08. A King Taking Account (Part 2)

…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)

We come now to the second part of our look at this parable which describes the kingdom of heaven being like a king wanting to settle accounts. Now whenever we read of a king in the Word we are dealing with a representation for truths, or ruling principles, and as our king and his actions are likened to the kingdom of heaven, we can see that the principles being illustrated through this parable must be those that govern how we experience the kingdom of heaven operating in our lives. The nature of truth is such that it probes our being, looking to uncover our motives and attitudes and bring them to our attention.  So this king that calls his servants to account is the Word or Divine Truth and we can see this in the actual word translated “account.” Interestingly this word is a translation of the Greek word “logos” which is the term in John’s Gospel attributed to the Lord in the statement;

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God.”

What we have here is, “In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was God.” The Logos is the Divine Truth that became flesh and dwelt among us; so John draws our attention to Jesus as the logos or the full account of Divinity in Human form.

So logos means Word, but it also means account and in this, we can see the intimate relationship we spoke about last time that truth has to the idea of responsibility. It is no coincidence the Word present us with these two ideas linked to this one word, for from a spiritual perspective they are inseparable. But this is only part of the story. We can ask, what is this king doing with this account? The Scripture says he “wills to take account of his servants.” A servant represents what is lower in us, those things that sit beneath the level of Divine Truth but are designed to carry out its plans and purposes. They are the things that carry out the will of the king through the administration of various offices and uses on which the health of the kingdom depends. Divine Truth finds it place in us as a king when we freely place ourselves under its authority and what this parable teaches us is that once we do this then we undergo a process whereby what is within us is called to account.

In the inner world of the kingdom of heaven, which is always the world of our will and understanding, it is our thoughts and affections that are supposed to serve the Lord’s kingdom within us. And in the processes of our spiritual growth and development or our regeneration, it is these kinds of things that are constantly being called to account. Isn’t this the case? Isn’t this our experience? When we begin to respond to the truths we learn from the Word don’t we experience this spiritual principle operating by having the things of our inner world being called to account? Ways of thinking and feeling and behaving that we wouldn’t have given a second thought to before we now find ourselves reflecting upon.  The Word gives us the ability to reflect on the quality of our thoughts and affections, an ability to look at out attitudes and motives? Isn’t it the case that truths make us “response-able” and with that, we are also made “account-able”?

The actual phrase, “willed to take account,” taken as a whole is interesting in that when we examine the phrase in its original Greek we find hidden within it the purpose for which this taking or settling of accounts is performed. To see this we need to consider the word translated take as in, “to take account…” The Greek word soon-aheero which literally means “to-together-lift” from “soon” meaning together and “aheero” meaning to lift. The idea is one of assessing things by bringing them into connection with higher principles through lifting them from a lower to a higher plain. This is done as of ourselves but is really it is an ability from the Lord through the truths he furnishes us with. It is done by our being willing to reflect on our lower level thoughts, motives, and behaviours. When we do this, we lift what is lower into the light of what is higher. Doesn’t this describe the process of self-examination as we undertake to view our thoughts, motives, and behaviours from the standard of the Word? This is what is meant by a king taking account of his servants when the kingdom of heaven is operating in our lives.

What is being illustrated for us in this parable is the power of the Word to bring what is serviceable to the spiritual life into connection with the king. The first thing that we see in this accounting for what is in our minds, is the state of things on the lower plain of the thought and affection we dwell in. Before coming into a knowledge of spiritual truths we live as if our life is our own, to do with as we desire. The natural man is imprisoned in this fallacy of the senses. He believes that he is the source of his life, that he somehow is life in himself because this is how it feels. He cannot of himself see his way out of this deception, and because this is the case, the Lord has revealed truths concerning the state of the human condition by divine revelation so that we can come to see things as they are. The internal sense of the Word reveals that only God is life in Himself, and that all others are merely recipients of that life that flows from Him. That we have been given a sense of having life in ourselves is an appearance necessary for the exercise of freedom in spiritual things. Without this feeling of life as our own we would have no sense of being autonomous, independent beings and so have no possibility of being able to choose how we will live our lives.

Don’t underestimate the power of this appearance to deceive the mind. There isn’t a day that goes by where we don’t act from a belief that we are the source of our life. It is so powerful a deception that we must constantly remind ourselves that our life is not our own and that as receivers of life from the Lord we have a responsibility to work to have our thoughts and affections brought into service of the kingdom of heaven. This being the order of creation for all human beings. The realisation that our life flows into us and only appears as ours can be a real shock if it hits us on an emotional level. It requires a total shift in our thinking and a reorganisation of our beliefs. The power of this shock is illustrated in the parable by the servant coming into a realisation that nothing he has is his own, but that it all was given to him by the king and the king wants it back. The debt is 10,000 talents. Just to give you some idea of the numbers involved here 1 talent was the equivalent of 17 years wages.

The use of this imagery is to drive the point home that all we have is the Lord’s, and because it is His, we actually have nothing in ourselves to give to “settle the account.” In spiritual terms we can’t acquire anything for ourselves because what is available to us to make such a payment must come from the Lord in the first place. It’s like having no income but managing to get a 100% finance to purchase a house and then because we don’t have an income having to borrow everything we need each month to make the repayments. For a while we live in the house and even come to believe that it’s ours but at some point we are called on to settle the account and at that point the reality of our predicament strikes home. While we lived in the house we were comfortable in the illusion that we possessed a home we could call our own. And by all appearances this is exactly how it looked. Now, however, things are beginning to look very different.

While we live with a belief that our life is our own and that we are accountable to no one but ourselves, we live for ourselves. Everything in our minds, our thoughts, affections, attitudes and desires are organised around the love of self which perpetuates the illusion that all is well. We are blinded by our egos and see ourselves as much more important than we really are in the scheme of things. It is like those we find described in the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity as living in hell, who see themselves as living in wealth and splendour, only to find that when heaven’s light shines on their situation that they live in caves amidst excrement and are clothed in rags.

Heaven’s light shines in on our state of life when we allow truths from the Word to shine on the attitudes, beliefs, and motives, active in our minds. This is what is meant by a king taking account of his servants. The things the natural man regards as precious, the spiritual man sees must be sold, which means that the attachment we have to our sense of life being our own must be given up. All the beliefs and attitudes in which we have immersed ourselves must be relinquished and submitted to the authority of the Lord so that the things of our understanding and affections might be reordered to serve the purposes of the kingdom of heaven.

But knowing this and doing it are two very different things, and in the moment of realisation we feel that it is too much – the king, or this ruling principle of the kingdom of heaven, requires all that we have or feel ownership over be sold or given up in order to pay the debt. The teaching of the Word is clear, if we are to find our life we must lose it. To the rich young ruler of the Gospels, Jesus said, that if he was to inherit eternal life he had to sell all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor and then follow Him. This idea of selling to gain the things of heaven, as we saw in the parables of The Treasure Hid in a Field, and The Pearl of Great Price has to do with giving up our sense ownership over our lives through acknowledging that all that we have is from the Lord.

But to commit ourselves in this way is not an easy thing for us to do and the sense of loss involved feels to be too much. We want to hold on to some things and so we see that the servant in this parable falls down and worships the king acknowledging his debt saying he will repay. This shows us an important aspect to how the kingdom of heaven works. Until we are able to acknowledge our state of dependency on the Lord, we can’t experience the healing that comes from being released from the burden that weighs us down through trying to live our lives independently from Him. There is a very important truth in this area of forgiveness that we all need to get a hold of. The Lord does not withhold anything from anyone, including His forgiveness. Wherever the Lord is, and He is everywhere, forgiveness is there because in a very real sense the Lord is forgiveness itself. The Lord does not withhold forgiveness because He holds nothing against anyone in the first place.

But if we shut the Lord out of our lives we will feel burdened by the disorder that arises from not being connected to the source of life. It appears as if the Lord grants forgiveness, but it is only an appearance, it is not how it actually is. The appearance arises from our having shut Him out and then when we finally open our hearts to Him by acting on our understanding of truth it feels as if something has been granted to us, when really the Lord’s forgiveness has always been right with us. What’s changed is that we now are open to receiving the Lord more fully into our lives and this comes with a sense of release from the burden that self-love places upon us.

People can become obsessed with seeking the Lord’s forgiveness due to a misplaced sense of guilt and shame, whereas all they have to do to be connected with Him is to walk in the truths they know. When we know that there is something in our life that we need to be working to separate from and we refuse to do what we know truth requires of us, we come under negative influences that make it seem as if the Lord is distant from us and we find this dynamic illustrated in the second part of this parable.

What the second part of the parable shows us is that we are slow learners when it comes to actually living from spiritual principles. It is one thing to acknowledge God as the sole source of all we have and it is quite another to see how this should play out for us in terms of our responsibilities and relationships with others. We all know and acknowledge that all we have is from the Lord, in fact we can extend this to we all know that everything anyone has is the Lord’s. Thus, from a spiritual perspective there is only one true creditor and that is the Lord, for He supplies all to all. All others are His debtors and His alone. Once this truth is grasped, we will see that we have no authority to hold anything against anybody. This is a radical idea. The world would have us believe that life owes us, but from a spiritual perspective it is not life that owes us, but we who are indebted to life. I wonder if we can really live from this idea. The doctrines for Spiritual Christianity teach us that we find our self in loving and serving others freely. The world says that all exists to serve us; the Word says that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is the one who serves. It says that he who exalts himself with be laid low but he who abases himself will be exalted.

To continue to live from a belief that our life is our own leads to situations where we end up holding others to account. We don’t see this when we are caught up in it but it brings with it all kinds of negative influences into our life. It’s not enough to just acknowledge the truth that the Lord is the source of our life in our heads, we have to allow this truth to impact on our attitudes towards ourselves and others and be in the effort to find out what it means to live from this principle.

If we don’t do this we will choke out the life of heaven from making its way down into the more external areas of our life. Knowing these things and not doing them results in an inner battle with our conscience, and this is what it is to be handed over to be bound and tormented until the debt is paid. And this debt can only be paid by taking the truths we have and living from them, because truth makes us response-able, i.e. able to respond as we must. Perhaps we can see this principle better from the following example. We often hold people to account when they behave in some way that offends us. Our expectations are that they should have behaved in a different way and so when they don’t meet our expectations we hold them to account – they need to pay by acting as we want or believe they should act and behave towards us.

We may feel that we deserve an apology and so we freeze them out to make our annoyance with them known. This is holding others to account – and the world tells us that we are justified in doing this. But if we are to live under the principles of the kingdom of heaven such behaviour is never justified and if we choose to act in this way, we will certainly suffer the tormentors until the debt is paid in full. What is this suffering; it’s simply the resentment, the anger, the indignation, the annoyance, and the hurt, we keep alive in us that eats away at the positive potential life offers us to grow. If you are holding on to anything like this its time to let it go – to release the debt you feel you are owed – this is the principle – forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors – you can only be released from the tormentors when you release those you are holding an account against.

Those who are engrossed in falsities, more so those steeped in evils, are called ‘the bound” and ‘in prison’, not because they are held in any physical bonds but because they are not in freedom; for people who are not in freedom are inwardly in bonds. Indeed once they subscribe to falsity they no longer have any freedom to choose or receive what is true; and those who subscribe heavily to it do not have any freedom even to see it, let alone acknowledge it and believe it, because they are quite convinced that what is false is true and what is true is false. That conviction is so powerful in them that it removes all freedom to think anything different, and is so strong that it holds their actual thought in bonds, in prison so to speak. This has been made clear to me from considerable experience among those in the next life who have become quite convinced of falsity by harbouring ideas that serve to prove to it. They are the kind of people who do not entertain any truths at all but turn or drive these away, doing so with a degree of ruthlessness which matches the intensity of their conviction. This is primarily so when such falsity is the product of evil, that is, when evil causes them to be convinced of it.

[2] People like these are not even aware that they are in bonds or in prison, for they are full of affection for their falsity, loving it because of the evil which produces it. This leads them to think that they are in freedom, since everything they have an affection for or love seems to make them feel free. But those who have not really subscribed to falsity, that is, who have not become convinced of it, entertain truths easily. They see them, choose them, and are full of affection for them, after which they look down on falsities so to speak, and then see how those convinced of falsity have come to be in bonds. Having such freedom they are able in their contemplation and thought to roam so to speak through the whole of heaven in search of countless truths. But nobody can have this freedom except one who is governed by good; for it is by virtue of good that he is in heaven and by virtue of good that truths are seen there. (Arcana Coelestia 5096)

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