The Parable of the Two Debtors-Forgiveness is the Key

Midweek Faith Lift

March 23, 2022

Parable of the Two Debtors—Forgiveness is the Key

Rev. Deb Hill-Davis



Daily Reflection

March 5, 2022

The historic clock in the central tower of England’s Grimsby Minister Church hadn’t worked for 12 years and a clock engineer said to repair it, scaffolding would have to be erected, it would take months, and cost $50,000. But a local cheese maker and a 15-year-old student took a look at it and found the clock’s bearings were all gummed up. They got it running right away with some WD-40. “We saved them a lot of time and money, so we’re hoping for a church potluck invite.”


“Yesterday, I completed a chore that I’ve been putting off for months. It took me 20 minutes.” - Mackenzie Ziegler


Affirmative prayer: Infinite Presence, I am fully engaged in this now moment. Today, I am about the business of living, answering the invitations of Life, attending to the matters before me. I no longer postpone my good. I live now. Thank you, God, forever. Amen.


Well, dear friends, we are invited into a process in this Parable of the Two Debtors that will “un-gum” our spiritual bearings, but it is not quite as easy as using a can of WD-40 nor does it require scaffolding and $50,000, but it could actually take us some time.  How long it will take us is a highly personal and individual experience because forgiveness is a tough nut.  It is easy to think we have forgiven others but the hard reality is that true forgiveness requires us to “clean up our side of the street” and own our part in the situation, no matter how “blameless” we want to see ourselves.


What in fact does this parable say?  It reads as follows:

Luke 7:40-43

                 40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “speak.” 41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.” (NRSV)


The traditional understanding of this parable is that no matter how bad your sins, God will forgive you and you are welcome into the fold which offers God’s mercy.  But it is much more layered and complex than that! Remember that we live in an open system with limitless possibilities. If we remember the key to true transformation is our ability to “alter personal intentions” then the whole energy of forgiveness rests with us and only us. And forgiveness is our start point and withholding forgiveness can also be our endpoint with real freedom or abundance elusive and beyond us.


True forgiveness happens with true humility.  They are two sides of the same coin and cannot exist independently.  Humility is how we navigate the narrow channel that ultimately opens to our highest and greatest good, to true freedom.  What is standing in the way of humility is our deeply entrenched ego, the voice of our “human” self that can drown out every other voice. The true reality is that we are all the characters in this parable, so we are the creditor, and the 50 denarii debtor and the 500 denarii debtor.  That means that we are called to freely forgive those who have injured us “fifty-fold” and “five-hundred-fold.” We also humbly ask forgiveness for our offenses, because it is rarely a one-sided story, we usually have a stake in the resentments we are holding.


And therein lies the rub in the energy of “resentments we are holding” because when those resentments are dearly held, they take up a lot of bandwidth and really impact our “personal intentions.”  How often has my personal intention been to communicate in such a way that the other person truly “gets it” and apologizes?  What is powerfully true in this forgiveness process is that it is NOT about apologies at all; it is about repair.  And this kind of repair is not about “fixing” things, it is more like reweaving the tattered edges of our emotional connections within our own hearts and with others who have hurt or offended us.  The work of repair is slow and calls for much love and humility as that is the energy of forgiveness.


How do we do this work?  Well, Dr. Michael hearkens to the dynamics of 12-step programs, which he describes as a “soul healing rite of passage.”  He describes this process as true spiritual work, which is actually transformative and requires true humility.  The focus in this work is exclusively on your own behaviors, thoughts, feeling, and actions with the investment of your energy in making amends which is not the same as apologizing or saying your sorry.  It requires you and me to truly see the hurt, the sadness, the harm in each circumstance and to own our part in it.


While I may believe that my resentments have protected me from further harm, that is not in fact the truth. The grudges I hold may have insulated me, but there is plenty of harm going on inside my “safety” bubble and it is usually harm that I am inflicting on myself.  On the premise that “knowledge is power” his prescription is for us to make a list, one item per page of people or situations where we are aware of deep resentments.  And for each situation, we are instructed to have a column that is labeled “My Part.”  Then we describe honestly how we have shown up as selfish, dishonest, inconsiderate, self-seeking or frightened.  That is not easy, but it is knowledge and knowledge is power.


There are many situations we have where we think the whole thing is 90% the other person’s fault.  This is not about assigning blame or fault, it is not about holding court and taking the other person’s inventory.  Dr. Michael describes it this way on p. 48 of The Hidden Parables:


           Every time you recognize another way in which you contributed to the problem, you empower yourself.  As your inventory proceeds, you will learn more and more about what you have thought and done along the way; you will learn about the part of the problem that is under your control—your part.  The power you receive is the power to improve the situation or at least your reaction to it.


It is in holding these toxic emotions that we hold tightly to our resentments, expecting the other person to dissolve them.  That is not possible, it is our job and our true power to admit these and speak them aloud to a trusted friend, therapist or confidant.  This is ideally someone who has also done this kind of work and as Brene Brown says, “someone who has earned the right to hear it.”


The power of this parable is to recognize that the more someone has offended or hurt you, the more essential to your well-being it is to forgive them for your sake, not theirs.  They have their own work to do and you are not to do it for them!  That is called Co-Dependancy and it is NOT spiritual or healing, it is toxic to the healing process.


Once you have identified your resentments, it is time to fearlessly look at how holding this resentment has constricted your growth, robbed you of joy, and been part of your “stony soil” so that your true seeds and potential don’t flourish.  If you cry at this part of your story, you are doing good work and the tears are holy water, giving life to the kind of change you want and truly need to make.  One of our biggest stones is fear, just like the story about the clock at the beginning.  We collect information about the problem and then we use that to postpone really facing our fears and making a change.  We think it is going to cost us too much emotionally and that we don’t have the capacity to really face what is there.


The cheesemaker and the 15-year-old student were not hampered by fear, so even though they heard what the “experts” thought was needed, they listened to their instincts and actually checked it out directly.  Imagine that!  And then all it took was WD-40 and the clock worked once again!  Think of humility and forgiveness as your WD-40 when you consider those places where you are literally stuck in resentment!


And then remember that “Change” is the “chance to have a new God experience.”  And always pray, because God is present in all of this, all the time and the energy of God, of love is always holding you, and me as we do this difficult but necessary work.  I have often used the affirmation, “God please do for me what I do not know how to do for myself.”  And then buckle your seatbelt because all kinds of growth opportunities for forgiveness will show up!

I have learned to not pray for patience because when I do, all kinds of learning opportunities show up, usually in rapid succession.  Instead I pray to recognize when patience is called for and the power to respond with patience and usually compassion!


As Dr. Michael states on p. 53 of The Hidden Parables:


          The parable of the two debtors illustrates the Law of Forgiveness. Simply stated it is this:  Forgiveness is the first and most powerful spiritual necessity, and the more someone owes you, the more you need to forgive them.




May we have eyes to perceive, ears to listen, and a heart that understands!

Blessings on the Path,

Rev. Deb