WE MUST FORGIVE OTHERS AS GOD HAS FORGIVENPART II: THE PARABLES OF THE KINGDOMThis parable was precipitated by Peter's question
CHAPTER 11 THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT
..."Lord, how many times shall I forgive
my brother when he sins against me? Up to
Jesus answered, "I tell you, not
seven times, but seventy-seven times."
(Matthew 18:21-23, New International
"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is
like a king, who wanted to settle
accounts with his servants. As he began
the settlement, a man who owed him ten
thousand talents was brought to him.
Since he was not able to pay, the master
ordered that he and his wife and his
children and all that he had be sold to
repay the debt.
"The servant fell on his knees before
him. `Be patient with me,' he begged,
`and I will pay back everything.' The
servant's master took pity on him,
canceled the debt and let him go.
"But when that servant went out,
he found one of his fellow servants who
owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed
him and began to choke him. `Pay back
what you owe me!' He demanded.
"His fellow servant fell to his
knees and begged him, `Be patient with
me, and I will pay you back.'
"But he refused. Instead, he went
off and had the man thrown into prison
until he could pay the debt. When the
other servants saw what had happened,
they were greatly distressed and went
and told their master everything that had
"Then the master called the servant
in. `You wicked servant,' he said, `I
canceled all that debt of yours because
you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had
mercy on your fellow servant just as I
had on you?' In anger his master turned
him over to the jailers to be tortured,
until he should pay back all he owed.
"This is how my heavenly Father will
treat each of you unless you forgive your
brother from your heart." (Matthew
18:23-35, New International Version).
The story begins with a king settling accounts with his
servants. One servant who owed him 10,000 talents (about
12,000,000 dollars) was brought before him. Since the servant
was unable to pay, the king ordered that he and his family be
sold as slaves and all that he had be sold to pay on the
The servant fell down before his king and begged him to
be patient until he could repay him. The king had mercy on
him, forgave the debt and let him go.
The forgiven servant went out and found a fellow servant
who owed him 100 denarii (20 dollars). He grabbed him, began
choking him and demanded that he pay him the small sum.
His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him to
be patient until he could repay him.
The forgiven servant refused to wait and had his fellow
servant thrown into prison until the debt was repaid. Other fellow
servants saw what had happened and told the king.
The king called in his wicked servant for not having
mercy and canceling the insignificant debt as the king had
canceled his astronomical debt. The king was furious and had
him turned over to jailers to be tortured until his debt was
The InterpretationThe story characters and the real people they represent
1. The king God
2. The servants believers
The debts and what they represent are:
3. The 12,000,000 dollars our debt of sin to God
4. The 20 dollars the debt of wrong done to
us by others
Peter probably felt he was being generous in offering to
forgive someone 7 times. (Two Rabbis of that time had taught
not to forgive more than 3 times). Jesus replied that we
should forgive 77 times, or it could be translated 70 times 7
or 490 times.
Jesus was using a literal figure to represent the Christian ATTITUDE of
In this parable, the unforgiving servant was probably a thief:
This one WAS BROUGHT UNTO HIM; he never would have
come of himself; he would have made that ten into
twenty thousand, for the secure sinner goes on
treasuring up (Rom. ii 5) an even mightier sum, to
be one day required of him. In all probability,
from the immensity of the debt, this man was one to
whom some chief post of honor and dignity in the
kingdom had been committed,--a satrap who should
have remitted the revenues of his province to
the royal treasury. (Trench, NOTES ON THE PARABLES
OF OUR LORD, p. 56).
The king could have been an actual oriental monarch, and
if so, the figure would have been appropriate. Or, Jesus
could have been using hyperbole. Jesus was actually
emphasizing the utter hopelessness of our ever paying the
immeasurable debt of sin that we owe. The debt of sin must
be forgiven by God. To symbolize this, it would be impossible
to exaggerate the figures. (Earle, BEACON BIBLE COMMENTARY,
MATTHEW, pp. 173-174).
The custom of the day was to sell the wife and children
into slavery to help satisfy debts. Another practice was to
have debtors jailed and tortured to reveal any hidden sources
of revenue. [R. G. V. Tasker, TYNDALE NEW TESTAMENT
COMMENTARIES, MATTHEW (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans,
1976), p. 179].
Barclay sees these lessons:
1. A man must forgive in order to be forgiven:
Blessed are the merciful
for they will be shown mercy.
New International Version).
Speak and act as those who are going
to be judged by the law that gives
freedom, because judgment without mercy
will be shown to anyone who has not been
merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!
(James 2:12-13, New International Version).
2. There is a tremendous contrast between the
debts in the parable. The smaller debt could be
carried in one pocket. The larger debt would
take an army of 8,600 carriers, each carrying 60
pounds of money--at a distance of one yard apart
the carriers would form a line 5 miles long! We
have been forgiven a debt beyond our ability to
pay. It was paid by the death of God's own Son.
Therefore we must forgive others as God has
forgiven others, or we can hope to find no mercy.
(Barclay, DAILY BIBLE STUDY SERIES, MATTHEW, pp.
Thank God for his grace and forgiveness. Let us ask God
To search our hearts and reveal all unforgiveness and
grudges. Then, with God's help, let us forgive everyone and
give up all grudges. END