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“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he cancelled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.[1]

Unfortunately, we are poor judges of what is correct and what is not correct, and for once, a Pharisee judged correctly. But then, the question and the problem is a simple one. The one who had a larger debt forgiven of him would naturally love the one who forgave much more. However, what of the one who forgave them both? Which one did he love more? The one who owed him five hundred denarii or the one who owed him fifty denarii? For which one of these did the moneylender sacrifice more? The answer to this question is again obvious to some. The one who was forgiven much was loved much more than the one who had been forgiven little.

Why? Because the one to whom the larger loan was given was the one who had a greater credibility, and therefore a greater relationship with the lender. Lenders will only loan on the basis of a relationship of trust and creditability on the basis of the amount they lend out to you, and since, Love…always trusts,[2] then the size of the loan in this case is a measure of the trust and of the love.

So, it is not just a matter of the one who had much forgiven who loves much, but indeed it is the one who had been forgiven much who is loved much. To both the debtors, the moneylender gave a fresh start, a fresh start where the one who was forgiven much loved him much more. But the truth is, the one who owed much was the one who was loved much in the first place, and so, the original relationship where the lender loved the borrower much more was restored by the forgiveness of the debt. The lender may have lost his money, but he did not lose his relationship with the borrower. Likewise, to the one who was loaned little, the relationship of little love was also restored.

That is why it is forgiveness that makes all things new. However, through forgiveness, it is now the borrower who loves much, at least in theory, as much as the lender first loved him. So, whereas in the beginning it was the lender who first loved the borrower to trust him with the larger loan of five hundred denarii, it is now the borrower who loves the lender much. So then the relationship of love between the two has deepened, because through trust and forgiveness of the broken trust, there now exists two parties who love much, whereas before there was only one, for the borrower never had to trust the lender at the beginning of the transaction. It was the lender who first trusted, and so, it was the lender who first loved. So, first love came from the lender to the borrower, and that love, which was unappreciated as trust, was appreciated as forgiveness. Love… keeps no record of wrongs.[3]

God was the first to trust us, to trust Adam when He left Adam in charge of the garden, and not only of the garden, but even to the naming of the animals that God had created. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.[4]

It was like the moneylender giving his money to the borrower so that whatever was done with the money, was done. The lender had no say on how it would be spent really, and could only hope for his money to be returned. Again it is the lender who first showed hope, hope that his money is returned, even profitably, and love… always hopes.[5]

You see, when you read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 about what love is, it has sixteen characteristics. The first eight are: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered… The second set of eight are: it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

So, forgiveness, the keeping of no record of wrongs, begins the second set of what love is, and the next six things of love that follows forgiveness, are harder to do that the first nine things, until it comes to the last: Love never fails. So, when Jesus spoke of the money lender who forgave his two debtors, we only see the two debtors because, by the Lord’s question, we are led to look at the two debtors.

But, if you desire to know the Lord deeply, then you will have learned to look beyond the obvious and that which is in the background, the moneylender. Our carnal minds would hate the moneylender. Indeed, during the Second World War, the Nazis stored up hatred for the Jews by portraying them as greedy moneylenders. However, when Jesus used the picture of a moneylender, He used it in the Jewish context, the true Jewish context that they were not allowed to charge usury to their fellow Jews. “You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit.”[6] Now we see the moneylender in the light of God’s word, the one who lends without charging interest, the one who risks his money for no profit. Surely then, he is the one who trusted first and hoped first, and since the forgiving of the debt was in his hands, he is the one who forgave first.

And so Jesus said, “Do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”[7] The Lord our God is like the moneylender. His definition of a moneylender – not the world’s or mammon’s view of a moneylender – God’s moneylenders are to charge no interest, and they are only to loan to the poor. Mammon’s moneylenders charge interest and they prefer to lend to the rich. So, learn also from now on to define all things, that is, name all things from His perspective.

He was the One who created us and put us in this world to enjoy it and to use it, and if there would be an increase, then He would hope for His share of the increase. You see, tithe is not interest, but rather it is a share of the increase, for Moses said to the Israelites, “Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year.” And when Jesus told the Parable of the Landowner (or the Tenants),[8] Jesus said, “The landowner sent his servants to collect his fruit.”[9] Fruit from the vineyard he planted, a wall he built, a winepress he dug and a watchtower he built.[10] The tenants only had to tend the fruit. So that even as a Landowner, God does not charge rent as the world charges, but rather, a share of the profit from the land, so that in good times, both the Landowner and the tenants prosper, and in bad times, both the Landowner and the tenants suffer. It was the Landowner who first trusted the tenants and who first hoped for the best from the tenants, so it was He who loved first.

That is why John wrote: He first loved us.[11] And He showed that love for us first by crucifying Jesus, the Lamb of God, before the foundation of the world.[12] Paul wrote: For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reunited, shall we be saved through His life![13] And that reconciliation took place in the heart and mind of God before the creation of the world, before we sinned,[14] for God loved first, trusted first, hoped first and forgave first.

Thus, the question remains, what is the first love that Jesus said the church in Ephesus had forsaken?[15] Is it not the first love of God, the love God had for us when we were His enemies, yet had reconciled us to Himself by the crucifixion of Jesus before the foundation of the world? So, first love is love of enemies overflowing to the love of one another as Christ loved us. A love that at full maturity is inseparable love even from one’s enemies; then how much more one’s own brothers and sisters?

So, the moneylender, he who showed first trust, first hope and first love, continued that first love by first forgiving those who owed him money, and he showed the difference in the depth of his love by the size of the loan he was prepared to suffer the loss of.

God showed us the depth of His love for us by the size of the sacrifice He was prepared to pay in what He was prepared to lose in order to forgive us, so that our relationships would remain intact. He was prepared to and did sacrifice His only begotten Son, to make Him who was without sin to be the sin offering that we might become the righteousness of God, His righteousness.[16] He was prepared to sacrifice Jesus’ righteousness that we might be His righteousness, and indeed He did, for Jesus was taught by the Father to teach us to drink His blood and eat His flesh. And so Jesus taught as One who was taught to break the Law of Leviticus, for He refused to speak up when false witness was brought against Him.[17] And so by the law that states: “If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible,”[18] He had the guilt of the sin transferred to Him.

God did it so effectively that in the eyes of those who considered themselves righteous and pious before God, Jesus was a blasphemer, a drunkard, a glutton and a friend of sinners, but in the eyes of the Roman soldiers, men who had killed and perhaps been drunkards who had whored, raped and pillaged, “Surely He was the Son of God!”[19] Self-righteous, pious, religious people who practised no forgiveness and were certain of their own righteousness before God could not see Him for who He is. But the worst of sinners of His day, Roman soldiers who had killed, pillaged, raped, drunk and whored, without any religious convictions, but merely men under authority doing what they were told to do, saw Jesus for who He is.

So, we will not see Jesus for who He is, the Man He is, until we learn to do that which we are authorised to do, and that is to forgive sins as we have been forgiven. And so it is not only the one who has been forgiven much who loves much. Rather, it is the One who forgives much who loves much more than those who were forgiven much. God loved much, that we may learn to love much and God forgave much that we may learn to forgive much. So, if you desire to be imitators of God, then you must learn to love much as you are loved. To forgive much is better than to be forgiven much. So truly the wisdom of the Lord’s words: “It is more blessed to give than to receive,”[20] holds no higher truth and no greater level of practice than to use it in the matter of forgiveness.

It is truly more blessed to give forgiveness than to receive forgiveness. So, sin no more, but forgive even more. Amen


 

[1] Luke 7:41-43

[2] 1 Corinthians 13:7

[3] 1 Corinthians 13:5

[4] Genesis 2:19

[5] 1 Corinthians 13:7

[6] Leviticus 25:37

[7] Matthew 25:42

[8] Matthew 21:33-41; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 20:9-16

[9] Matthew 21:34; Mark 12:2; Luke 20:10

[10] Matthew 21:33; Mark 12:1

[11] 1 John 4:19

[12] Revelation 13:8 NASB

[13] Romans 5:10

[14] Revelation 13:8 NIV

[15] Revelation 2:4

[16] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[17] Matthew 26:59-63; Mark 14:56-61

[18] Leviticus 5:1

[19] Matthew 27:54

[20] Acts 20:35

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