Sermon session

The Debt Trap

Session #048 The Debt Trap

Scripture Matthew 6:12;14-15

Summary The sad truth is that so many are trapped in the debt of unforgiveness but are totally unaware of it. Even worse, some say that Matt 6:12 is no longer relevant for believers, hence disregarding this important teaching of Jesus. Henson addresses these and more in this session, showing that God has already provided a better way of forgiveness. Don’t be trapped or held back from kingdom assignments anymore!


In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name
Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one
For Yours is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory forever.
Amen. Matthew 6:9–13

The Disciple’s Prayer is not merely a petition for personal needs and protection.  It is a prayer that sees things from the perspective of the Kingdom of God.  It is a prayer that aligns the disciple with the purposes of the Kingdom of God.

We begin by addressing God, our Father and our King. All that is happening in heaven, we desire to see the same take place on earth. We ask for the coming of the fullness of His Kingdom. We ask for the outworking of His Will. We acknowledge that it must first begin with us that we can be ambassadors of the Kingdom and of Jesus Christ. We know our provisions and daily needs are taken care of as we move to fulfil the mission.

“And forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

Forgiveness deals with things that can derail or hold us back from serving the Kingdom effectively and productively. So many are trapped by debt, financial, emotional and spiritual debt.  They want to move ahead with and for the Kingdom, but they do not get very far. One step forward, two steps back.  Why? They are trapped by the trap of “unforgiveness”.

The Importance of Forgiveness: Matthew 6:12 is a Summary Statement

The only part of the prayer that Jesus emphasises is “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

In Luke’s version, “And forgive our sins, for [because] we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4).

Jesus extends the same principle for victorious prayer in Mark 11:25-26.

But Is Matthew 6:12, 14-15 Still Relevant?

Note that there are two parts to this verse. The first part is conditional upon the second part being fulfilled. But of late, there is teaching that the first part is no longer applicable, that we no longer need to ask for forgiveness, presenting that this sermon was given at Pre-Cross: before Jesus’ death. As such, there is no need to ask for forgiveness anymore since Jesus has forgiven us past, present and future. The Law belongs to the Old Covenant: we are no longer under the law. As such, the condition no longer applies.

The question is this teaching or interpretation correct? If so, there is no need to bother with the second part. If not, we must understand this verse properly so that we may rightly obey the words of Jesus.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35)

Peter’s question of how many times must we forgive? 7 times? Peter knows that he needs to forgive, but is also being ritualistic and realistic. In Rabbinic teaching, forgiveness is only required 3 times; hence Peter was very generous with his statement, as one cannot keep forgiving, right?

Jesus answers, “70 x 7 times” or “77 times”. That is double perfection. Symbolically, do it until the forgiveness is complete, that forgiveness “from the heart”.

The Kingdom of God is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.



Servant’s Friend

Owes Who



Amount Owing

10,000 talents

( ≅ 200,000 years’ wages)

100 denarii

( ≅ 100 days’ wages)

In Today’s Value

US$3.48 Billion


There was no way the servant was able to repay the Master. Not only was his life at stake, but it also affected his wife and children. The consequences of our sins also affect others. However, the King showed the servant grace as he knew it was impossible for the servant to repay. He was moved with compassion, and he cancelled the Entire debt owing. When it came to the servant’s turn, and comparing what his friend owed him and him owing to the Master, the difference was great. “And he would not”, refusing or not willing to overlook the debt of his friend. It was a conscious effort to harden his heart.

In the Lord’s Prayer, who appears to have to forgive first? Seems to be us. But remember, God always makes the first move. He loved and forgave Israel over and over again. God did the same for us. He loved and provided forgiveness to the world through Jesus’ work on the Cross. Faith appropriates that forgiveness and pardon (Colossians 2:13–14).

How Should Matthew 6:12 be Read and Understood?

And forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors …

……[as You have forgiven us.] cf Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-13.

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

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. Colossians 3:12–13

That little word “as”: in the same manner. God has already set the example for us to follow. Now, He follows our example to see how well we have learnt from His example.

Forgive us our debts: This is not Justification Forgiveness but Sanctification Forgiveness. This forgiveness that Jesus is talking about is not that which brings us into a relationship with God, but one that results because of our relationship with God. Jesus paid the entire debt for us, our past sins until the point of salvation is Justification; present and future sins is Sanctification.

The Point Is Forgiveness Of Others
Yes, we still need to ask for forgiveness which helps us to be aware of and acknowledge our sins that we can turn away from sin, that’s called repentance, a change of direction. The process of sanctification is a lifelong process.

Trapped & Tortured
“And his master was angry and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother’s trespasses” (Matthew 18:34-35).

From an act of grace to a display of anger (Matthew 18:34). The requirement of the entire debt was reinstated to the servant.

The Debt Trap
Holding a debt against others causes us to be trapped in our own debt. Often, the one who has offended you may not even know it. Meanwhile, you are fuming and getting all upset about how you have been wronged.

“Holding on to unforgiveness is like swallowing poison in order to punish your enemy.” Joyce Meyer

Sinning against God opens a huge doorway for the enemy to steal, kill and destroy. In fact, Matthew 18:34 reminds us that it is God who allows the torturer to have his way in our minds and bodies. So many ailments, illnesses and psychosomatic disorders can be traced to unforgiveness.

“Offended – hurt – wounded” often plays in the mind, causing sleeplessness, thereby having an inability to concentrate. The root of bitterness is anger which leads to hatred. One gets high blood pressure, stress, migraine stroke or heart attack. There are emotional disorders, low self-esteem, identity crisis, fear and depression. In 2 Corinthians 2:10–11, Satan takes full advantage of this unforgiveness and the unforgiven to break the body of Christ through offences such as complaints, murmurs, gossips, slanders, sowing of discord among the brethren, hypocrisy, mistrust and suspicion. What has happened to God’s kingdom people? God, through Jesus Christ, has freed us to serve Him, to advance and to establish His Kingdom, to do His Will through kingdom assignments.

God has a better way: Forgiveness
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Lewis B. Smedes

Forgiveness is not disapproving, diminishing, enabling or denial of sin. Debt is a debt, nobody is perfect. Sin is Sin. Forgiveness is not enabling sin, you can forgive and take action to prevent future sin or offence. Forgiveness is not a denial of sin where one tries not to think about it then it did not happen and try to move on. Forgiveness is not waiting for an apology or repentance, not forgetting, not ceasing to feel the pain, not a one-time event as one has to keep on doing it allowing the Lord to enable. Forgiveness is not neglecting justice, if a child is molested, call the police. Forgiveness is not trusting or reconciliation where relationships may not go back to what it was. Reconciliation takes two. A wife may forgive her husband for adultery but the husband may not want to reconcile.

Forgiveness is to cancel a debt; to set free; to pardon; to show favour; to pass over.

Forgiveness is A Command for our good, well-being, freedom, and unhindered prayers which requires our obedience.

Forgiveness  is A Choice to show favour, grace, compassion, and to bless the person

Forgiveness is By Faith which is not based on feeling. We respond and obey by faith and God works forgiveness in our hearts by His strength and Holy Spirit

Be careful of the Hindrances – the pain of offence, the presence of pride vs the Grace and Humility, the defence of rights vs leaving God to be ultimate judge, the lack of spiritual maturity – where we are not secure in Christ; and bearing the fruit of the Spirit such meekness which is weakness.


Matthew 6:12 is still relevant for Christians. If we ignore the first part, we disregard the second part, and that traps us in our own debt. Corrie ten Boom told of not being able to forget a wrong that had been done to her. She had forgiven the person, but she kept rehashing the incident and so couldn’t sleep. Finally, Corrie cried out to God for help in putting the problem to rest. “His help came in the form of a kindly Lutheran pastor,” Corrie wrote, “to whom I confessed my failure after two sleepless weeks. “Up in the church tower,” he said, nodding out the window, “is a bell which is rung by pulling on a rope. But you know what? After the sexton lets go of the rope, the bell keeps on swinging. First ding, then dong. It slower and slower until there’s a final dong and it stops. I believe the same thing is true of forgiveness. When we forgive, we take our hand off the rope. But if we’ve been tugging at our grievances for a long time, we must not be surprised if the old angry thoughts keep coming for a while. They are just the ding-dongs of the old bell slowing down.”  And so it proved to be. There were a few more midnight reverberations, a couple of dings when the subject came up in my conversations, but the force — which was my willingness in the matter — had gone out of them. They came less and less often and at last stopped altogether: we can trust God not only above our emotions but also above our thoughts.”