Wednesday, May 13, 2015

When You Feel Like a Miserable Failure of a Human Being (Not That I Would Know...)

When You Feel Like a Miserable Failure of a Human Being (Not That I Would Know...) -- What can the Bible parable of the forgiven debtor teach us about those days when you feel like you're made of fail?  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
Lately I've been thinking about discouragement. Not the kind where you feel like you can't keep your house clean (psssht... like that matters.) The big stuff, like being a good mom and a good person.

Everyone struggles with this; at least I hope they do, because I do, sometimes.

On Sunday as I was thinking about discouragement and what we do about it, I went to church and heard one of the New Testament parables in a whole new way.

Jesus tells a story in Matthew 18 about a forgiven debt. For the long-form story from the Bible click here, or if you have the attention span of a gnat these days (don't worry, it's not your fault and I'm not judging you) here it is in bullet points:



  • Man #1 owes Man #2 a huge sum of money.
  • Man #1 can't pay and begs for mercy. Man #2 forgives the debt. Yipee!
  • Man #1 finds his old college buddy who owes him a little bit of money, roughs him up, and demands the money right now. When it doesn't happen, he throws his friend in prison until he can pay.
  • Word gets back to Man #2. He is not amused. He chews out Man #1 and "unforgives" his original debt, because he wouldn't show mercy to his friend like he'd been shown.
  • Moral of the story:  "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every on his brother their trespasses" (Jesus' words, not mine.)

My first thought on hearing this parable, past or present, is "How dumb is this guy?"

Man #1's debt had just been erased. He didn't have to pay a thing, but he goes to so much trouble to start paying back the loan. That's like calling Verizon to ask for a discount on my FIOS, then getting it, but continuing to pay the original price every month.

Except dumber. It's like if they said "Okay, you can just have your Internet for free" and I kept sending in checks. (Side note: if anyone knows of a deal like that, please email me.)

I mean, why did he feel compelled to keep paying after the debt was forgiven? 

Maybe he was trying to show that he appreciated the forgiveness, and wanted to pay back a little of the old debt to say thanks or to show that he'd tried.

He could have been embarrassed by the fact that he'd gotten so far into debt and wanted to prove he could make a dent in the amount he'd owed.

It could have been because he didn't really believe it. Maybe he thought the debt was so big that it couldn't be forgiven so easily.

Whatever the reason, I sort of want to reach into the pages and shake the guy: "Hello! Your debt was forgiven. What are you doing?"

It's like he didn't understand at all that his debt had been totally wiped out.

And then I get it: that was the point of the whole story. The man didn't get it. He didn't wholly trust in the forgiveness offered by his creditor, so he ended up losing it.

When I'm beating myself up over yelling at the kids (again) or skipping scripture study and prayer (again) or having an unkind thought (again,) I'm not much different than Man #1 in our story beating up his friend.

God knew that I was going to epically fail some days, and that I wasn't always going to do my best, and generally get myself into an enormous amount of debt (figuratively speaking.) Ain't no way I can make it up to Him.

But the great part is, I don't have to.

Instead of dwelling on how I'm not doing my best, all I need to do is ask for the forgiveness Christ has already given me, and say thank you.

And then instead of feeling discouraged and disappointed in myself, I can start over. I can ask for help to do better. No need to waste time on old debts that were already incurred and forgiven a long time ago.

Now, if only that meant I didn't need to clean up messes the kids make around the house.

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5 comments:

  1. Though I've heard that story many times over the years, I never thought that Man #1 was trying to collect on his own loans to try to pay off the debt that had already been forgiven...I thought he was just selfish and wanted to keep it for himself! Either way, whether it's a reminder to forgive others because we have been forgiven, or whether it's a reminder to "wholly trust in the forgiveness offered" (I love that!) it's a great story, and a great post :)

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    1. I'd never thought to read it that way... although either one works and gives you a slightly different (but good) perspective!

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  2. My thinking had been similar to Sarah's, I thought that Man #1 was also selfish, and wanted to get his money back. I love this take on it, that maybe he wanted money to keep paying Man #2. There's no indication to his motive behind roughing up his college buddy for money. That's beautiful thing about parables though, isn't it? You can pull out multiple meanings from them, all of them gospel truths. Thanks for sharing goodness!

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  3. Really enjoyed your insight on this parable

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  4. This made me smile! Every day is a new start!

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