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Parable of the Ungrateful Servant

Matthew 18:21-35

"And if he sins against you seven  times a day,

and returns to you seven times, saying, `I repent,' forgive him." 


The Jewish rabbis said people should forgive three times. Peter, in his question to Jesus (Matthew 18) thought he was being very generous to offer to forgive 7 times.

Jesus says, 77 times, or 70 times 7 (490?). Was Jesus giving us a specific number of times we should forgive one who sinned against us? No, of course not. Who could keep a record of times of forgiveness? No one. Jesus simply means we should forgive that one an uncounted, unlimited number of times. In other words, Jesus was teaching that record-keeping was not a part of forgiveness.

Look at Matthew 18, beginning with verse 23. Jesus presents an example: 10,000 talents equal to upwards of multi-millions of dollars. This represents a sum of money which would be impossible for almost anyone to repay.

Suppose that 10,000 talents = 10,000,000 dollars. The going purchase price of a slave at auction would usually bring no more than 1 talent – 1 talent, with our formula here, would equal only $1000.00. That is not even close to being enough to cover a debt of 10,000 talents.

The master made a wise decision. Sending the slave to jail was not a wise solution. He would never regain his loss by throwing the servant in jail

The master showed compassion toward his servant, released him, and forgave his debt, realizing that it was impossible for the servant to repay.

But after receiving mercy from his master, the slave found a fellow slave who owed him 100 Denali, which was equal to 100 days’ wages. That was really nothing in comparison to the sum of money which had been forgiven him.

This servant too begged for mercy – I will pay you back, be patient. The previously forgiven servant was not as compassionate as was his master. He had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt, which, as we pointed out earlier, wasn’t going to happen as long as he was in prison.

Other servants saw what had happened and reported to the master.

The master withdrew his lenient action toward the first servant and gives him the treatment he deserves – turned him over to the jailers to be tortured until he paid back all he owed.

How long do you think it took him to repay the debt. It never happened. This is a judgment, not just on his financial situation, but it was also a judgment upon his soul. It was an eternal judgment.

6. In verse 35 Jesus applies the story: genuine forgiveness, from the heart, is required of all who have been forgiven.

"So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart,

does not forgive his brother his trespasses."

If each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses: In context, Jesus is speaking only of forgiving the repentant. When a person is unrepentant or unaware of their sin against us, we can't really forgive them, though we can, and must, make a promise of forgiveness to God as Jesus did in Luke 23:34 while He hung on the cross, dying with all the sins of the world on Him. We must keep our hearts open for reconciliation at the slightest true repentance and keeping ourselves free from bitterness.

We are to forgive one who sins against us, and is repentant and to do that without judging whether the repentance is genuine or not.

Luke 17:4 – “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.

If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes

back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

Follow the example Jesus set while he was hanging on the cross, near death, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

We deny ourselves blessings when we are unwilling to forgive. Instead, we live daily lives of bitterness and hatred, always disgruntled because we have not had our way, because we feel we have been wronged by someone and we refuse to forgive.

The one who sinned against you may not deserve forgiveness, but for your sake, it is best to forgive. You are the one most hurt by your unforgiveness.

Refusing to forgive is not the "unforgivable sin", but forgiveness is the mark of one truly forgiven. A heart that habitually fails to forgive breeds a bitterness that may mean that such a person's heart has never really been touched by the love of Jesus. We may find ourselves "tortured" by our own lack of forgiveness towards others.

Psalm 130 – “…but there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.” NASB

Psalm 103 – “So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” NASB

Praise Him whose forgiveness is greater than ours. May we strive that ours may become like His.

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