Many years ago, my wife and I had a Christian couple over for supper. After the meal we were sitting around talking. I can’t even remember what we were talking about, but suddenly the man exploded in anger.
We all turned to the man in utter shock. You could hear the rage in his voice and see it on is face. He was blustery red. His eyes were wide. His voice was loud.
We just looked at him stunned by what was coming out of his mouth.
When he started settling down a bit, I asked him why he was so angry. He looked at me and said he didn’t know why.
What we were talking about was so nondescript that I can’t even remember what it was about, but something we said triggered a fury deep within the man.
A rage was so real, that I still remember it decades later.
Though the husband didn’t know why he was so angry, there may have been a good reason for the rage.
Jesus made an interesting comment when He shared a story on forgiveness. It involved a slave who managed the finances and holdings of a rich man. When the master called for an accounting the slave was short 10,000 talents (Matthew 18:21-35).
This was a lot of money perhaps the equivalent of $10 million in today’s currency.
Some wonder how a slave could amass such a shortfall, but this was typical of the day as slaves were often used to manage a rich person’s finance. In fact, when we read the story of how Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt and eventually rose up to second in command, nowhere does the Bible say that Joseph was freed from his slavery. Despite all his power he was still a slave.
Angered by the loss of money, the master decided to sell the man, his family and belongings to recoup some of the losses. However, when the slave pleaded for mercy, the master forgave.
But you don’t lose $10 million without a lot of things going wrong, bad investments, unpaid loans and people taking advantage of your generosity.
The slave decided to start collecting the money he lost and when a fellow slave could not pay back his debt of 100 denarii, which was about a day’s pay, the slave ordered him thrown into prison.
When the other slaves heard about what had happened, they complained to their master.
The master called for the slave and in anger asked why he didn’t show mercy as the master had? When the slave could give no answer, we read:
34 And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:34-35 NASV)
The master threw the slave into prison until his debt was repaid. This was the similar to the threat the master had made earlier when he first found out about the shortfall.
But there are two significant changes in punishment the second time. In the first instance, the slave and his family were to be sold, but at the end only the slave was sold and this time he was to be turned over to the torturers.
The Greek word for torturers (basanizō) is also translated tormentors by other versions. The word is found throughout Greek literature and referred to physical punishment. The Roman historian Titus Livius Patavinus used the word when he told the story of an old Centurion who owed money. The man thought he was being sold into slavery to pay off the debt but instead ended up with torturers where he worked in heavy labor. Then the centurion took off his shirt and showed the scars on his back. Besides physical torture, it also included a starvation diet and being bound continually by heavy chains.
These were not jailers, but men who tortured and punished people. This slave would be tormented basically for the rest of his life, not for the huge debt, but because of his lack of mercy.
And Jesus adds this will happen to us if we don’t forgive as we have been forgiven.
The Apostle Paul made a similar statement. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he rebuked the church because a man in the church was living with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5:1).
Then in 2 Corinthians he finds out that the man had repented and the Corinthians welcomed him back in the church.
10 But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:10-11 NASV)
As disgusting as the sin was, Paul says that he also has to forgive so that Satan would not take advantage of him. This is the Greek word “pleonektethomen” which literally means being “out witted,” “taken advantage of,” “defrauded” or “exploited” by Satan. If we don’t forgive, then Satan has the legal right to exploit or defraud us. We become vulnerable to Satanic attack.
How does Satan do this?
Paul says that we can’t be ignorant of his schemes which in the Greek is “noema.” This is also the word for mind. One commentator describes Satan’s attacks as “mind games.” If we don’t forgive we will be turned over to the tormentors, not in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense where our minds will be tormented.
There are many signs of this torment. In the story that Jesus provided one classic example of it, anger. Shortly after the master forgave his huge debt and released the slave, he went out and found a man who owed a day’s wages:
28 But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ (Matthew 18:28 NASV)
Notice that he was actually choking his fellow slave. The man was so enraged, he had his hands around the fellow slave’s neck and was ready to kill him over a day’s wage.
Because a classic sign of unforgiveness is an anger that exceeds the situation. You are not enraged by what is taking place, but about other terrible things that happened to you in the past.
A 100 denarii was a pittance when compared to $10 million. There were others who had taken advantage of the slave involving larger sums of money, and this was the source of the rage.