Shrewd by Pastor Abidan Shah

SHREWD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Have you heard someone say “so and so is book smart but not street smart”? It means that a person has a lot of book sense but no common sense. Scientists and professors are known for that. I knew some professors from back in college who were brilliant when it came to books but clueless when it came to day to day activities. One was a genius in Physics but could not operate the coffee machine. Another one was a Math whiz but could not manage his money. So also, there are many Christians who are the “Good Book” smart but a failure when it comes to daily life decisions. They have a lot of spiritual knowledge but no relational and financial wisdom. Today’s message in our series on the parables of Jesus is very different than anything I’ve ever preached. It’s on learning how to be “SHREWD” and that’s the title of the message.

Luke 16     1 He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. 2 So he called him and said to him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ 3 “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ 5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, “A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?’ So he said, “A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light. 9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. 10He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?

Question: Parables reflect who we are in the story. Are you the wise steward or a foolish one? Have you been a good steward of what God has blessed you with? How are your finances? How do you see money? Do you use money or love money? Do you have the true riches in Christ? Are you saved?

Context: Previously in this series, you’ve heard me say that this parable or that is one of the most difficult parables of Jesus. Today’s parable is the most difficult parable of Jesus. The reason it’s so difficult is because on the surface it appears wrong on many levels. But, if we suspend our judgment for a little bit, it will begin to make a lot of sense. So, let’s review the story again: The steward has been fired for wasting his master’s goods but before he cleans his office, he decides to take advantage of his access to the financial records and pardons part of the debts that others owed to his ex-boss. Listen again to verse 5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, “A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’” I did some math and that’s about 400-500 gallons of oil. This would take about 75 olive trees to produce and it would be the wages of an average worker for 2 years. That’s a lot of money! Again, verse 7 Then he said to another, “And how much do you owe?’ So he said, “A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’” Losing 20 measures of wheat would come to losing the produce of 20 acres of land. That would be equal to losing about 500 denarii. Again, that’s a lot of money! Also, these were just two examples listed but he did that with all his ex-boss’s debtors. Here’s a question: Why didn’t he just steal some money and goods? If he had been caught stealing, he would have been punished severely. So, why did he do this? He was doing favors on his ex-boss’s expense to cash in later when he would be jobless. In other words, he was using his ex-boss’s debt ledger to build friendships that he could call on in the future for help.

What was his boss’s reaction? 8 “So the master commended (epaineo = praised) the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly.” Why didn’t he call the authorities? What boss/owner in his right mind would do that! Keep in mind that this is just a parable, a made-up story given to make a point. The point was that the steward did not steal from his ex-boss. Instead, he made a clever decision to take advantage of his situation and make friends for a rainy day. This act even impressed his ex-boss! Just when you want to say that there must’ve been a misunderstanding in the wording, listen to Jesus’ conclusion—“For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.” The Greek word for shrewd is “phronimos” which means insight and wisdom, sensible, thoughtful, prudent, and wise. The same word is also used by Jesus in Matthew 7:24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” What Jesus is saying is that lost people are wiser in using money than God’s people. 

Of course, people have tried to explain this point in more palatable ways. Some have said that Jesus would never commend such a behavior or commend lost people. There must be some misunderstanding. Nope. Listen to verse 9 “And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home.” In other words, Jesus was telling his listeners to use money to make friends so that when life does not go as planned, their wise investments would help them out. Again, some people have claimed that this could not be. Maybe, Jesus was simply using irony or sarcasm here. Listen to verse 10 “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the trueriches?” In other words, if you haven’t learned how to use money wisely, why should God trust you with his true riches. Keep reading—12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? 13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” 

Now it begins to make a little more sense. Jesus was NOT saying—

  • God’s people should be more like the people of the world.
  • God’s people should use other people’s money to outsmart them.

Instead, Jesus was saying—

  • Learn from those sons of this world who use money to make friends.
  • If you don’t know how to use money properly, why should God trust you with his true riches.
  • If you claim to serve God, stop serving money. You cannot serve both. You will love one or the other.

Why did Jesus go through all this trouble to explain all this? 14 “Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money (philarguros = fond of money), also heard all these things, and they derided Him.” There is the clue! The Pharisees loved money. The tax collectors and sinners used money to their advantage but the Pharisees were only lovers of money. Listen carefully: The Bible does not condemn money. It only condemns the love of money.Listen to I Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 2 Timothy 3    1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers…”

What happens when you love money? You begin to worship it. It controls your life. It dictates how you live. It decides your priorities. Of course, there are many lost people who love money and they destroy their lives chasing after it. But, unfortunately, many saved people do the same thing. They claim to know God but they worship money. They give their lives to chasing it and pierce themselves with many sorrows. They are money lovers. They condemn the rich (U-Haul behind a hearse) but many rich are not money lovers (most philanthropists)! To the contrary, the sons of light are money lovers:

  • Instead of teaching their children the proper perspective on money, they only teach them to love money.
  • Instead of focusing on relationships and investing to build them, they watch them fall apart and they blame the church or circumstances or even God.
  • Instead of finding true purpose in life, they only live selfish and self-centered lives.
  • Instead of investing in God’s eternal kingdom, they only live for the here and now.
  • Instead of being a solid testimony for Christ, they repel the lost world from the gospel.

Is there any wonder that God does not give his own any true riches? Is there any wonder that many of God’s people are living beggarly lives? Is there any wonder that many of God’s children are pierced with many sorrows? Is there any wonder that we are not winning the lost world?

Invitation: Are you shrewd? Do you love money or use money? Are you saved?

Reward by Pastor Abidan Shah

REWARD by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  How do you feel when someone breaks in line ahead of you? It happens in grocery stores, on Black Friday after Thanksgiving. You’ve been standing patiently in a line and then some inconsiderate jerk decides to jump ahead! Sometimes, it happens on the highways. There is a merge sign 5 miles back and you do the right thing but people keep driving past. Then they try to butt in right before the lane ends and some bleeding heart lets them in! It’s so unfair! So also, God’s grace can sometimes appear unfair by our standards. We expect God to honor our lines of justice, fairness, and seniority but he operates by his own lines of goodness and mercy. Just when we think we are next in line for his rewards for all the good and faithful service we’ve done, God puts us at the back of the line! We’re in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. The message is titled “REWARD.”

Matthew 20     1 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ 7 They said to him, “Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ 8 “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ 9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13 But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”

Question: Parables are like mirror. They reflect who we are. Which laborer are you? Are you the one who came early or are you the one who came late? If you came late to God, are you working hard to make up for lost time? If you came early to God, are you still working hard for him or have you lost your focus? Have you become envious of the newcomers? Or maybe you are part of the third group who is still standing idle in the marketplace. It means that you’re lost. The Master is calling you. It’s time to get saved.

Context: The parable we just read is deemed by scholars as one of the three most difficult parables of Jesus. The reason it’s difficult is because it’s hard to identify whom Jesus meant when he said in verse 16 “So the last will be first, and the first last.” Were the “first” the “Pharisees and the scribes” and the “last” the “tax collectors and sinners”? Or were the “last” the “disciples of Jesus”? In my opinion, we have to begin 15 verses earlier in Matthew 19:16f to understand the true context of the parable. Here Jesus had the famous encounter with the Rich Young Ruler. Remember, he came to Jesus and asked him what he should do to have eternal life and Jesus told him to keep the commandments—“You shall not murder,” “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not steal,” etc. The young man very confidently replied, “I’ve already done them. What’s next?” Then Jesus raised the difficulty level and said to him in verse 21 “…If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Why did Jesus tell him that? After all, Jesus didn’t say that to Nicodemus who was also a very rich man. In fact, if you remember, he actually said the opposite when the woman broke the expensive alabaster flask of perfume at his feet. When people complained that it could have been used to help the poor, Jesus defended her and said in Mark 14:6 “Let her alone…She has done a good work for Me.” The reason Jesus told the young man to sell all, give to the poor, and follow him is because he was possessed by his possessions. Listen carefully: There is a big difference between you possessing riches and riches possessing you. You possessing riches is not a problem. There were many rich people in the Bible and many rich Christians throughout history. On the other hand, riches possessing you is a problem. It is not based on how much money you have in your bank account. It’s your attitude towards money. You can have only two dollars in your name but those two dollars can control your life. This young man was not ready for Jesus because he already had a god. As a result, he walked away sorrowful. Please don’t forget: Coming to Jesus does not mean you have to give up everything. It simply means that now Jesus is everything. That is a very hard thing to do if you are possessed by your possessions. Listen to what Jesus said to his disciples in verse 23 “…Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were shocked at this statement and asked in verse 25 “Who then can be saved?” and Jesus replied in verse 26 “…With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Application: Are you the rich young ruler? Are you possessed by your possessions? God can help you. He is not here to take your money. He wants to give you eternal life.

Now Peter in his characteristic manner takes this opportunity to gain some points—27“See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” Unlike this rich young ruler who refused to part with his wealth, they had left all and followed Jesus. He wants to know what will be their reward? 28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.” I can imagine the twelve disciples thinking “Yes! Payday is coming!” Jesus being God knew what they were thinking and he said in the next line—30 “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” You can almost hear the disciples say, “Wait! What? Isn’t it first we give and then we get and those who give first, get first.” Listen carefully: Even though the disciples had given up their earthly possessions to follow Jesus, they were still operating by earthly principlesTo counter this, Jesus gave the parable of Laborers in the Vineyard. Think about the parable again—The landowner had gone out early in the morning to get laborers to work in his vineyard. Those who came early in the morning were the first disciples – Peter, Andrew, James, John, and the other 8. Since there weren’t enough laborers, the landowner went back at the third hour. Still they weren’t enough and he went back at the sixth hour, the ninth hour, and the eleventh hour. Everything was great until it was time for the wages. The disciples were thinking that they were going to be the new leaders, replacing the Pharisees and the scribes. They were going to get the motherlode of the rewards. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way in the kingdom. First, the order got reversed. The eleventh hour once got paid first. Second, the eleventh-hour people got the same amount promised to the first hour people and the first hour people didn’t get any extra reward. Don’t misunderstand: We are not talking about the rewards in heaven. I Corinthians 3:8 “…each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” The reward in this life are the presence of God, the gift of the Spirit, the joy of the Lord, the peace that passes all understanding, the riches in Christ. The first ones don’t get an extra helping! Unfortunately, church people like to act like they have an extra helping when they encounter the 11th hour people. We like to show off Bible knowledge, our spirituality, our understanding of the deep things of God, etc. God says, “You are all on the same level to me.” I believe that the greatest evangelists and Christian heroes and heroines have yet to be born. Again, don’t misunderstand: We are not saying that any new believer can get up and start teaching and preaching. I Timothy 3:6 tell us that an overseer should not “a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil.” Having said that, we don’t have levels of membership at Clearview.

Application: How do you see other believers who are less mature than you? How do you treat people who do not know the Bible as well as you? How do you treat people who are still struggling in their spiritual walk?

When the first hour people began to fuss12 “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ 13But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’” Their problem was envy. Then Jesus made the same statement from Matthew 19:30 in verse 16 “So the last will be first, and the first last.”

Invitation: Have you heard the call? Have you answered his call? Are you saved? This may be the 11th hour for you.

Justified by Pastor Abidan Shah

JUSTIFIED by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction:  Ladies, how many of you have ever locked yourself out of your car? How many of you have ever kept it from your husband? My wife is one of the smartest people I know but she has done it a few times. I gave her a long lecture one time about how she should check for the keys before she shuts her car door. I told her to be like me. I told her at length how a simple action like that can keep her from messing up someone else’s day (primarily mine). Then one day, not very long ago, I was on the way to visit someone at the Duke Hospital in Durham. Everything was going great until I got out of my truck in the parking garage. You know exactly what happened. I was not as concerned about being stuck. I was more concerned about Nicole finding out. So, I called Rebecca to bring me the spare key and threatened to kick her out of the house if she told mom. Of course, she didn’t listen. But isn’t that typical of us? We compare ourselves to the weaknesses of others in order to make ourselves look better than we are. God does not borrow our scales to measure us. He has his own standard of measurement and he measures us individually. We’re back in our series on the parables of Jesus and today we come to parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector titled JUSTIFIED.

Luke 18     9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justifiedrather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Question: As you remember, parables are like mirror. They reflect who we are in the story. Are you the self-righteous Pharisee or are you the repentant humble tax collector? Do you often say things like “You always…and I never…”? If you are quick to claim that you are the tax collector, do you give yourself a pass because of “what you’ve been through”? Are you saved? Pharisee or tax collector, both have to come to Christ.

Context: The parable we just read is set in the context of prayer in the temple. However, if we think that its only about how we pray, then we are greatly mistaken. It deals with issues much deeper with serious implications. So, let’s begin by asking the question: Why did Jesus give this parable? Luke actually tells us in verse 9 “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” Luke gives us 2 negative characteristics regarding the people Jesus was addressing through the parable: 1. They trusted in themselves; and 2. They despised others. Who are these people? Again, the parable gives us the clue in the next verse—10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” You’ve heard me talk plenty about the Pharisees in this series. The Pharisees were part of a lay movement during the time of Jesus that believed in living a life of holiness unto God. They believed that it’s not just the priests in the temple who should live by high standards but all Jewish people should do the same. Hence, they practiced what’s known as the “Table Fellowship.” They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. Hence, the meals had to be tithed, prepared, and served in a certain way. They even had what has become known as the “Oral Torah,” a body of traditional materials (paradosis) that was handed down by the fathers. It contained the interpretation of the Pentateuch Laws along with some additional materials. They also gained the reputation of finding loopholes in the law to help the common people live a guilt free life. Most people respected them and even liked them. But, based on this parable, many of them had a self-righteous condescending attitude towards others. Jesus picked up on this. After all, he was/is God and saw their hearts.

Application: Have you ever talked to someone who had self-righteous condescending attitude towards you? Do you have self-righteous condescending attitude towards others? How do people feel when you walk away from them?

The other character in the parable is a Tax collector. I’ve talked a little bit about them in the series already but here’s a little more. The Greek word for them is “telones.” From this we get our word “toll collector.” The Romans had 3 different kinds of taxes: land tax, personal tax, and the customs tax. People hated taxes but the last one they really hated. This was indirect taxation. It involved the collection of tolls and duties at ports and tax tables by the city gates. You could get charged 2-5% of your merchandise. The way the rulers handled this was by subcontracting it out to the highest bidder. They would pay a set amount in advance and then whatever extra they collected was theirs. This is where the “telonai” would come in. They worked for a chief telones (Zacchaeus) and that’s how Jesus found Matthew. Something else, Galilee was not directly under Roman prefects. So, the tax collectors were working for Herod’s family. But, Judea (where Jerusalem was) was directly under Roman prefects (Pontius Pilate) and they worked directly for the Romans. The rabbis referred to them as robbers. If they ever entered a house, that house was deemed unclean. They were frequently grouped with the sinners and the prostitutes. They were looked down upon for taking advantage of their own people, especially the poor and the widows.

What’s amazing is that Jesus did not avoid this group. Instead, he went after them with the good news of salvation! Many began to follow him. You’ve heard of 2: Zacchaeus and Matthew. To him, they were the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost Son. They did not hide their sin or pretended to be self-righteous. They admitted being wretched sinners who were unworthy of God’s mercy. The Pharisees could not understand why Jesus would associate with this bunch! After all, they break God’s commandments, they take advantage of the poor and the helpless, and they lead others astray.

Application: Do you know some tax collectors? 

Don’t misunderstand: Jesus did not gloss over their sin. Matthew 5:43   “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you….46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Jesus did not condone them nor condemn them. He converted them. Why? Because they came to him with no self-righteousness. They were totally helpless. To the contrary, the Pharisees came to him to judge him and find fault in him. They came full of their self-righteousness. They refused to be helpless. They remained condemned in their sins.

Something else—Jesus being God also knew what the Pharisees were doing was no different than the tax collectors. Listen to Matthew 23     4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders…6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces…14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers….16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it….25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence…31 “Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.”

Application: Husbands, do you see that you are guilty of the same deed that you are accusing your wife of? Wives, do you see that you are guilty of the same deed that you are accusing your husband of? Do you realize that you have same gunk in you that you are accusing someone else of?

What’s the result? 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Something else: Even when it comes to our mistakes and failures, we give ourselves a pass by listing reasons why we failed. God sees everything and he refuses to forgive us our sins.

Old Principle: If you cover your sins, God will uncover it and, if you uncover your sins, God will cover it.

Invitation: How do you see yourself? Are you saved?

Debt: Part 2 by Pastor Shah

DEBT – 2 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Kids have an interesting way of saying “I’m sorry.” I found some examples online—“Sorry because of nothing.” “Dear Brody, Miss P made me write you this note. All I want to say sorry for is not being sorry cause I tried to feel sorry but I don’t. Liam.” “I’m sorry I kicked you even know I didn’t but I am not writing this for in apology. I’m doing it to get out of time out. Sorry?” “Dear Aiden, I’m sorry for elbowing you in the mouth. But I did it for one reason you shoved me. First of all, you’re the one who shoved me. Second of all you shouldn’t push. Third of all you played a stupid game. I elbowing you in the mouth was your stupid prize. It was an accident. Love, Alyssa.” Unfortunately, we get more articulate and more defensive as we get older. Today’s message is the part 2 of our message titled “DEBT” in our series on the parables of Jesus. It’s about God’s forgiveness of our sin debt through Christ and our forgiveness of the sin debt of others towards us. Here’s the message in a nutshell: Through Christ, you can forgive anyone for anything but it’s a journey in which reconciliation may or may not be possible.

Matthew 18     23Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and tookhimby the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Question: Is there unforgiveness in your heart towards anyone? Are you forgiven?

Context: Last weekend, we answered the first question on this parable—“Why is Sin described as a Debt?”If you remember, it was all connected to the land. God had repeatedly told them that the land was his. Leviticus 25:23“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the landisMine.In other words, the Promised Land was a gift from God and if they obeyed his commandments, they could live and flourish on his land. If they disobeyed, he would kick them out. That’s exactly what happened with the Babylonian Exile. But God, in his grace and compassion, allowed them to return after 50 years. Now they were back in the land but they were in a sin debt to God. But God the gracious landlord already knew that they could never pay that debt and so from eternity past he had created a plan under which his own Son Jesus would come to pay their sin debt with his own blood. All they would have to do was look to him and live. That’s exactly what Jesus did. By the way, this offer was not just for the Jewish people but for all people because all us are under a sin debt to God. It may not be connected to the land but it is just as real.As Paul tells us in Colossians 2:14“having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross…”

Application: Have you received God’s forgiveness of your sin debt through Jesus?

Question #2What is the connection of our sin debt to God and others sin debt to us? Again, we have to keep the land in mind. All of the Jewish people, the rich and the poor, the creditor and the debtor, were on God’s land. For one of them to take the other by the throat was ridiculous. That’s what some of them were doing. When Jesus gave the parable, he had much more than their land debt in mind.He was referring to unforgiveness among them.He was saying—If God has forgiven you, what right do you have to hold a grudge against your brothers and sisters? After all, both the offended and the offender are standing on the same forgiven ground! Then he made a very shocking remark—35“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Meaning: “If you refuse to forgive others of the wrong they’ve done to you, God the father will also refuse to forgive you for the wrong you’ve done to him.”What do we do with that? If that’s true, you and I are going to hell if we refuse to forgive others.To understand this statement, we have to first understand how God forgives us our debt.

1. Forgiveness is not a joint agreement. It is a solo decision. Who did God consult regarding the plan of salvation? He consulted himself. It was decided in the secret and sacred counsel of the Trinity. The second person of the Godhead became the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8)Also,I Peter 1    18knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things,likesilver or gold, from your aimless conductreceivedby tradition from your fathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” Ephesians 1:4“just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Here’s the point: Just like God did not need our cooperation to initiate the plan of redemption, you don’t need your offender’s cooperation to cancel their debt. Think about it:Can you forgive someone who is dead? Yes. If not, you will be stuck. You can wipe their offense even if they are gone. 

2. Forgiveness is not forgetting.What do we do with the “Sea of forgetfulness?” That phrase is not in the Bible but it is based on certain passages in the Bible. Micah 7:19“He will again have compassion on us, and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Psalm 103:12“As far as the east is from the west, sofar has He removed our transgressions from us.” Jeremiah 31:34“…For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” These verses do not mean that God has amnesia. They simply mean that God no longer holds our sins against us because Jesus has paid our debt.You can forgive and still not forget. The scars are there to warn you of future dangers. Furthermore, God’s forgiveness does not mean condoning, dismissing, or legally pardoning.A murderer can get saved today and be on his way to heaven but still have to stand trial for the crime on earth. So also, when you forgive that does not mean that all consequences are gone.Now, instead of hating the person, you hate the sin. You let them off the way God has let you off but there may still be consequences.

3. Forgiveness is not reconciliation.From God’s perceptive, ransom has been paid and forgiveness has been offered. He is not sitting up there holding a grudge. He wants to reconcile the whole world to himself. 2 Corinthians 5:19“…God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” But, the sinner has to take his offer of reconciliation for the transaction to be complete. This only happens when we get saved and receive his forgiveness and submit ourselves to his authority in our lives. So also, reconciliation can happen only if the offender is willing to go through the appropriate process with the offended.If not, there can only be forgiveness but no reconciliation. True reconciliation is a complex process that requires dialogue, time, admittance of guilt, and rebuilding of trust. There are times people have sent me a note saying “Please forgive me” but the way they said it they are really saying “You have hurt me” or “I’m angry at you” or “I am justified for my actions.”What do I do? I just leave them alone. I can tell that they want their pound of flesh.Sometimes people misapply 1 John 4:20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? Hate is not the same as irreconciliation. 

4. Finally, Forgiveness is not instantaneous. It is a journey. For God, it is not a journey. His forgiveness is immediate. But we’re not God. For us it requires a process.It requires 2 things in a believer: 

  • Change in perspective

2 Corinthians 4:18“while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seenaretemporary, but the things which are not seenareeternal.”

  • Power of the Holy Spirit

Romans 5     3And not onlythat,but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Are you unforgiving towards others? Do you need to seek the forgiveness of someone? Have you been forgiven through Christ?

Debt by Pastor Abidan Shah

DEBT by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Someone said, “There are 3 kinds of people in this world: the have’s, the have-not’s, and the have-not-paid-for-what-they-have’s.”I think most of us are in that last group. To be honest, debt is not all that bad. It’s debt collection that is bad. Having to payback what you owe is not that fun. I found some memes online that I thought were really funny: “Run for your life, the debt collectors are coming”; “I will find you and I will get my money”; and “I paid off all my debts and now no one calls me.” Today’s message in our series on the parables of Jesus is not as much about debt as it’s about debt collection. Of course, by that we are referring to our sin debt and by cancellation of that debt we are referring to forgiveness of sin. Here’s the message in a nutshell: Unless you understand how God has cancelled your sin debt towards him through his son Jesus, you will never truly understand how to cancel the sin debt of others towards you.

Matthew 18     23Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. 28“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and tookhimby the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Question: Parables are like mirror. Can you see yourself in this story? Are you the servant who was forgiven a big debt but went out and took his fellow servant by the throat for a small debt? Have you ever experienced the forgiveness of sins? Are you saved?

Context: The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is very basic and clear on the surface but it’s very baffling and complicated when studied in depth. Think about it for a moment: 

  • Why is Sin described as a debt? Does God loan us a certain amount of holiness?
  • What is the connection of our sin debt to God and others sin debt to us?
  • Why is it so hard for us cancel the debt of others to us?
  • Is it really that we cannot cancel a single sin debt or is it more the fear that if we let this one go, more will follow, it will happen again?
  • Can I be saved if I refuse to pardon the sin debt of others towards me?

There is no way that we can answer all those questions in the next 20 minutes. That’s why this is will be a multi-part message. We will take on a couple of those questions today and the rest next time. (A word to the wise – “Don’t miss these messages. They have the potential to change your life and relationships.) So, let’s begin:

Question #1 Why is Sin described as a debt? The common mistake people make in studying this parable is that they quickly jump over the word “debt” and start talking about “sin.” Of course, this parable is about sin (our sin towards God and others sin towards us), but we cannot truly understand the force of this parable until we understand the significance of debt in that society. To understand this, let’s back up and look at the context of this parable in Matthew 18     21Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” We’ve all heard what that implies. Jesus was not saying 70 X 7 = 490. He was saying unlimitedtimes. All that is true but there’s a reason why Jesus used the number 7 and not 3, 5, or 10. Because 7 in the Old Testament is the number of fulfilment. It is the number of Sabbath. It is very significant when it comes to debt.Listen to Deuteronomy 15     1“At the end of everyseven years you shall grant a releaseof debts.2And this isthe form of the release: Every creditor who has lentanythingto his neighbor shall releaseit;he shall not requireitof his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the LORD’S release.” Not only that but even debt slaves were set free. Leviticus 25     8“And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. 9Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenthdayof the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement…10And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout allthe land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. 17Therefore you shall not oppress one another, but you shall fear your God; for Iamthe LORD your God. 19Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill, and dwell there in safety… So when Jesus said to Peter, “not just seven times but seventy times seven,” his listeners knew that he was hinting at the Year of Jubilees.But something else–23“The land shall not be sold permanently, for the landisMine.Not just the land of Israel. Exodus 19:5“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earthisMine.” In other words, it doesn’t matter who has the title, God owns it all.

To us, it doesn’t seem like a big deal but to those people it was nothing short of a revolution.Why? Because the Pharisees had created a system called “prozbul.” According to this system, the debt collector could give someone’s debt over to the court. This way it was no longer an “individual” holding the debt but a court and did not have to be forgiven in the seventh year. Now the creditors could lend in the sixth year and know that their money would be safe and the borrower could borrow money to do their work. On the surface, this seemed like a win-win, but can you imagine what this did to those in big debt. They could never get out of debt. The debt would keep mounting until it would be a foreclosure or slavery. Think about Jesus’ parable for a moment. How much did the servant owe the king? Ten thousand talents. A talent was about 60-90 pounds depending on the metal (gold, silver, or copper). So, 10,000 talents would be about 225 tons. Let’s say a talent of gold would be about 6000 denarii. 10,000 talents would be 60 million denarii. An average laborer would make 1 denarius a day. Herod’s annual salary was 900 talents. It would take Herod 10 years to pay back as long as he didn’t spend at all. How long will it take for the servant to pay back 60 million denarii? It’s impossible.

When Jesus came preaching the gospel of the kingdom, he talked in terms that the average person could understand. In the Lord’s Prayer inMatthew 6:12“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Also, remember the parable of the Two Debtors, one owed 500 and the other only 50. Both were forgiven and Jesus asked “Which one would love more?” You can imagine how this must have impacted the people–“That person has been holding the lien on my property for the past 200 years. I wonder what he will do now.” Here’s a reminder:  Are you generous towards those who are less fortunate? I believe in Capitalism but Generous Capitalism. At Clearview we have many very generous people. How about you?

Now we understand the gravity of why Jesus talked in terms of debt but the question still remains – “How is sin a debt against God?” In the Bible, sin is defined by metaphors:

  • Sometimes it is a burden (bear your iniquities – Lev 20:20) and Jesus said “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden.
  • Sometimes it is a stain (sin be like scarlet – Isaiah 1:18) and it has to be washed (Eph. 5:26).
  • Sometimes it is slavery (Egypt as house of bondage) and it has to be set free (Romans 6:18)
  • And some other metaphors

Sometimes it is also described as a debt. Lev. 5:1“If a person sins in hearing the utterance of an oath, and isa witness, whether he has seen or knownof the matter—if he does not tellit,he bears guilt.” It has the idea of assuming a debt. This idea became very prominent after the children went into Babylonian Exile. They had lost their land. Don’t misunderstand: They didn’t lose it to the Babylonians but to God.Remember, God had told them “the land is mine” and “the whole earth is mine.” They were in debt because of sin. They were in the land but it was God’s land. They still had a debt to pay which was impossible to pay. The prophets repeatedly talked in the language of earning your wages.Jeremiah 31:11For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he.” Zechariah 9:12“Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare thatI will restore double to you.” Why did Jesus come? He came to pay a debt that we owe to God that we can never repay. Matthew 20:28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus went about offering forgiveness of sins to all those who came to him. He undermined the authority of the temple priests and messed up the nice system of financial security of the Pharisees and the religious leaders. No wonder they hated him. 

Listen to how Paul describes our salvation inColossians 2     13And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

Invitation: There are no bargain pardons. God himself had to pay our debt of sins by sending his Son Jesus to die for our sins. Have you received his pardon? Do you understand how everything you have is his? Are you holding someone’s lien in your hand? Are you saved?

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