Skandalon

Skandalon
Robert Wurtz II


He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9–11 NKJV)

John brings us to a central theme of the New Testament with a renewed focus and insight. This theme is summed up in the words of Paul in Romans 13:10, Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:10 NKJV) In other words, one of the objectives of the Law was to teach fallen man how to treat one another in relationships. When one is walking in love, one achieves the primary objective the Law. 


1 John 2:9-11 may be used as a symposium on Romans 13:10a where Paul stated, Love does no harm to a neighbor. Both Paul and John agree that when a person loves their brother, there is no “cause of stumbling” in him. That is to say, there is nothing in them that could cause another person to fall into sin or fall in the faith. Our word in the Greek for “cause of stumbling” is skandalon; the word from which we derive the English word scandal. It is a trap or stumbling block. In other words, a person who walks in love is not a spiritual “trip hazard” for others. This is because a person who loves their brother is utterly conscious of the value of their soul. People are vessels who have to be handled with care — as if you were handling a priceless antique vase. In fact, a person who walks in love is conscientious and careful not to ever, under any circumstances, cause an unnecessary offense against others, by intention or recklessness so as to turn them against God or harm their faith. 

Some professors of the Christian faith do not live by this rule. They have no concept of how their actions are affecting others. John tells us why this is when he writes, But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. This is a sobering passage. First, it teaches us that some professors of Christ actually hate their brother or sister. They may not admit it, but their actions testify to the fact that they do indeed hate them. What is one such action? It is behaving in such a way that could offend the person and cause them to fall from the faith. 

The Disciples, before they were Born of God, had the attitude that if people didn’t respond to God in a way they thought necessary, they should call fire down from heaven. Jesus told them that they knew not what manner of spirit they were of. It was not the Holy Spirit inspiring them this way. Nevertheless, when they received the Holy Spirit, the love of God was poured out in their hearts and their perspective changed. They loved the very people they once hated. 

The second thing I wish to see in our passage is that when a professor of the Christian faith has a hateful attitude towards his brother, he is filled with darkness. He is blinded by the hate. This not only endangers others, but it endangers the blind person. What is worse is that the person does not know they are blind. They believe they are seeing clearly, but what they see is a false reality. Hate distorts a person’s perceptions so profoundly that John characterizes them as “blind.” 

John and Paul are not the only Apostles to address this issue. Peter takes up the exact same line when he writes:

And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he who lacks these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. (2 Peter 1:6-9)

A person who lacks temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love is spiritually blind. Peter adds the cause of the blindness; he has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. This is always the danger. When a professor of the Christian faith forgets that they have sinned and been forgiven, they develop a self-righteous, ungodly, and unloving attitude towards others that blinds them. What did Paul say? And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV) 

Some professors of the Christian faith excuse their hateful behavior by suggesting that the person they hate is no Christian at all, but an enemy of the faith. Once they convince themselves of this, ungodly and unloving behaviors become acceptable to them. Paul addresses this stronghold in Romans 14:4 when he asks, Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4 NKJV) It is folly and a trap to exclude brothers and sisters in the faith because you or I don’t think their faith is “genuine enough” and they are therefore worthy of hate. 

“What a blessing it is that the Lord’s heart is so large, that He can help whenever He sees some good; whereas man withdraws because he sees some evil thing, which is generally found to mean something that wounds his own self-love in the little scheme he had set up as perfection.” (Anthony Norris Groves)

Groves had his hand on God’s pulse when He wrote these words. How far is it from the attitude of the person who hates and stumbles their brother? Yet we need to add one more person to our list whose words are perhaps the most sobering of all.


Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. (Luke 17:1–3 NKJV)

The idea is not simply to cause someone to sin, but rather to become less faithful disciples, or to stop following Jesus altogether (see note below). Jesus recognizes that such things will happen, but woe to that person through whom they come. In what sense is it terrible for the disciple who causes another to stumble? In v. 2 Jesus states that it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one to stumble. Elsewhere Jesus states that it would be better to lose an eye or a limb in order to gain heaven than to go to hell (see Mark 9:43, 47). Although this language may be hyperbolic, Jesus warns of the danger of judgment upon anyone who would destroy the faith of the one who believes in him. The final warning of v. 3a, so watch yourselves. (NIBC) 


The Folly of Unforgiveness

The Folly of Unforgiveness
Robert Wurtz II

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you.
(Ephesians 4:32)

Forgiveness is essential for all relationships. Without it, there is no hope for any of us. Paul tells us plainly that we are to kindly and tenderly forgive each other. He reminds us of how Christ has forgiven us and calls us to follow His example. We are to forgive each other because it is the right thing to do and the loving thing to do. This implies not if forgiveness is needed, but when. The need for forgiving each other is a foregone conclusion. We are going to offend each other at times whether we mean to or not. Often offenses are caused by a lack of understanding. A person may say or do something for good reason and with pure motives, but the other person simply does not understand, so they are offended. This is why 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love puts the best construction on events. Love does not look for reasons to be offended. The more loving you are in your approach to people, the less offended you will be. Yet, offenses still come. The only person that doesn’t need forgiveness is God. The rest of us have needed it, do need it or at some point will need it. In scripture offenses are likened to debt. When someone does us wrong they are in a sense indebted to us (and vis versa). When we sin against God we are indebted to Him. This brings us to an important parable given by our Lord. I have quoted it here in its entirety.
Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. (Matthew 18:22-34 NKJV) 
The context of this parable is important also, because Jesus is discussing with Peter how often he ought to forgive a person. Peter says, “Until seven times?” Seven is the number of perfection and completion, so seven seems reasonable. But Jesus said unto him, I say not unto you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. That is 490 times. Some translators have rendered the text 77 times. In either case, the bar is set very high. It was a settled rule of Rabbinism that forgiveness should not be extended more than three times. (Vincent) An example is given of a man seeking forgiveness from a rabbi for a single minor offense 13 times and the rabbi refused. (1) So for Peter to up the number from three to seven was over twice the norm. Forgiving people in the way Jesus describes was a novel concept of unparalleled proportions. .
How Much Did We Owe?
Our subject is taken up with a man that has been brought before the King to settle accounts. When it was all added it the man owed a staggering 10,000 talents. You will recall the parable of the man traveling to a far country that delivered one, two and five talents respectively to his three servants. We get the impression that 5 talents is a huge sum of money to invest and it is. In fact, a talent in New Testament times was anywhere from 60 to 130 lbs of silver. Josephus pegs the weight at 100 lbs (2). If we do the math the man owed 10,000 X 100lbs or 1,000,000 lbs of silver. In response to this mammoth sum, the man told the King; Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” To understand how long it would take to pay this debt we need to know what a worker made in an average day in Judea in that time. You will recall Jesus giving another parable of the generous land owner in Matthew 20 which sets the men’s wages at a denarius a day no matter what time of the day they started working. A denarius in the time of Christ was a days wage and the equivalent to roughly .110 oz silver. This means that the man would need to work roughly 145 days for a pound of silver. Since he owed 1,000,000 pounds of silver it would take him 145,000,000 (145 million) days to earn enough money to pay his debt. If he worked seven days a week it would take him 397,260 years to pay the debt or roughly 65 times recorded human history. Yet the common human response? Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.”
What he was owed 
“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!” So he was owed basically a hundred days wages or 11 oz of silver. Understand that this was a lot of money in the first century. It would be like someone owing you 100 days pay. That is to say, the offense that the man committed against the other man was very great in one sense. However, the amount that he was forgiven of was effectively 145,000,000 denarii (days pay). He owed 1.45 million times as much debt as the man owed him. That is a staggering comparison. In a figure this is God showing us the difference between what we have done to others and other have done to us and what we have done to Him. 
Forgive and forget or forget we were forgiven?
 Notice the attitude of this wicked person, but that servant went out and found one… It’s as if he could not wait to find the guy that owed him to press upon him the controversy he had. He didn’t just ask for the money, but what was worse, he took the man by the throat. That is to say, he was choking the man- saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!” What you owe (ei ti opheileis). Literally, “if you owe anything,” however little. He did not even know how much it was, only that he owed him something. “The ‘if’ is simply the expression of a pitiless logic” (Meyer quoted in Robertson). This is the cruelty of a godless man. He takes no account of how much he was forgiven of as if he should be grateful and emulate the behavior- but rather behaves towards his fellow man the exact opposite of the kindness he received. This seems at first to be outrageous, but think about how people have come to Christ seeking to be forgiven of their sins and would even beg God on their hands and knees to forgive their gargantuan sin debt and then they turn right around and refuse to forgive their neighbor that has sinned against them. This is the thrust of the story. How men can be forgiven of God and then refuse to pass the favor to their fellow man.

Others grieved, perpetrator oblivious
So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved. Notice that those that beheld the situation from afar off had the good sense to see that the man should have shown mercy after he had been forgiven so great of debt. It is common for folk to see others in a situation and say they should forgive, but not see it for themselves. I’m reminded of Nabal in the Old Testament that in a drunken rage mistreated David after he had guarded his property. David was within a hairs-breadth of destroying Nabal and all the men in his household. (1 Samuel 25:10-39) Why? It may be helpful to point out that the word Nabal is Hebrew for fool. Nabal had returned evil for good, and that is exactly what this man had done in the parable. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant!
The wickedness of unforgiveness 
Jesus calls the man who had done this high-handed dastardly deed wicked. “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” What this man had done can only be described as criminal unreasonableness. He had willfully operated in gross inequity. This behavior is not to be remedied but punished. He had begged for forgiveness and even suggested he would work the debt off- though it would take nearly a half-million years. The truth is, once he was forgiven the man should have thrown the celebration of the ages and committed himself to a life of serving his King and others, but no; he walked out and wiped his mouth as if he had done no evil. The situation revealed the type of man he was, he was of his father the devil and the lusts of his father he did do. If Satan were king there would be no forgiveness, but a constant throttling and torture every time an offense came. Is there any wonder the day will come when God is going to sweep the creation clean of this wickedness? Who would want to live for eternity around people like the one described in Jesus parable?
Delivered to the tormentors 
There is a point I want to bring out in this parable that often goes unnoticed. Jesus did not suggest the man should be put into therapy for what he had done. We read, And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.If forgiving the man of all of his sins didn’t change him, nothing would. You see, it is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance. What greater good could God do than this? This is very sobering. So often we look around wondering how God is going to reach the hard-hearted that have rejected Him time and time again. Maybe if God sends this destructive force or that one. God does all of these things to bring us to the revelation that He wants to forgive our sins and reconcile with us. The man in the parable wanted his debt forgiven so that he was no longer under its obligation, but that’s all He wanted. he didn’t want a relationship with the King that having forgiven much he should have loved much and he had no love for his neighbor either. I’m afraid that multitudes have no comprehension of the fact that in Christ dying on the cross He had one objective- that in showing us so great of love we would love Him back in return and our neighbor as ourselves. We love Him because He first loved us. It is the reason for the ‘therefore’ of Romans 12:1. 

Forgiveness conditional

We read in Mark 11:25, 26, And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. Here we have it again and very straightforward. It is folly to ignore this passage. The clear implication of the parable is that the man had been forgiven of the debt, but that afterwards there was a rescinding of that forgiveness based on his unwillingness to forgive his fellow servant. The Lord’s prayer follows this theme as well, “forgive us of our debts as we forgive our debtors.” God is determined to forgive us, He cheerfully forgives us, casting our sin behind His back desiring to remember them no more; however, He is also determined that we will pass on the blessing as the only sensical thing to do. To do otherwise is to place our name into the blank in the parable of Jesus. 

 
  
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(1) Even so, the practice was terribly different. The Talmud relates, without blame, the conduct of a rabbi who would not forgive a very small slight of his dignity, though asked by the offender for thirteen successive years, and that on the day of atonement; the reason being that the offended rabbi had learned by a dream that his offending brother would attain the highest dignity; whereupon he feigned himself irreconcilable, to force the other to migrate from Palestine to Babylon, where, unenvied by him, he might occupy the chief place (Edersheim, Life and Times, Book 4. P.30).

(2) Antiq. 3:144 ¶ (3.6.7.144) Over against this table, near the southern wall, was set a candlestick of cast gold, hollow within, being of the weight of one hundred pounds, which the Hebrews call Chinchares; if it be turned into the Greek language, it denotes a talent.      
 

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