MATTHEW 18:21–35

Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

The Gospel of the Lord


Watch the video reflection here!

There’s a lot to unpack in this story that has been called the parable of the unforgiving servant. So let’s start with the fact that while this servant has been labelled “unforgiving’, it’s important for us to stick another label on him — the “forgiven” servant. After all, it’s not an easy debt he was forgiven. We are told that the amount he owed the king was ten thousand talents — worth more than the man’s own life, that of his wife, his children and all his possessions put together. I wonder what the slave was even thinking — how does one accumulate a debt that large, when he doesn’t have (and never could have!) — the means to pay it back?

Okay, so some people today do that too — they take on enormous loans that they optimistically believe they’d be able to pay back. But what about the king? What was he thinking, allowing one of his slaves to borrow that much?! But this seems to be no ordinary king — he is extraordinarily generous, isn’t he? Not only has he lent this slave, who has no means to pay him back, a crazy amount of money, but when the slave pleads with him, he again gives more than he is asked for. The slave asks for more time, but the king is so generous, that he waives the loan entirely!

The question to ask now is this: does the slave know just how magnanimous the king has been towards him? He tells the king, “I will pay you everything”, not recognising that the debt itself is an impossible one to clear. So when the king generously forgives him the debt, he goes away, still not really understanding just how much he has been forgiven. Soon, he meets a fellow slave who owes him money. Now, think about this logically — if the king had not pardoned the slave’s debt, any money that was owed to him by anyone else, would not go to the slave, but straight to the king towards payment of this debt. So the fellow slave would, effectively, no longer be indebted to this slave, but to his debtor — the king. And so, when the king forgives the slave’s debt, the debt of his fellow slave is also automatically forgiven!

And here’s how this relates to us — we are the forgiven slave, and the extraordinarily generous king is God. But do we realise just how generous and merciful he is? He is so generous that he sacrificed his own son for the forgiveness of sins — to pay our debt, so that we may have eternal life. And like the slave for whom it would have been impossible to clear the debt, we too have nothing to offer in exchange for this eternal life. We are given it, not because of anything we have done, but because of how generous God is. And when we truly realise this, we will also understand that if God has forgiven our sins entirely — cleared our debt — then the debt of those who have sinned against us has also already been cleared — there is nothing for us to forgive! But like the fellow slave, who didn’t know that his debt had already been cleared by the king, not everyone may know of the mercy of God — that Jesus has already canceled their debt. So when someone sins against us, this is a chance for us to show them not our mercy, but the generosity and mercy of God, our king; to tell them that their debt stands cancelled, if they only believe in Jesus. So the next time someone hurts you, show or tell them that they are forgiven — not because you are merciful, but because God is.

May He bless you!

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