Settling scores is a good idea, when possible. Jesus said, “As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the very last penny” (Luke 12:58, 59 ESV). Jesus is using this story to tell the person who owes debt to hurry up and make things right, to settle with his accuser.
I don’t believe Jesus is using this story to only talk about financial debt. He is also talking about wronging others. When we sin against others, we carry a debt. Christians often avoid repaying the debt they owe against others while demanding that the debt be forgiven by the one sinned against. “Forgive and move on” is too common a phrase in religious circles. Precisely what happened in Matthew 18 when the servant who’d received mercy demanded that his fellow servant pay back his debt.
Jesus is clear that coercion will backfire on the one who owes the debt. If we are going to ask for mercy, we need to attempt to pay back what we owe. This is part of settling debt. Too many people don’t take responsibility for their actions then turn around and demand that others forgive them. This kind of free pass eventually catches up to the one who is destructive. This is exactly Jesus’ point. Better to settle debt with the accuser than to be brought before the Judge and lose.
As Jesus once said, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26 ESV). This is in the context of denying one’s self, taking up the cross, and following Jesus. Making restitution is costly. It takes denying ourselves. It requires humility and honesty. It’s a challenging thing to do, but it is the right thing to do for the sake of the one who we’ve wronged.