Monday, June 7, 2010

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. 24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.

26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.

28 “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.

29 “His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. 30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

31 “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. 32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

S - Scripture

30 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

O - Observation

This teaching from Jesus is nothing short of brilliant. The debtor (us) is forgiven a large amount of money (our sin) by the master (God) who forgave (grace) the debt. When it comes time for the forgiven (us) to forgive a debtor (somebody who has offended us), the forgiven is unable to forgive.

The master (God) is called by some bystanders who can't believe what they are seeing. The master can't believe it, offers a few harsh words, and reverses the forgiveness.

A - Application

Jesus is making a radical plea for humans to forgive each other. He knows it is best for the forgiver because the forgiver can let go of resentment and bitterness and not be defined by past hurts. He knows it is best for the forgiven because they can look at themselves in the mirror again without feeling guilty. And, it gives both parties in the relationship a glimpse of the nature of God as a forgiver.

Jesus clearly states that the forgiven should be forgiving and the recipient of grace should be a giver of grace. This shouldn't be read dogmatically making our forgiveness a litmus test for God's forgiveness. Rather, our forgiveness of others comes as a response to fully experiencing God's grace. The forgiven has no choice other than to forgive. They have experienced that it is better for forgive and live than it is to remember and resent.

P - Prayer

Lord, help me to forgive as I have been forgiven. Help me to share with others the same grace you have given me. Amen.

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