The parable of the unforgiving servant. This parable is pretty straight forward and applicable to today’s world. Like the servant in today’s scripture we are to forgive as we have been forgiven. All day, every day.
Forgiveness, the amazing power that forgiveness possesses, it frees both the offender and the offended. It breaks the shackles and chains of resentment, grudges and bitterness. With such tremendous power, forgiveness should be our number one option, our go to when needed, right?
It doesn’t seem to work that way does it? When we are injured, our feelings get hurt or some event brings to light those things that we are insecure about – are we quick to forgive…..or are we quick to retaliate?
You’ve heard me tell you I’m a hypocrite before right? When reading scripture or preparing a sermon I often times get exposed for my own behavior, for my own sin, for my unwillingness at times to forgive.
Sometimes we like to own those offenses, they become a badge of honor to tell others about and plot revenge. Do you know what such and such did to me? Can you believe that?
I’ll tell you something I don’t get mad, I get even. Ever had that phrase go through your mind and off your lips? In our broken, human form revenge, retaliation, emotion and anger move us toward retribution.
But why would we want to hang onto such ugliness? An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Those looking for scripture to support their case for revenge often cite that passage.
The message that Christ brought almost always turns human motive and cultural norms and expectations 180 degrees. Completely reverses what was to be expected.
You must be last in order to be first, those that are humble will be exalted. This passage is no different. The disciple Peter approaches Christ and asks him this question, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?
Seven times seems like enough doesn’t it? Seven slams, seven sarcastic remarks, seven times you make me mad, seven times you injure me verbally, physically, emotionally or spiritually and I will forgive. But the eighth time, you’re mine.
I don’t know where Peter got that number, but it caused me to think and reflect. If you get beyond those that you live with, spouse, children, family and close friends. If someone made you mad seven times how much time would you be spending with them?
Probably not a whole lot. I would be avoiding them as much as possible. I have a lot of work to do on this forgiveness thing.
Christ responds to Peter’s question of is seven times enough to forgive, “Not seven times, but 77 times.” I read another translation that said 70 times 7. Are you kidding, at least 77 and as many as 490 times?
As much as them seems to be I look at those married couples that have been together for decades, some for half a century or longer. Do you think that forgiveness has been part of their story?
I think that it would have to be. The inability to forgive leads to bitterness. Is it enjoyable to be around someone that is bitter? Our existence was not made to be heavy and burdensome with the weight of every slight one has ever encountered.
Our existence is meant to be light and joyful, full of compassion with hearts willing to forgive. The granting of forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. It can be done in person or in prayer.
After telling Peter how many times he would have to forgive he speaks the parable of the unforgiving servant. “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. One that owed 10,000 talents was brought to him.”
A talent is a measurement of weight, it is approximately 130 pounds of what was probably a precious metal or something of value. 10,000 talents is equal to 1.3 million pounds of gold, silver or some other valuable commodity. 1.3 million pounds.
It was more than a lifetime of debt, a debt that could not be repaid. The servant that owed this amount was well aware that he couldn’t pay it and when the king ordered that he, his wife and children and all their possession be sold to pay it, he begged for patience, he begged for forgiveness.
And what did the king that was owed this extraordinary amount of money do? He forgave it. Just like that….You know the bible is rich with symbolism, who do you think that the king in this scripture is?
……It is the God we serve, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The kingdom of heaven is like a king that paid the ransom for those who could not pay it. Who sent his son to die in their place. A king that opened the treasure chest of grace and shared it with all and it pleased him to do so.
The servant fell in front of the king and begged not to be sold into slavery. The kind of slavery that carrying grudges and resentments bring. The king said that I forgive you of everything, all of it.
As the parable continues the servant that had been forgiven of a mountain of debt, whose family had been spared from being split up and sold into slavery, turns to another servant who owes him a fraction of the debt that he just had cancelled and seizes him by the throat and demands payment.
This servant got down on his hands and knees and pleads for more time, pleads for forgiveness. The man that had been forgiven of so much refused to forgive a far smaller debt and had him thrown into prison until he could pay the debt he owed.
Very ironic that given the blessing, the good fortune that was extended that he couldn’t extend even a fraction to someone else. Any guesses on who the unforgiving servant is in this parable…….
I’m afraid that it has been each one of us at some point in our life. I know it has been me, I suspect it has been you. It has been anyone that has withheld forgiveness in spite of how much they have been forgiven.
We have all been hurt, injured, slighted, talked about, gossiped about or made fun of at some point in our life. We have to let those things go, we can’t control what other people do, we can only control our response to such things.
Word got back to the king of what had taken place. The servant that had been forgiven of a lifetime of debt was summoned to appear before him. “You wicked slave!” he says, “I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have mercy on your fellow man, as I had mercy on you?”
In his anger the king handed over the unforgiving servant to be tortured until he could pay his entire debt. Christ would end the parable with this word of warning, “So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
An unwillingness to forgive not only haunts us in this life, but in the one to come. Hard hearts, hearts of those whose lives are painfully difficult have to be soften by coming to faith, by knowing the healing power of our God.
We are called to set the example, to live lives full of grace, mercy and compassion to be an example, to witness to those that are distant from God. To show a willingness to forgive as our Father in heaven has forgiven us.
Pastor Shawn LaRue, Seymour UMC
Author of Incomplete