible father. The tough love option is to let the delinquent husband-dad go and suffer the consequences of his folly. Let the other woman desert him after his money is gone so that he’ll wake up. Do not cover his debts for him. Get on with your own life for the sake of your children. Let God deal with your husband in His way and His time. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:31).