Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Learning to Forgive

Matthew 18

Dealing with a Sinning Brother

 15 "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
18 "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

[Here Jesus establishes the steps to resolving sin within the Church.

  1. Approach the sinning brother privately.
  2. Approach the sinning brother with mediators who are respected by both him and you
  3. Take the sinning brother before the Church, if he will not submit to the authority of the Church then he will be an outcast.]


19 "Again I say[c] to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."

[Jesus here reinforces the importance of unity in the Church and promises to here and respond to prayers when we ask together. He also promises his presence when we assemble together in his name. It is clear that Jesus viewed, unresolved sin, and the resulting bitterness as a danger to the Church, something that could divide us, and hinder the work of the Lord.


The story of Sandy Weill:


Sanford Weill was a stock broker who worked his way up through smaller Wall St. firms until he had controlling interest in Shearson Loeb Rhoades.

  • In 1981 Weill sold Shearson to American Express and became an executive at American Express running their Fireman's Fund Insurance unit.
  • In 1986 he invested 7 million and took over Commercial Credit (equipment leasing)

    Then raised capital by taking the company public (selling stock)

  • In 1988 he paid 1.5 billion for Primerica the parent company of Smith Barney Investments, and AL Williams Insurance
  • In 1992, he paid $722 million to buy a 27 percent share of Travelers Insurance
  • In 1993 he reacquired his old Shearson brokerage (now Shearson Lehman) from American Express for $1.2 billion. By the end of the year, he had completely taken over Travelers Corp and officially began calling his corporation Travelers Group.
  • In 1998 he merged Travelers Group with Citibank (at this point the story should start to sound familiar, as we covered this back in March.)
  • Sandy's mega firm was illegal under the depression era financial services law called Glass-Steagal, so in 1999 Citigroup lobbied congress to repeal the law, which they did, and President Clinton signed it.
  • Wall St. analyst called this new form of financial services firm, an umbrella company, so Sandy Weill took the Travelers Insurance "red Umbrella" trademark as Citigroup's new corporate logo.
  • In 2002 Citigroup spun off Travelers Insurance to raise capital, to invest in what Sandy Weill called "much more high-growth Businesses". Citibank went on to heavily invest in CDO's which are bundles of subprime mortgages sold as securities, that were highly rated because everyone knew real-estate prices would keep going up.
  • In 2006 Sandy Weill left Citigroup taking 1.2 Billion in total compensation
  • In 2007 studies showed consumers still associated the "red umbrella" logo with Travelers, not Citigroup, so Citigroup sold it back to Travelers Insurance.
  • When the real-estate bubble burst, the stock market went down and all these companies that had bet on high-growth investments saw their values evaporate, learning that high-growth also means high-risk. With no capital reserves, big banks stopped lending and created the current recession. Millions lost their jobs, billions in retirement savings accounts lost half their value, and the government is now borrowing and spending trillions to subsidize the cycle of greed.
  • Citigroup stock has gone from $60 per share to under $4, and the government now owns 1/3rd of the company. This week they were removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and replaced by Travelers Insurance. (yes, God has a sense of humor) They also sold controlling interest in Smith Barney, to Morgan Stanley to raise capital.


Sandy Weill's umbrella company has been completely erased and many believe the government will end up owning all of Citibank. Raise your hand if this story makes you angry.

Good, now we are going to talk about forgiveness.

To give up resentment, grant relief from payment, to pardon someone who has offended you.]

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"
22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

[Jewish custom held that forgiveness should be granted 3 times, Peter was willing to go as high as seven, but Jesus had a higher standard in mind. The Greek words are hebdomekontakis and is only found this one place in scripture, followed by hepta and the King James translates it as seventy-times seven, but other versions just say "seventy seven". But the normal word for seventy is hebdomekonta, so I think the unique word in this passage probably means the King James has it right. But the real meaning is not in the actual number, but forgiving so much that one could not remember the count.]

23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But 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. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, 'Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

[The Greek word for servant here is doulos which means a bond servant. A man could sell his services to pay a debt. Common labor was worth one denarius per day, and a talent was worth 6,000 denarii so 10,000 talents is an impossible sum, equal to 60 million work days. At today's wages that is 3 billion dollars. Now I can't even imagine borrowing 3 billion dollars, but I can imagine that the day that note is called due would be a bad day. This example represent the debt of sin God placed on Jesus during his crucifixion, and the grace of God in granting forgiveness to all who are called to repentance. Watch the crucifixion scene from The Passion of the Christ, then ask yourself, is there any sin too great that Jesus' death could not cover it? ]

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 took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!' 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet[d] and begged him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.'[e]
30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.

[So the servant who's impossible debt had been forgiven, responds to the compassion shown him, by forcing collection of a $5,000 debt, even to the point of sending his debtor to prison. But other eyes were watching his deeds, and the story does not end there.]

32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' 34 And 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."

[Notice the King calls the unforgiving servant wicked. Jesus put it this way in the Lord's prayer from
Matthew 6:

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Forgiveness is so essential to our faith that God has made our forgiveness conditional, on how we forgive others.

Hebrews 12: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;]

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