Do Unto Others as You Would Have God Do to You

Sermon Notes for the 11th Sunday after Pentecost  2008                                                 

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. [24] When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; [25] and as he could not pay, his lord  ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. [26] So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ [27] And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. [28] But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ [29] So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ [30] He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. [31] When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. [32] Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; [33] and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ [34] And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. [35] So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:23-35)

When Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to some human situation, like in the parable of the forgiving king, I think it is safe to say that he is contrasting the values of the heavenly Kingdom with how earthly kingdoms normally operate, for the description of the king in this parable is highly unusual.

Right now America is going through a banking and housing crisis caused by lenders agreeing to billions of dollars in loans that the borrowers could not repay.  The problem was based in greed, but it has put many people and the world’s economy on the edge of financial disaster.   More people were brought into the economy by being given loans which broadened the base population from whom banks could make money ($$$$ cha-ching!).  It seemed to benefit all, except too many could not repay their loans then the real value of the banks (their assets) themselves plummeted.   Such is the real world  of earthly kingdoms.   Banks are not charity institutions and cannot simply write off bad loans and still make sizeable profits.

Yet in the parable, this is what the King does.  The servant owes him 10,000 talents – some scholars say the talent was worth about one year’s wages.  The servant is 10,000 years’ wages in debt!  It is a phenomenal debt that he could never repay in his lifetime or a hundred life times.  And so the parable starts off mirroring how things would happen in the world –  the king wants some kind of payment – a foreclosure on the debt – and he orders the servant and his family be sold into slavery – it won’t come close to repaying the debt, but it’s the best the king can hope to recover – truly less than pennies on the hundred dollars!

Of course the parable raises other serious questions – how could a servant get in such serious debt?  Was the king a fool?  Or was the servant a liar and embezzler?  To get into this kind of debt would be like a worker stealing one hundred million dollars from a government contract but excusing it by calling it a loan. 

But judgment day has come – accounts are to be settled and the king demands payment on this incredible loan.    The story does not suggest that in heaven all is forgiveness, no questions asked.  There is a day of reckoning.  To this point the story is much like this world, and perhaps much like many think about the Kingdom of God – a day of judgment and justice.

The servant behaves like most would in this situation and begs patience and mercy from his king.  His situation is hopeless, so why not throw himself on the mercy of the king?  But the servant is a scoundrel.  He tells the king to give him time so that he can repay the debt – 10,000 years worth of income.   The man is an unrepentant liar.  He can never repay the debt.  He has no intention of repaying, but is trying to lie his way out of the mess.  He is treating the King like  an idiot.

And here is where the story takes the strange turn toward the God’s Kingdom, for the king relents, not just giving the liar a chance to repay, but forgiving him the debt – canceling all of it but certainly not because of anything the servant has done.  No Kingdom, like no bank, could survive this kind of behavior.   Yet the Kingdom of Heaven is not based in profits and prosperity.  It is based in relationships.   The only thing to be bartered is love which the King has more of than he has common sense or a business sense.  

The Kingdom of Heaven is not about justice and judgment, but about relationships and love and pardoning and canceling debt.   The Kingdom of Heaven is a continual Year of Jubilee.   The Kingdom of God is not like any earthly Kingdom nor is it based in any human economic system.

And what difference does it make what the Kingdom of Heaven is like?  Why was Jesus telling us about heaven when we have to live on earth?

 Well, the servant was expected to go back into his world – the world of his fellow servants and to behave like the king, and like he was living in God’s Kingdom.  He meets a man who owes him 100 denarii (some say a denarii is equal to one day’s wages).  This is not a small sum in the world of servants – 1/3 of a year’s wages.  But the servant does not live by the values of the Kingdom, and instead of forgiving and canceling the debt owed him, he demands to live according to the values of this world, and for this he earns the wrath and judgment of the King. He ultimately is judged according to the values by which he lived – he demanded justice from this neighbor, he was rendered justice by God.

And the message for us is that God forgives sins, forgives iniquities (Psalm 103:10), and expects us as the forgiven sinners to forgive the debts of our friends, family, neighbors and even of our enemies.  As we pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses/debts, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”   We are asked to try to live in this world by the values of the Kingdom, not by the demands of society.  And the Church is the place where we can practice those values with one another.  Here we don’t have to treat others by the values of the world, but by the values of the Kingdom, and we need to value others as they are valued by God.

If we want God to judge us harshly and demand an exact accounting for every little wrong we ever did, then treat others that way.  The measure you give will be the measure you get.  If you want God to be angry at you for your every fault, then treat others that way.   But if you want God to forgive you, and take pity on you and be merciful to you, then treat others that way.  Our judgment on judgment day from God will mirror exactly how we treated others.  If we want to escape a terrible judgment, then we need to begin to practice the values of the Kingdom of God.   Do unto others as you would have God do unto you.  Love others as Christ has loved you.  The justice and judgment you receive from God will be the justice and judgment you gave to others.  Think about that each time you relate to another; however you treat others, so will God treat you in His Kingdom.   Your eternity will be the reality you created for others – forgiveness for all eternity, or eternal damnation; you are now creating your eternity by how you treat others.

The Synod: It’s Your Fault if You Accept What We Say as True

I will apologize up front for the sarcasm expressed in this blog.  The recent “pastoral” letter of the OCA bishops has left me sardonic.  The sad reality is those who profess to be shepherds acknowledge that they are both misled and misleading, and that they have misled and yet want to be honored as pastors.   

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” says the LORD.  Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD.  Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply.  I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, says the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:1-4)

A little walk through history (dates listed are of postings on might help the bishops of the synod to understand why their flocks do not feel they are following good shepherds:

20 January 2006    “At the Lesser Synod meeting today, His Beatitude, Metropolitan HERMAN, and the Members of the Lesser Synod, have reaffirmed the decisions made by the Holy Synod of Bishops, at the time these concerns were first raised, in 1999, and 2000. ….Metropolitan HERMAN has provided for a yet higher level of accountability…. “The Lesser Synod regrets certain information, and statements concerning the financial administration of the church, that may have been accepted as indisputably the truth.”

Yes, they reaffirmed in 2006 the decisions they made in 1999 and 2000 regarding the finances of the OCA, and that they had thoroughly reviewed the allegations.  They reassured us there were no problems.   They were either wrong or they were lying, either way, we have been warned about what they tell us – don’t accept what they say as truth.   And the metropolitan himself is pushing for a higher level of accountability – hopefully he will continue this when the SIC report is released to the church.   They also had regrets that certain information and statements they made and gave us may have been accepted as the truth – translation:  WARNING, when the Synod speaks, do not accept it as the truth because that is not necessarily how they intended it to be received.

17 November 2005   His Beatitude, Metropolitan Herman, addressed numerous concerns that arose in response to information and statements circulated in recent weeks, primarily on the internet. Emphasizing that all financial matters are his responsibility, Metropolitan Herman informed council members that he plans to order independent audits by an outside CPA firm licensed within the State of New York. He further reported that the results of the independent audits will be made available to the Church at large.          “Our love and concern must be for the Church,” Metropolitan Herman stated, adding that recent allegations, especially those circulated on the internet, are ‘not for the good of the Church.”       In response to questions about earmarked donations, Father Strikis noted that such contributions are used as specified by the donors.

All financial matters are his responsibility the metropolitan said.  Let us hope he feels this way when the SIC report is released.   And the metropolitan assured us that the allegations circulating on the Internet are not for the good of the church – but apparently corruption, lying , theft, embezzlement, cover up, complicity, darkness and sin are for the good of the church – especially if committed by the leadership.   We also should take comfort that as honorable a man as Fr. Strikis told us that all earmarked donations are used as specified by the donors.

20 April 2000    Metropolitan THEODOSIUS also discussed the implications demographic change has had on the Church’s finances and administrative structures. In the area of finances, the Metropolitan reported that he and His Eminence, Archbishop HERMAN of Philadelphia, Acting Treasurer of the Orthodox Church in America, together with a number of trusted professionals, met with the accounting firm of Lambrides, Lamos, Moulthrop and Co., which subsequently completed and signed the audits for 1997 and 1998.

            Good news, our current metropolitan with a number of “trusted” professionals was over looking the OCA finances.  We are in good hands and so have nothing to worry about – let the professionals take care of things, but let us not have Christians handle it for they would reveal the whole truth.

20 November 1999  Financial questions reviewed, year 2000 budget passed. Questions involving the OCA’s financial situation were also reviewed in detail by Metropolitan Council members. His Eminence, Archbishop Herman, Acting Treasurer, reported on the status of the financial audit, noting that some questions had arisen with regard to the Metropolitan’s Discretionary Fund. In response to this report, Council members issued a statement concerning the fund. [The complete text of this statement is available on the OCA web site.]

Unfortunately that statement and some other financial reports and statements are no longer available on  But not to worry, for the bishop surely would tell us the whole truth, and even if something was wrong, the metropolitan would accept complete responsibility for it – he didn’t say he would correct the problems, nor reveal them, but apparently for him accepting responsibility for them meant he would try to insure that no one ever found out about them.