‘The man fell at his master’s feet. “Be patient with me,” he implored, “and I will pay you in full”’ (Matthew 18.26 REB)
This parable of Jesus tells of a servant who had been embezzling funds from his king. By the time he was discovered he owed a sum of ten thousand talents. I’m told that this was several times the annual tax revenue of the province of Judea.
What sort of self-deception could persuade the servant that he could ever repay such a debt? And yet that’s what he asked for: time to repay. But his master was wiser. He simply forgave him the whole debt.
I wonder how many times, when people ask God to forgive their sins, what they’re really asking for is more time to repay. ‘Be patient with me, Lord. I’ll reach your standard if you just give me time. I will. I promise.’ But God is wiser than we are. He knows our weakness far better than we do. Comforting though it might be for us to hold onto the illusion of our own perfectibility, we have to humble ourselves, tell the truth, and trust ourselves to the indestructible love of God.
Father, I have tried many times, but I haven’t succeeded in making myself perfect, in love or in anything else. I have to work very hard, even with your help, to make a small change in my character, especially now that I’m sixty and have had so many years of practice being selfish and self-centred! All I can do day by day is ask you to forgive me for my sins and strengthen me to do better tomorrow. But the Good News tells me that you will answer that prayer. Thank you for that, and help me not to forget to pass that forgiveness on to those who have wronged me. Amen.
(Today’s One Year Bible readings are Exodus 5:22 – 7:25, Matthew 18:21-19:12, Psalm 23:1-6, and Proverbs 5:22-23)