Pay it Forward
This is Day 15 of my 40 day Lenten Blog.
In Matthew 18 Jesus tells the parable of a servant who owes his master a great sum. An unimaginable sum! Since the servant is unable to pay it back his master orders that the servant and his family be sold to pay the debt. The servant drops to his knees and begs the master to have patience with him and he will repay everything. The master took pity on the servant and forgave him his debt.
Like the servant I owe God an unimaginably large debt--a debt I can never repay. God knows that I cannot repay it and therefore, through the passion of the cross, He has forgiven my debt. But that does not mean I am completely off the hook. One of the great lies that so many are taught is that because Jesus died for us, we are completely off the hook for our debts.
The parable concludes with the servant failing to forgive a much smaller debt that was owed to him. The master, angry that the servant did not show the same compassion he showed, orders the servant tortured until every penny is paid back.
Like the servant in the parable, God has forgiven my debt. I am supposed to use the debt that God has forgiven as capital to buy the souls of others for Him. In Luke 16, Jesus tells the Parable of the Shrewd Manager. In this parable a master fires his manager because the manager wasted the master's possessions. The manager doesn't know what he'll do to make a living since he is too proud to beg and too weak to dig. So he comes up with a plan. Before turning over his accounts to the master, the manager cuts all of the debts of the master's debtors in half. That way they will be indebted to the manager and will help him once he is out of a job. The master commended the manager for acting shrewdly.
Jesus tells us that "the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." Luke 16:8-9.
God does not want us to keep the capital we have build up through His forgiveness of our debt for ourselves, but to pay it forward. We should be forgiving to others as God has been forgiving to us. And we need to realize that, like the shrewd manager, when we forgive others we are not really forgiving a debt owed to us, but a debt owed to our master, Jesus. We should also spend our worldly wealth on others instead of solely on ourselves. Our dollars will not last, but the treasure in heaven we exchange those dollars for will last forever. We should also realize, that our money is not really our own. It is God's and we owe it all to Him. He wants us to give it away to others.
But we should not simply forgive others and give them money. God wants us to let those whom we show such mercy to know where the forgiveness and wealth really came from. We do these things to bring glory to God, NOT to ourselves. When we bring glory to God and demonstrate His generosity (instead of our own) it will turn others to God and they will be saved as well.
I'll admit I struggle with this. I am supposed to be generous with forgiveness and wealth because it is not mine to begin with. But too often I am happy to play the part of the magnanimous Pharisee with trumpets sounding my generosity! But when I do that I do not build up treasure in heaven. Instead I waste the capital God has generously given me to buy the worthless accolades of men. Those accolades will not last long.
Today's prayer: Lord, thank You for forgiving my enormous debt. Please help me to generously pay it forward by forgiving others and using my resources to help others. And please Lord, forgive me when I pridefully do so for my own glory. Help me to humbly recognize that everything I have truly belongs to You and that I am not generous at all--but You are.
R.C. VanLandingham lives in Florida with his wife and kids. He is the author of several books including the Christian fantasy books Peter Puckett & The Amulet of Eternity, Peter Puckett & the Enchanted Chalice, and Magdalene Hope & the Elves of Evermore.