I went through the drive-thru at McDonald’s recently. When I approached the window to pay for my meal, I was told the person in front of me had paid the amount I owed. I then, in turn, paid for the order of the people directly behind me. I don’t know how long that chain lasted. I like to imagine it continued through the afternoon shift. You may be familiar with a similar process. It’s called, “Pay It Forward.”
Our local Christian radio station promotes “Pay It Forward” deeds, encouraging the listeners to do nice things for others. The “Pay It Forward” philosophy has been around for centuries, with evidence of it in Ancient Greek comedies, the letters of Benjamin Franklin, and an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The term was most likely coined around 1916 by Lily Hardy Hammond in her book, In the Garden of Delight. A movie was made with “Pay It Forward” as the title in 2000. And, in 2007, April 28th was deemed as the annual “Pay It Forward Day.”
Regardless of these historical references to this concept and movement, God is really the originator. In Genesis 8:22, seedtime and harvest is referenced. Isaiah 58:10-12 explains that God gives seed to the sower. Just as God’s words accomplish what He purposes, those sown seeds will produce in the sower’s life. Paul writes in Galatians 6:8-9 about sowing and reaping and encourages the reader to not grow weary in doing good because good will come back to them. Finally, Jesus tells a story about this very practice while explaining what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.
Let’s read the story Jesus told in Matthew 18:23-34:
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
The Kingdom of Heaven provides forgiveness. We receive forgiveness from our Heavenly Father through our repentance and the blood sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Forgiveness is a free gift, fulfilled by the grace, mercy, love and compassion of our God. We can do nothing to earn it. However, we do need to repent of—or turn away from and think differently in regard to—known sin. Further, we need to receive the full pardon provided—believing that we are, indeed, completely forgiven.
Being forgiven, however, is not the end goal here. Our next act is to forgive others who have wronged us. In the story, Jesus explained that because the servant did not forgive his debtors, his master then held the servant accountable for the full amount of his debt—which had previously been forgiven. Jesus concluded that our Father in Heaven will do this very thing to us if we do not forgive others. Conversely, as we forgive others, the forgiveness we have received will be maintained.
Let’s look at some other scriptures to confirm this truth:
Matthew 6:14-15 ~ “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Mark 11:25 ~ “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Luke 6:37 ~ “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
Colossians 3:12-13 ~ Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Ephesians 4:32 ~ Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Clearly, the Kingdom of Heaven requires us to pay forward forgiveness. Freely we have received. Freely we must give. Be encouraged to examine your heart to determine if you hold any bitterness or resentment toward others who have wronged you. Repent and receive forgiveness from God. Then, just like driving thru the fast-food line and paying for the car behind you, pay forward that forgiveness to those who have sinned against you. No one said it would be easy. But, it is necessary in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Holding Fast to Hope,