A crazy business man

This business man is not going far. He calls in his debts and when someone pleads for more time he cancels the debt altogether. Surely this is no way to run a business. He will be bankrupt in no time. So why does Jesus hold up such an impractical ideal for us to follow? The answer has to have something to do with the new values, the new way of thinking, he was announcing under the general heading of “the kingdom of God.”

Cancelling debts and forgiveness do happen in international politics and economics. Sometimes there is no other choice. But among individuals and smaller entities it is rarer. It is even seen as somehow wrong to let people “get away with it.” The correct way is pursue the debt until it is paid.

Jesus is bringing in another dimension: if the person concerned – the debtor – is sincerely sorry and asks for forgiveness there is a new situation. The disciple of Jesus is then bound to take this into account and forgive the debt. Economic textbooks might say, “Wait a minute, you might be able to do that once, but you cannot run a business that way.” Jesus says, “Well, actually, you can!” But he does not explain. He leaves it up to the hearer – who is one of his disciples, one who believes – to accept that, despite the craziness of the economics, a way will be found.

Perhaps a key element will be the sincerity of the one who asks to be forgiven. That will not always be present. There might be many chancers whom the businessman will find others ways of sorting out. He doesn’t have to ruin his business on account of chancers.

Everything to do with the kingdom demands a step into the unknown. That is why the parables pass us by. We have tamed them and made them safe and manageable. But Jesus intended them to shock and shake! Cancelling money debts is tough at times. It may well eat into my own plans and hopes. But cancelling hurts, insults, grudges, may be equally hard. Just imagine if we could do it – all the time! It would make a difference to our world.

The parables remind us that Jesus is announcing a way of life at variance with what many of us consider safe, sane and sensible. While we revere him we secretly feel he lived in a primitive age and his message does not quite fit our time. Most of us have no experience of sowing and fishing – to say nothing of patching and wineskins. But these are merely the externals that carry the message. The message itself can easily be read in our time and in our place.

17 September 2017                         Sunday 24 A

Sirach 27:30-28:7                              Romans 14:7-9                  Matthew 18:21-35

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