“He seized him and began to choke him, saying,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
— Matthew 18:28
This next lesson I needed to learn and live to move my mountain is found in this parable…
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’
“Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii [a few dollars]. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
Most of us have read this parable, and most have also heard a sermon or two on it. Each time we feel uncomfortable and concerned that we may have forgotten someone who needs to be set free from what they believe they “owe” us. At least, that’s the way I always react to this story.
Honestly, I am not sure how the Lord brought this principle to my mind, but I do know when, and because I tend to be a person riddled with guilt (not sure if it is due to my Catholic upbringing, my personality, or both), I felt guilty the very moment I realized it.
It happened just a few days after my son paid me back a considerable sum that I had hoped he would simply “take” as an investment toward his future. Just three days later, after he paid me back and I accepted it is when He reminded me that I needed to be a receiver, not just a giver, that I realized that to be set free from my debt, I needed to be certain that I released each and every person who owed me! Unfortunately (and this is why I felt guilty), I assumed that I should have thought of this sooner!
Giving the money back to my son was impossible because my initial response to his handing me the check was to cry and not accept it. But God convicted me (as I shared with you in the last chapter) that many of us are very good “givers”, but we also need to be able to accept when someone gives to us. So, I had accepted his gift, then turned around only three days later to tell his brother that he owed me nothing!
[May I say that later, after discussing this with my HH over a cup of coffee, that He showed me this, too, was part of His plan. Of course, it’s a journey and He’d led me to take his money while releasing his brother because very soon, my son “Mr. Giver” was about to reap some huge rewards—which he did soon after!]
So, who still owed me? The first person that came to mind was my other son who had borrowed money to pay his taxes. He had worked for my ministry as an independent contractor, while also working part-time somewhere else. As a contractor, it is not the responsibility of the employer to withhold taxes, so when tax time came, he owed a lot, which was bad timing since he was just weeks before his wedding day. So, he ended up borrowing money from me.
Would you believe that it wasn’t until the very day that the Lord showed me that I had to release everyone from owing me that I remembered the money I had loaned him? I had totally forgotten his debt, due to the heart of giving the Lord had given me and the principle to give and not lend that He’d taught me in Luke 6:34-38 and Deuteronomy 23:19-20.
Unfortunately, though, at the time there had been some misunderstandings in our relationship and I had taken the “letting go” posture while I trusted God to restore my relationship with him—and, of course, He did, but not until He led me to start a book Trust GOD to Restore Your Relationships—a book that’s been on my heart for a long time.
Sharing this revelation, telling him that he owed me nothing, was pressing on my heart and rattling my spirit, and it needed to come out somehow. So that morning I called my son and when I finished telling him about what the Lord had revealed to me, as an afterthought I added, “So, if for any reason you think you owe me anything—you don’t.” His response totally stunned me, when he said, “Are you kidding? I can’t believe your timing Mom. For the last three days I have been struggling with how much I owe you, and, knowing your financial situation I just felt I had to do something to begin paying you back. But we just don’t have anything to spare [he had just gotten married].”
I was sure he was mistaken about owing me, and I told him so. Nevertheless, I assured him he owed me nothing at all because our Beloved Savior has paid the price for me, so I was officially releasing him! Though my son is not emotional at all, I could hear in his voice that he was deeply touched and wonderfully relieved.
Then, to my surprise, at that exact moment, a floodgate flew open in my brain and I remembered the many times he had borrowed from me, never paying me back. But I had forgotten all of them. It was then I realized something else…
You may have released many people from owing you, but if you don’t tell them they are released, then they are still bound, in prison, even if you unlocked their prison cell long ago! I knew that it meant that the Lord was about to reveal to me others who believed they owed me; the next one was my ex-husband.
Throughout my divorce, and the two years following it, I radically gave my ex everything he asked for, not withholding anything. In addition, I was careful to give him more than he asked for as the principle in Matthew 5:39-42 teaches us. Even so, two and a half years later, just a week after both my sons married, my ex-husband maliciously attacked me and my ministry with a vengeance like none other. I wrote about this, in length, in a previous chapter that, thankfully, the Lord is not going to make me include in this book. The main reason for writing the chapter was to be the “real deal” to my closest friends, family and some RMI ministry team members, in order to have an opportunity to boast about my weaknesses.
Regardless of what he’d done, my ex was on my list to tell him he owed me nothing. Yet, I immediately heard “no” each time this came to my mind. So, I waited and didn’t know if I was ever going to release him from what he “owed” me. Long ago are the days that I reason or try to lean on my own understanding, no, not due to my newly found wisdom, but primarily due to falling so often! I no longer assume something will happen and try to reason when and why. Instead, I simply wait and trust for an appointed time (Habakkuk 2:2-3).
Without going into details, with this new and malicious attack, to my surprise, rather than turning the other cheek and walking the extra mile that I had come to love, and honestly enjoy, I was led (and wrestled with) “turning over the tables in the temple,” not literally, but figuratively. It wasn’t until later, then again much later, that I understood the significance of my uncharacteristic actions. Prior to that day, I had, without knowing it, allowed my ex-husband (after our divorce), to continue to run my ministry, thus submitting to him.
Not only was that a problem for me, because I was His bride and no one else’s. But it was also wrong to do to women who I was ministering to. By allowing him to tell me what I could and could not do, whether it was post something on my site, print something in a book, or what I could sell and/or give away, I unknowingly had kept him as the head of my ministry. Rats, I was unfaithful once again. I was His bride, but my actions said otherwise. Of course, the moment I asked my precious Husband to forgive me, He had, and I knew He also would give me an opportunity to make it right.
The moment came the afternoon after He’d given me a principle found in Matthew 10:19, “…do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.” And again, in Luke 12:11, “When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say.” So, no longer “ready” knowing what I would say (1 Peter 3:15) when he called, I simply remained silent. Because I said nothing, not continually agreeing as I always did, he became louder and repeated what he wanted me to do, much more forcefully. Then, finally, at the conclusion of this mini-Armageddon, he stopped and said, what do you want? I calmly replied by saying, “Well, I suppose you owe me an apology.” Shock.
Baffled is an understatement. Here I was, releasing everyone and I hear myself saying that he “owes” me an apology? How can I move forward if I am still desperately needing to release two people from owing me?
Do you know that this is also part of God’s plan? As I said, it falls under the “wait” principle. Remember how I told you that I knew I needed to wait to pay my “back” tithes? Here’s one reason why. After waiting to pay the tithe for my second big donation, when the day finally did come, I was elated, and not concerned at all with the cost of the “around the world” ticket that I had to buy—which was more than my tithe should have been. I had, by waiting, renewed my “giving” strength so I could mount up with those lovely eagle wings that allowed me not to faint when it was time to purchase it (Isaiah 40:31).
Then, again, my wait to release these two men also served to strengthen me, so that I was ready when the day finally came. Without sharing too much information, let me just say that releasing my ex did happened, appropriately enough, on what would have been my mother’s birthday. My children and I had decided a few months earlier that on her birthday, each year (and my father’s birthday too, who is also deceased) we would spend that day as a day of remembering and honoring them, doing something special.
So that morning while talking about my mom, I was suddenly reminded of something that my ex-husband had done during the time when my father was dying. It reminded me of him in an entirely different light, turning my heart, I knew then that it was the appointed time for me to email and release him from “owing me” an apology and “anything else” that he might have thought he owed me.
In the Lord’s wonderful way, He created the perfect method of pulling down any of his emotional walls when I reminded him of the incident that the Lord had brought to my mind. Immediately after I sent it, I did the same thing by writing to both my son and his new wife, letting them know that I released them from the back taxes and anything else they felt they might have owed me.
It took quite a while for me to hear back from each of them, but that simply gave me time to acknowledge that how they responded, good or bad, was not the point. The point was this—that I was making things right with my Husband, just as withholding freedom from those who owe you doesn’t have anything to do with the other person. It is you who will be held in bondage, not them, just as the opening parable teaches us.
And now, I believe I am only one step away from releasing everyone from the debt they owed me. The last is the most special, it’s you—dear bride, you, too, are released!
Whether or not you have been blessed by my ministry, most of us feel “indebted” to giving financially to a particular ministry and often feel as if we “owe” them some sort of tithe or offering. Some women have written that they did, in fact, “owe me” back tithes (some were quite large), yet, as of today, you owe me nothing.
For some of you, you might be feeling my release or pardon came much too late, because you already paid back tithes or your offering. But let me assure you that just as my son was blessed because he paid me back and gave—so will you!
And, if this chapter was not already so long, I would share my testimony of when I was actually told I was released from “owing” on a building pledge, which was my first step in my moving mountain journey. Just let me say that, even though I was told I no longer owed the building pledge, each and every time I ask my Beloved about paying it, He impressed on my heart that this was His plan—that I should pay it. Long story short, two hours after I paid it, I got a check for the entire ten-thousand-dollar pledge!
I am saying this as a warning. Though I released you, check with God to be sure this is His plan for you. You may not owe me, but if your Husband wants you to pay back tithes or offerings, or a building pledge or anything else, pay it. Always check with your Husband, and don’t listen to what anyone tells you if it’s contrary to what He told you first. As a powerful reminder, let’s finish this chapter by reading the very painful story about the disobedient prophet when he listened to the older prophet instead of what God told him.
“Then he [the older prophet] said to him, ‘Come home with me and eat bread.’
“He [the younger prophet] said, ‘I cannot return with you, nor go with you, nor will I eat bread or drink water with you in this place.
“For a command came to me by the word of the LORD, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water there; do not return by going the way which you came.’
“He [the older prophet] said to him, ‘I also am a prophet like you, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water’ But he lied to him.
“So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house and drank water.
“Now it came about, as they were sitting down at the table, that the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back; and he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have disobeyed the command of the LORD, and have not observed the commandment which the LORD your God commanded you, but have returned and eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which He said to you, ‘Eat no bread and drink no water’; your body shall not come to the grave of your fathers.’
“It came about after he had eaten bread and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for him, for the prophet whom he had brought back.
“Now when he had gone, a lion met him on the way and killed him, and his body was thrown on the road, with the donkey standing beside it; the lion also was standing beside the body. And behold, men passed by and saw the body thrown on the road, and the lion standing beside the body; so they came and told it in the city where the old prophet lived.
“Now when the prophet who brought him back from the way heard it, he said, “It is the man of God, who disobeyed the command of the LORD; therefore the LORD has given him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke to him” (1 Kings 13:15-26).
This startling story teaches us one thing, which is— listen to no one who tells you something that the Lord has not told you. If you are not sure, just ask Him and He will be sure you know His heart when that is what you are searching for (Matthew 7:7).
Now, let me conclude this chapter with this thought and suggestion: Whether we realize it or not, we are holding people in bondage. People we know and love, and maybe even some we despise for what they’ve done to us or someone else—each is being held captive, and the sad truth is—so are we. How can we hold someone captive when Jesus died to set them and us free from so much?
Set others free, and as you do, you will set yourself free!
Lastly, rather than reading the next chapter of this book, stop right now, close the book, and get alone with your Husband. It’ll just take but a moment of your time but will result in a huge reward. Simply ask Him if there is anyone you are holding captive that you need to contact and release. You will be pleasantly surprised, and totally shocked by the results—I sure was.