by Brian Dembowczyk
If we were honest, most of us couldn’t rightly sing Amazing Grace. It’s that first word that trips us up—amazing. Do we see God’s grace to us as amazing? Truly so? The reality is that many of us don’t because we don’t grasp the second word—grace. Rather, we easily see God’s goodness to us as what we deserve for being “good” people. We tend to compare ourselves to the wrong standard—other people—and in doing so feel pretty good about ourselves. As a result, God’s grace is diminished. It has to be. The more highly we see ourselves, the more lowly we must see grace. We are the first servant in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18:21-35. Yes, we are that servant.
The parable begins with that servant owing his master a fortune—ten thousand talents. “The ten thousand talents was equivalent to a billion days’ worth of peasant wages. This was more money than was circulating in all of Palestine. The talent was the largest unit of currency (equivalent to approximately six thousand days’ worth of wages), and ten thousand is the highest single number that can be expressed in Greek.”
When the servant was brought before the master, he begged for more time to pay his enormous debt, and the master had compassion on him. Not only did the master not sell the servant, his family, and all he had to pay the debt, the master forgave the debt. The entire thing. Shocking.
But then, the servant left the master’s presence and he encountered a fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii, a hundred day’s wages. Three months of earnings is nothing to sneeze at, but it pales in comparison to the debt of 2.7 million year’s worth of wages the first servant had been forgiven. The second servant too begged for more time, but the first servant refused and threw the second servant into debtors’ prison.
It’s an absurd story, really. Because it’s supposed to be. What master would lend his servant that much money in the first place? And how hard-hearted would someone be to throw someone into debtors’ prison immediately after being forgiven such an impossible debt? In my mind’s eye, I imagine the original audience in Jesus’ day chuckling and rolling their eyes as he told this parable. And if they did, that is the exact response Jesus wanted because this story isn’t about forgiving financial debts, but rather a sin debt. As absurd as it is, it pales in comparison to the reality of how God has lavished grace and mercy upon us in Christ. Over 2.5 million years of work doesn’t even begin to come close to the debt we owe God because of a single one of our sins. This is what makes God’s grace amazing. And this is what we miss so often, which is why we can so easily live as the first servant. We fail to remember and appreciate the scandalous grace we have been given. It’s a mistake we don’t want our kids to repeat.
We learn best not from what we read or hear, but from what we experience. So one way that we can help our kids grasp God’s amazing grace is by extending grace to them—rich, scandalous grace as best as we can.
Years ago, I heard a pastor share about a time when he extended grace to his kids. I can’t remember all of the details, but the gist was that his kids had done something wrong, and instead of punishing them as they expected, he took them out for ice cream, giving him the opportunity to teach them about the greater grace God has given to us.
So I tried it, and it worked. My oldest son had tricked my wife into signing a paper from school. She thought she was signing a permission slip, but in reality, she was signing a warning about a missed assignment. Of course, we soon found out. We sat our son down and explained that we knew he had lied to us and tricked us and he went pale. We explained that he had sinned against God and he had betrayed our trust, something we cannot tolerate. Because of that, we continued, we had to do something about it. And just as he was anticipating some severe punishment, we told him to put his shoes on—we were going to get ice cream. While we ate ice cream we talked about the mercy God has given us—how the punishment we deserve for sin was poured out on Christ instead—and the grace He overflows onto us like the ice cream we were enjoying.
That occasion left a mark on my son, because that is what mercy and grace does. We cannot experience it and be unchanged. Rather, it drives us more deeply into awe of not only the grace itself, but the One who has extended it: God.
 Holman Bible Staff (2017). CSB Study Bible (p. 1493). B&H Publishing Group. Retrieved from https://app.wordsearchbible.com.
Brian Dembowczyk is the Managing Editor and Kids Team Leader of The Gospel Project and author of “Gospel-Centered Kids Ministry” and “Cornerstones: 200 Questions and Answers to Learn Truth.” Before coming to LifeWay, Brian served in local church ministry for seventeen years in family, discipleship, and pastoral ministry. Brian earned a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and is currently earning a Ph.D. from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian, his wife Tara, and their three children, Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb, live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.