07. A King Taking Account (Part 1)

…the kingdom of Heaven has been compared to a man, a king, who desired to take account with his slaves. And he having begun to reckon, one debtor of ten thousand talents was brought near to him. But he not having any to repay, the lord commanded him to be sold, also his wife and children, and all things, as much as he had, even to pay back. Then having fallen down, the slave bowed the knee to him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay all to you. And being filled with pity, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the loan. But having gone out, that slave found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii. And seizing him, he choked him, saying, Pay me whatever you owe. Then having fallen down at his feet, his fellow slave begged him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay all to you. But he would not, but having gone away he threw him into prison until he should pay back the amount owing. But his fellow slaves, seeing the things happening, they were greatly grieved. And having come they reported to their lord all the things happening. Then having called him near, his lord said to him, Wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt, since you begged me. Ought you not also to have mercy on your fellow slave, as I also had mercy? And being angry, his lord delivered him up to the tormentors until he pay back all that debt to him. So also My heavenly Father will do to you unless each of you from your hearts forgive his brother their deviations. (Matthew 18:23-35)

Today we will explore another parable dealing with the kingdom of heaven that touches on a topic of great importance to all who seek to live a spiritual life and have to deal with the things that seemingly obstruct us from doing that. It’s a spiritual law that until you begin to seek to live from the Word you won’t be aware of what it is in you, or rather in your lower nature, that stands opposed to having the life of heaven more fully formed in you. It’s only when we begin to put effort into making spiritual things a priority for our lives that we become aware of those desires and attitudes, those fixed and habitual ways of thinking, and the beliefs we are so attached to, that seek to keep us from moving into higher things.

The parables of the kingdom are a wonderful guide to our coming to understand what the experience of making an effort, as if of ourselves, in spiritual things will be like and is like. And so today we come to the question of debt, what is owed by whom to whom and how this concept of indebtedness impacts on how we live and regard others. So we read that the kingdom of heaven is like a man, a king in fact, who desired to take account with his slaves…this statement immediately places before us the idea that the kingdom of heaven is like the kind of relationship that a king has with his subjects. It’s a relationship of accountability or one that is filled with responsibilities. The subjects are accountable to the king for the benefits they receive from the king, and the king also has a responsibility which is that of calling his subjects to account for what they have received.

Again, like other parables, this seems, at least on the surface, to tell us that we a liable for some fairly harsh penalties if we can’t deliver what the kingdom requires of us. We could ask, what is it to risk all we have if we are unable to settle our accounts? What is it we must settle? Will a loving God who cares for us really see to it that we lose everything if we don’t pay what we owe?  How are we to understand this? Such difficulties in the literal sense of the Word can be something of a shock to our established view of things. And they are meant to shock us. For some, the shock will be too much and they will turn away from the Scriptures, but for others, these shocks serve to create questions in the mind that need reconciling and so leads them to engage with the difficulties found in the Scriptures to see how they can be reconciled with the picture of reality offered through its spiritual sense. This requires that we put aside our own ideas, prejudices, and preconceptions in our contact with the Word. We always need to take care when engaging with It that we don’t reject something because it doesn’t fit with the ideas or beliefs we are attached to. These words contain the living truth, and if we are not careful, any preconceptions we bring to the Word can so easily shut us off from the deep work the Lord is looking to perform in our lives. It’s important that we understand that we are not in a position to judge the Word, but that it, in a real sense, judges what is in us, which we will touch on again a little later.

It is a spiritual law that every person is personally responsible for their responses in the face of their understanding of truth; we all are accountable for our responses and so are, in the final analysis, without excuse. Our past, our upbringing, our friends, our education or lack of it, our family, our government, the influences of society, our church, or religion, all these are factors in our lives, but none of them take away or diminish the personal responsibility we have from the Lord to act in freedom from our understanding of truth. Truths once heard and understood make us responsible. It places obligations on us for which we will be held accountable.

We don’t naturally warm to the idea of responsibility – in fact, the very word itself can elicit feelings of resistance, and this resistance is of a spiritual origin. In spiritual matters, the last thing the hells want is for us to take up our responsibilities in regard to our spiritual growth and development. What flows into our minds from the hells and finds access to us through the loves of self and the world is every excuse and the impulse to put off, deny, or shift our responsibly in spiritual matters onto others, or onto external factors or situations we have no control over. But the fascinating thing about this tendency to minimise or deny our personal responsibility for our inner lives is that, while we may look to diminish our own responsibilities, we are far less forgiving when it comes to what we believe to be the responsibilities of others. And of course, this dynamic is clearly illustrated in the parable we are looking at today.

But let’s come back to this idea of truths making us responsible. I want you to think about the word responsible in a fresh way this morning. In terms of this idea of truth making us responsible think of it in this way – truth makes us “response-able,” it makes us “able-to-respond.” In other words, if the truths we have are genuinely spiritual they are able to empower us to respond in a way that promotes what is good. This can be so liberating once seen; as soon as truth strikes me in a way that impacts on my consciousness it empowers me, in a very real sense I become response enabled. In the moment we really see a truth we are given options, but not only are we given options, we are given the ability to make a decision for what is best from a spiritual perspective in accordance with our understanding of that truth.

This is the basis for cultivating a deeper sense of spiritual freedom. Spiritual freedom has nothing to do with being free to do whatever we want. It has to do with our ability to freely choose what is good. Often we think that exercising spiritual freedom is like having good on the one side and evil on the other with us sort of in the middle with the freedom to choose one or the other. But this is not quite how it is. What the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity actually say is that in and of ourselves we are totally self-centred and have no ability to choose what is good over the evils that arise from our proprium. The inclination of our natural man or proprium is always towards self-interest. It’s important to get a grasp of the fact that choice and freedom in spiritual matters is always centred on what is good. Evil is not a choice, our natural man or proprium is immersed in it; therefore evil is not presented as something we choose any more than a dog chooses to be a dog, rather the choice or exercise of spiritual freedom is always a choice to act on our understanding of truth to resist evils and in doing so choose the good.

If we choose to exercise our spiritual freedom, then evils are progressively dealt with and held at bay; if we don’t exercise this freedom then we remain immersed in our natural state of life which carries us on the path to becoming more enslaved in hellish desires and the self-centred thoughts that arise from them. So, the picture is not of good on one side and evil on the other, rather it’s a case of our sense of self being immersed in evil influences and false ideas but always having before us a ladder, which, if we were to look up to the truths we have available to us at any given time we would be able to begin to ascend. The exercise of spiritual freedom always, without exception, leads upwards to what is heavenly. When you are at the bottom of the heap, the only “choice” is up. So, in this sense we see that spiritual freedom is not a case of being free to choose what is evil, or to be self-centred, we are already there, it is rather being enabled to choose in favour of what is good and true, and it is this freedom the Lord provides for every person in accordance with truths they have. Everyone of a sound mind can choose to act in accordance with their understanding of what is true and good and so begin to climb the ladder that leads out of the hellish mire of self-interest.

The exercise of our spiritual freedom is always a choice for the good, to act in genuine loving ways and this ability is from the Lord alone, for all good is from God. The doctrines for Spiritual Christianity go further and teach us that, while this power is from the Lord we experience it very much as something we do, the choice always feels as if it is our own. This is what spiritual freedom is. It is the freedom to act from truth in favour of what is good as if of ourselves. We can see this when we understand that this choice can only be made possible when we have managed to acquire an understanding of what good is. Every idea given to the human race that leads to good is from the Lord and we call such ideas truths. For those who acknowledge the Lord in the Word, the Word is the direct source of all that is good and true. Those who are in the practice of the Word are response enabled through the truths provided in the Word when understood in the light of its spiritual sense. Truths teach us what good is and so, when taken into the mind are able to provide us with light and so show us what our response needs to be.

Without those truths and principles that show us what good is there can be no freedom to choose the good. So, we can see from this that the strength of our ability to choose what is good is tied to our understanding of truth. It is the presence of truths in our minds that make us truly rational. This is because it is only truths that can guide us in making rational choices, which can only ever be choices that promote goodness in every sphere of human life and endeavour. All truths, that are genuine, are how the Lord makes His presence with us. We are conjoined with these truths and so by means of them are able to be conjoined with the Lord when we exercise the freedom they provide to resist our evils, so that good might be promoted. This conjunction is how we are given a new sense of self, a new heavenly proprium from the Lord. This is how we are set free, Jesus said;

“You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32)

This is because it is the truth that gives us the freedom to resist evils and so choose the good… it makes us response-able, or able to respond, which makes us account-able.

In having a better sense of these things we can now explore the nature of spiritual freedom; that there is no freedom without personal responsibility and with responsibility comes accountability as it is illustrated for us in this parable…which we shall return to next time.

Spiritual freedom is from the love of eternal life. Into this love and its delight no one comes but the man who thinks that evils are sins, and consequently does not will them, and at the same time looks to the Lord. As soon as a man does so, he is in this freedom; for no one has the power not to will evils because they are sins and so to refrain from doing them, unless from a more interior or higher freedom which is from a more interior or higher love. At first this freedom does not appear to be freedom, and yet it is; and later it does so appear, when the man acts from freedom itself according to reason itself, in thinking, willing, speaking and doing what is good and true. This freedom increases as natural freedom decreases and becomes subservient; and it conjoins itself with rational freedom which it purifies. Everyone may come into this freedom provided he is willing to think that there is an eternal life, and that the temporary delight and bliss of a life in time are but as a fleeting shadow compared with the never-ending delight and bliss of a life in eternity. This a man can think if he wishes, because he has rationality and liberty, and because the Lord, from whom these two faculties are derived, continually gives him the ability to do so. (Divine Providence 73{6&7})

Leave a Comment