THE PARABLE OF THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT
“Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. ‘Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (Matthew 18:32-33 NKJV)
When Peter asked, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? He quickly suggested, “Up to seven times?”
Peter thought he was very generous by his willingness to forgive his brother seven times in one day.
But Peter was shocked when the Lord answered him, saying, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matt. 18:22 NKJV).
It would be impossible to have someone wrong or sin against you 490 times in one day. Jesus is simply saying there should be no limit to your forgiveness.
The Lord Jesus further illustrated His answer with the parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:23-25.
The parable is about a servant who owed his master ten thousand talents (about fifteen million dollars), and because he was unable to pay his debt, his master commanded that he and his wife and children and all that he had to be sold.
But when the servant fell and begged his master for patience or more time to pay back, the master was moved with compassion and forgave him the debt.
What a great mercy and forgiveness he received!
Every sin is a debt. This is why the Lord Jesus teaches us to pray thus: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matt. 6:12 NKJV).
We could not settle our huge debts or atone for our sins, yet God forgave us all our sins on account of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.
What a great mercy and forgiveness we have received!
God did not just forgive our sins or write off our debts; He also chose never to remember them again.
God promised in His Word, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Heb. 8:12 NKJV).
Not only did God choose to forgive and forget our sins, but He also chose never to deal with us as our sins deserve. He decided never to treat us as one-time sinners or debtors.
Psalms 103:8-14 – NKJV
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
9 He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
According to Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant, after his master has dealt mercifully with him by forgiving him and writing off his debt, the servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (about fifty dollars).
Although his fellow servant fell at his feet and begged him for mercy and patience, he would neither listen nor pardon him. But he took him by the throat and threw him into the prison till he would pay the debt.
When the news got to his master, he was furious and said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. ‘Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” (Matt. 18:32-33 NKJV).
Afterward, the master delivered the wicked servant to the tormentors until he also would pay all his debts.
Many believers today are suffering unnecessarily in the hands of the tormentors because they would not forgive those who have hurt or wronged them as God has forgiven them.
Among several lessons, the parable of the unforgiving servant teaches us the following vital lessons:
First, it is gross wickedness not to forgive those who sin against us:
The servant who was forgiven his debt but refused to forgive his fellow servant his debt was described and addressed as “a wicked servant” by his master.
Matthew 18:32-34 – NKJV
32 “Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.
33 ‘Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’
34 “And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
When you also refuse to forgive anyone who has wronged, offended, or hurt you, even as God has forgiven you all your sins, you are simply acting as a mere wicked servant.
When you refuse to forgive someone who jilted, betrayed, raped, slandered, abused, cursed, or stolen from you, you are nothing different from the person, for you also have acted as a wicked and unforgiving person.
Second, forgiveness is an act of love, mercy, or compassion:
This parable reveals that forgiveness is a gift of love or unmerited favor. It is impossible to forgive without possessing a heart full of divine love. Forgiveness is a major expression of true love. It flows from a loving and compassionate heart.
The Scripture reveals that the master forgave the servant who owed the debt he could not pay back because he was moved with compassion.
Matthew 18:27 – NKJV
27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
Did the servant deserve the forgiveness he received from his master? Not at all!
Did he demand it? Not at all!
Matthew 18:26 – NKJV
26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.
Although all that the servant passionately pleaded for was patience or more time to pay, yet his master wrote off all his debt, knowing that he would never be able to pay it back. Therefore, he needed not pay anything back.
What a great expression of love and compassion!
Anyone who hurts or betrays you don’t deserve your forgiveness; worse still, he may never even admit that he has wronged you or even request to be forgiven.
Nevertheless, God expects you to demonstrate towards the person who wrongs or hurts you the same love, mercy, and compassion He has shown towards you by forgiving the person from your heart, without reservation or resentment.
What if you choose not to forgive?
Brace yourself up to answer God when He queries, “Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (Matt. 18:33 RSV).
The truth is this: forgiveness is costly, though a gift to the recipient or beneficiary.
God’s forgiveness is a gift to us at Christ’s expense!
Our human minds can never comprehend, calculate or imagine in full what it cost the Lord Jesus Christ to purchase or procure forgiveness of sins (past, present, and future) for humankind.
Ephesians 1:7-9 – NKJV
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace
8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,
9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.
Beloved, whatever it will cost you to forgive anyone who has wronged you is nothing compared to what it costs God to forgive you all your sins.
Therefore, God expects you to forgive freely from your heart, no matter how hurtful or painful you feel. You will surely experience unspeakable joy and peace when you forgive heartily.
Are you still hurting, bitter and angry against someone who has wronged, offended, betrayed, or exploited you in the past?
Are you presently struggling to forgive someone freely from your heart?
What you need is a profound revelation of what it costs the Lord Jesus to purchase forgiveness of sins for you!
When you focus on the Lord Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for your sins, you will draw the grace and strength you need to forgive heartily those who wrong or hurt you without any reservation or limitation.
Hebrews 12:1-4 – NKJ
1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.
Prayer: My Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for forgiving me all my sins at the expense of Your Son, Christ Jesus. Help me, Lord Jesus, to demonstrate towards those who sin against me the same love, forgiveness, mercy, and compassion that You have shown towards me, in Jesus’ name. Amen.