The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant – Matthew 18:21-35
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 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.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
When I first read the parable above the last two verses confused me. At first glance I took it to say – ‘if we do not forgive someone we will be put in jail and tortured.’ Is that how you read it? After all it does say in verse 34 “in anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he paid back what he owed.” It then goes on to say in verse 35, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
When I asked to be forgiven of my sins and accepted Jesus Christ as my savior I know I did not become a perfect person. I still continue to make mistakes and yet he always forgives me. There also have been times in my life that I was so hurt by someone that I had a really hard time forgiving them and it took me a long while to do it. Thankfully eventually I did forgive them but what if I hadn’t?
If we don’t forgive someone is God going to throw us in jail and let us be tortured until we do? Or if we ask God to forgive us for not forgiving them are we then forgiven and given a get out of jail free card?
I would like to say that forgiving is an easy thing to do, but when we feel like someone has taken something from us, or they have done something that hurts us, we want them to know it and we want them to pay for it. I often see in the news about horrendous acts of violence in which someone has been murdered and then later I will hear that the family has forgiven them, I know that has to be a really hard thing to do. Something that terrible has never happened to me so I have no idea how that feels at all but I do know that to forgive is what Jesus has said we have to do here. We have to forgive the debt, no matter how big and no matter what it is.
After thinking about this scripture for a while I got to thinking about how I have felt in the past when I have been angry at someone and did not forgive them right away. What I realized is that when I don’t forgive someone anger and resentment starts building up inside of me and gradually my vision becomes clouded to the point that I can’t see God as well. With all that anger clogging my mind it separates me from him in a way that makes it really hard to be at peace.
If we don’t forgive someone as time goes by we may think those feelings of anger and resentment went away but when we see the person again or think about them it comes boiling back up. Not forgiving someone boils underneath the surface, it never ever fully goes away it just sits there festering until it takes away our joy and it takes away our peace.
In a way isn’t that like we are locked up in a prison of our own making?
So could this parable mean that when we don’t forgive we are allowing ourselves be in our own prison right here right now until we choose to forgive?
This scripture doesn’t say we won’t get into Heaven or that God will be mean to us if we don’t forgive…what it says is ‘He turned him over to the jailers to be tortured’… So maybe #34 & 35 mean to us that by not forgiving we are allowing satan to torture us with these feelings we harbor of anger and resentment and that we will not have peace until we pay back what we owe which is forgiveness.
The forgiveness that we owe is the forgiveness that Jesus gave us on the cross. Jesus died for our sins while we were still sinners, so we need to die to our feelings of wanting to be paid back by others in what we think is rightfully ours, such as an apology, revenge or money.
God wants us to forgive others without expecting to receive anything at all back in return…forgive from our heart. When we forgive from our heart then we can fully let all the anger and resentment go. When we let all that stuff go then that is when we will experience true peace and the full gift of the forgiveness that God has given to us.
What are your thoughts on this parable ? Let me know what you think by leaving your comment in the section below.
Thanks for reading,