Sometime last month I stopped at the store to pick up a few things. As I was returning my empty cart to corral, I noticed something on the ground. It was one of the clear containers that vending machines us to vend inexpensive trinkets — or treasures for a quarter. In this case the prize was long gone, leaving nothing but the little container it came in.
It was obvious that this box was not large enough to have held anything big or worth a great deal. With the possible exception of diamonds or other gem stones and they are generally not dispensed in cheap plastic bubbles. It occurred to me this was a good representation of many people’s minds and faith. Too small to hold much of value, and so filled with inconsequential things that there is no room left over for what really matters.
By extension the same thing can be said about many people’s character. They are so petty in the way they conduct themselves that they are unable to experience real grace. A popular saying proclaims, “If you are too big for the little jobs you are probably too small for the important ones.”
There is a story in the book of Matthew that speaks to this very point. A man who owed his sovereign a great deal and was called to account. He did not have the money and had no reasonable prospect of being able to pay his debt. He admitted the situation and begged for mercy. Much to everyone’s surprise, the king wiped the slate clean and sent him on his way.
As the story goes he immediately ran into a third man who owed him a very small sum. It was not a lot, but the tables were turned. The roles were reversed and the former debtor now in a position to be merciful. But, according to the scriptures that was not what happened. Instead of sharing the grace he had received, he chose to be petty and vindictive, demanding the debt be repaid on the spot.
Matthew 18:32-35 contains the rest of the story as well as Jesus’ comment on it. (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.”)(NIV)
We can love because we are loved. We can love because through Jesus, God has shown us how to love. We are called and commanded to forgive others as we have been forgiven. We have been bathed in God’s grace and can hoard that grace, or we can choose to share it with others. Choose wisely!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
John R. Fowler is the Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Prosper.