EORGE WAS A MAN WHO WORKED HARD for his money. He ran a successful bakery that brought in a comfortable profit. He got married and life was good—until the children came. Suddenly, he no longer had the disposable income he was used to. His growing household expenses left him short every month. What made his situation even more desperate was the fact that his mortgage was skyrocketing. He saw no way out.
Just when he envisioned his family soon having to live in their minivan, a piece of mail caught his eye. “Get preapproved with no finance charge!” it screamed. Maybe this is the answer, he thought. A few phone calls later, George felt like a new man. Within days, his new credit card arrived and life was back to normal. We won’t live off credit forever, he reasoned. I’ll use it only when necessary.
At first, George kept his promise. But as time went on, he became careless, buying gifts for the kids and taking his employees out to fancy restaurants. He also decided it would be a wise investment to make some much-needed updates to his kitchen: granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Once that was done he thought, Why stop there? Before long, his entire home was renovated, and George and his family had the best house in the neighborhood. Yes, they charged everything with their credit card, from school tuition to groceries, but they were living the American dream!
Sometimes George didn’t make timely payments, but he never thought it was a big deal. Then the creditors started harassing him for their money. He installed a privacy setting on the phone. Problem solved
, or so he thought. Things went from bad to worse the day he went to buy a new car. He got turned down for the loan and he couldn’t understand why. Later, a quick search on the Internet showed him that his credit score was terrible. When did that happen?
George once again found himself strapped. As interest compounded on the debt, George felt like he was trying to dig his car out of quicksand—with a teaspoon. He wasn’t getting anywhere. So he stopped making payments, hoping the creditors would forget.
Months later, on his way to work, a bright-colored sign on the door of his bakery grabbed his attention. The government was going to seize his business and garnish his wages because he was failing to repay the debt! It went on
to say that if he continued to be delinquent, the next step was jail.
With a sobered heart, he went home and knew what he had to do. He decided to plead with his creditors to forgive him of the debt. It was his last hope.
After a long ordeal with debt negotiators, the credit card company decided to forgive him. His balance of more than $800,000 had been written off! He and his family were grateful and paid everything with cash from then on. Most important, he still had the bakery.
As he was balancing the books one day, he noticed that one of his regular customers still owed him $15. George frequently allowed his good friend Tom to pick up orders and pay later if he didn’t have the money. Sometimes Tom forgot to pay him back, but since he never owed more than $20, George often picked up the tab. Today, for some reason though, George had had enough. I work hard for my money, and I’m entitled to it, he thought. When Tom came in later that day to chat, George demanded his money. Tom was speechless. He was going through hard times and simply didn’t have the money to repay. Tom begged George to give him extra time. But George had other plans. As soon as Tom left the store, George phoned his lawyer. A few days later, Tom got the bad news: he was to appear in court. The same man whose enormous debt was cleared was suing his friend over a few dollars.
A Merciful Demonstration
This story of George is based on Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant found in Matthew 18:23-35. Christ illustrated that Christians, who have been shown mercy by God, should likewise demonstrate mercy to others. Throughout the Bible “merciful” is used to describe God’s relationship to human beings, and while it’s nice to be on the receiving end of mercy, Jesus proclaimed, “Blessed are the merciful” (Matt. 5:7). This beatitude makes it clear that our obligation is to be on the giving end.
As hard as it may be, we have no right to sever our relationship with friends and family after they have repeatedly offended us. Christ paid the price of
our sins with His life: none who accept His sacrifice is counted a debtor to God. Jesus says that God is “kind
unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 6:35, KJV). Being merciful means displaying God’s grace and kindness to others apart from their merits. It means acting toward others with the graciousness with which God has acted for us in Christ, but instead, basing it on God’s mercy and justice toward us.
Being merciful can be hard, especially toward those who continually hurt us. However, God provided a pattern for us to follow. Here’s a three-step plan on how we can adopt Christ’s character of mercy when we’re tempted to do otherwise:
Step 1: Be slow to anger. Joel 2:13 tells us that God is slow to anger. We can be the same by keeping our tempers in check.
Step 2: If you get angry, don’t keep it forever. God “retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy” (Micah 7:18, KJV). Harboring grudges breaks
relationships. I believe it can also cause physical illness.
Step 3: Forgive. When the Levites confessed God’s
goodness to the children of Israel, they said that amid all
the wickedness the Israelites committed against God, He was “ready to pardon” (Neh. 9:17, KJV). The entire chapter of Nehemiah 9 records that each time Israel sinned against God, He forgave them because of His great mercies. Our hearts should always be in a position to continually forgive, whether we are asked or not. This willingness lies at the core of mercy.
When we take Christ’s character of mercy and treat others as He treats us, He promises that we in turn will obtain mercy. Our reward is sure to be in heaven. And that’s a promise we can all take to the bank.
Lahai McKinnie writes from Berrien Springs, Michigan, and recently completed a master’s degree in social work at Andrews University.