Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

An in depth study of the Jesus' parable of the unforgiving servant from Matthew 18.  How can I forgive someone for the awful things they've done to me? 

  • John 3:17
  • Matthew 18:21-35
  • Genesis 4:12-15
  • Genesis 4:23-24
  • Matthew 18:15-20
  • Luke 17:3-4
  • Introduction
  • Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
  • Biblical Context
  • Seven Times Seventy
  • The Story
  • Analysis
  • Application
  • Conclusion
To air is human to forgive is divine
--Alexander Pope
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.
--Martin Luther King, Jr.
The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.
--Mahatma Gandhi


The Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Review)

  • “Kingdom of God” means reign or rule of God
  • The plan for God’s future Kingdom is the same as what He started with
  • His plan was implemented with the Garden of Eden and  Adam and Eve
  • To have His will implemented upon the earth through mankind
  • Through their dominion over the earth
  • The story of the bible is the story of the kingdom being: 1) established, 2) lost, and ultimately 3) restored by Jesus

Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Matthew 18:21-35
21 Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"
22 Jesus *said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
23 "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.
24 "When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.
25 "But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.
26 "So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.'
27 "And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.
28 "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.'
29 "So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.'
30 "But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.
31 "So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.
32 "Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
33 'Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?'
34 "And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.
35 "My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

Jesus’ Teaching Style

Jesus’ teaching could be considered extreme
His standards were higher than the ribbis
  • Told the rich young ruler to sell everything
  • It is a sin to look at your neighbor’s wife
  • If someone hits you turn the other cheek
But His ultimate goal was not to condemn people
John 3:17
17“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
He was supposed to convict us and inform us in hopes that we would change
Jesus’ ministry was to bring us to a redemptive state
  • To restore our nature
He was trying to bring us back to the Garden of Eden

Biblical Context

Resolving Church Conflicts

Jesus is in the middle of a multi part teaching about sin and how it impacts us and how it impacts the people around us.
Earlier in this discourse Jesus taught...
  • Matthew 18:4: whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:15-20
15 "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
16 "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.
17 "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
18 "Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
19 "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.
20 "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."
  • The context is relationships and reconciliation

Seven Times 70


Genesis 4:12-15
12 "When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth."13 But Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14Behold, this day You have driven me from the face of the earth, and from Your face I will be hidden; I will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”
15“Not so! ” replied the LORD. “If anyone slays Cain, then Cain will be avenged sevenfold.” And the LORD placed a mark on Cain, so that no one who found him would kill him.
  • God will avenge Cain’s murder 7 times
Genesis 4:23-24
23Then Lamech said to his wives:
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
wives of Lamech, listen to my speech.
For I have slain a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
24If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
  • Lamech said instead of 7 he would be avenged 70 sevenfold
Man set up a kingdom with 77 fold vengeance.
  • Jesus came to set up a kingdom with 7×70 fold forgiveness.
Peter asked if he should forgive 7 times and Jesus said 7 times 70
  • Some versions say 77 times

7 Times a Day

Luke 17:3-4
3“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4“And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
  • Here Jesus is saying to forgive 7 times a day

Jewish Custom Was to Forgive 3 Times

The upper limit for forgiveness according to the Jewish proverb was three.
  • Peter thought he was being generous by offering seven.
Peter came and thought that he was being extreme like Jesus
What was Jesus getting at?

Stop Counting

When you look for Jesus to give you some clear boundary it is really hard to find a boundary from Jesus.
Jesus is not giving a specific number.
  • He is saying that it’s an infinite amount.
  • Jesus is saying …  stop keeping count
Jesus is saying stop religiously and mechanically following a set number
Jesus is implying that if you are keeping score then you haven’t forgiven
Storyex-girlfriend: why are you keeping count?
  • We don’t keep count

The Story

Who is the Servant?

A "servant" could rank as highly as provincial governors
  • Think Herod the Great

The Servant’s Debt

10,000 Talents

A talent is an amount of money not a skill or ability.  
  • It is a large stone that is used to weigh “a talent” of coins
Some scholars estimate 10,000 talents is about $6 billion today.
  • Some estimate $10s of millions
10,000 talents would be about 200,000 years' wages for an individual
  • The combined annual tribute of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea around this time was 600 talents
10,000 (a myriad) was the highest Greek numeral value
  • a talent the largest unit of currency
  • so 10,000 talents was the largest easily described amount of money
The servant says “I will pay you back”
  • He couldn’t

The Initial Punishment

In the Roman Constitution known as the Laws of the 12 Tables
  • A debtor who does not pay can be taken to court and put in chains and forced into a number of arrangements whereby they work off the debt through servitude.
  • Debtors prison is where you go so your family can raise money for you.  
  • Others can come and pay the debt on their behalf, thus releasing them from prison.
  •  A debt that cannot be paid resulted in slavery to the creditor or sale on the slave market.

Forgiving the Debt

You know how hard it is for you to forgive someone. Imagine how hard it would be to forgive someone if you were the king. If you had the absolute authority to have punishment put on that person and there was no possible means of retaliation that could be done.  You are able to choose the severity of the punishment of any offense.
  • Imagine you had the power to do whatever you wanted to the person who wronged you
  • What would you do to them in the heat of the moment?
  • What would you do in the heat of the moment to someone who cut you off in traffic


The servant offered to pay it back
  • The master chose to take a further step and forgive the debt entirely
The master was moved with compassion
The man’s plea for mercy was accepted
  • Forgiveness was granted.

The Other Servants Debt

100 Denarii

One denarius was a day's wages
  • The man owed him a little over three months worth of wages.
A talent was worth about 6,000 denarii, so that one debt is 600,000 times as large as the other.
The second man was thrown in prison.

Why He Wanted to Collect

He could have been thinking:
  • If these guys had paid me then I would not have almost been imprisoned.  
  • Let me go get them all
  • This would be blame shift.
He may have been trying to collect money to impress the king

The Final Punishment

He was sentenced to be tortured
He was not punished for debt.
What would have happened if the Servant  asked to be forgiven again?


The Debt

The huge debt is an analogy of the huge debt of sin that we owed to God
Similar to how the servant had no practical way of paying for his sins.
  • We have no way of paying for our sins
No amount of:
  • Tithing
  • Going to church
  • Reading the bible
  • Fasting and praying
  • Quiet time
Will repay our debt of sin

The Forgiveness

This is a picture of how God forgives is from sin
The servant begged to be forgiven and that is why he was forgiven.  
  • It wasn’t because of his sorrow
  • It wasn’t because he had made progress towards the payment
This is not saying go out and sin because his blood will cover it
The servant was not only forgiven but he was given a whole new life.
  • Forgiveness is a liberator
God’s forgiveness has set us free
At the beginning of the parable the king is a score keeper.
  • Because of his compassion he put an end to score-keeping.
  • Similarly God in the old covenant was keeping score of our sins
  • But in the new covenant he is no longer keeping score.  
  • God puts an end to score-keeping and chooses the way of forgiveness.
He did not offer to meet the man halfway.
Forgiveness means we are not counting how many times a person did something
  • Forgiveness means we don’t bring it back up

Forgiveness begins with God

The parable would be different if it started with the man finding the other server who owed him money
  • It would’ve been different if Jesus had left out the part that he had been forgiven
The parable shows us that forgiveness doesn’t start with us forgiving the other person.
  • It begins with God’s forgiveness to us.
  • It is a transaction of the heart that begins with you and God.
It is then extend it to the other person.

God‘s forgiveness is often given apart from progress

The servant was no closer to paying the king off than when he was given the initial sentence
  • It was not based on how much progress he had made
Our forgiveness is not based on how far you have come
  • It is not based on how much you have improved from what you “used to be”

The Servant Punishing the other Servant

Bargaining With God

He may have wanted to please the master by showing he was trying…
Sometimes we try to do good things out of guilt
  • We go to church because we’ve sinned
  • We tithe when we have been disobedient
  • That detracts from us accepting God's unconditional forgiveness.
  • It is the same as when we think that we are rewarded for doing good things.
We don’t want to be a bargaining believer.
We don’t want to serve God and worship God more when we want something from him.

Do We Punish Others?

Are we punishing others because of the wrongs they have done to us?
Why do we do that?
  • We don’t understand how much we have been forgiven
  • We don’t acknowledge the immensity of our own sins.
  • We feel better by believing that we are better than the other person

The Final Punishment

The servant was eventually imprisoned.
The punishment was for not forgiving his brethren.


Your ability to get into heaven is not based on your ability to forgive.
Jesus died on the cross for our offenses. That is what makes forgiving possible.  
This parable is not about salvation it is about maintaining relationships with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • It’s about our relationship with God
Christ not only removes my condemnation and considers me innocent, he declares me righteous.
 You can’t experience salvation unless you have accepted the Savior
The Bible has guaranteed us that Christ’s death was sufficient to forgive our sins.  The question is will we receive that forgiveness and extend it to those who have sinned against us.  


The parable goes beyond an explanation of forgiveness and it looks into our propensity for unforgiveness.
The question is not will God offer me forgiveness.
The question is will I offer my brother or sister forgiveness.


  • We don’t want to just focus on what we need to be to be saved
Story: Oshea and Mary

Defining Forgiveness

Forgiveness is giving up the idea that someone needs to pay for what they did.
  • It is giving up your right to hold it against the other person.
  • It’s deciding that we are no longer owed anything by the other person
Forgiveness is not the reversal of circumstances.
  • It isn’t turning back the clock and changing what has happened in the past.
Forgiveness isn’t necessarily the removal of consequences.  
  • There are sometimes natural consequences that result from our actions.
In the parable the consequence of jail time was initially removed but that is not always the case.
  • Sin changes your circumstances
  • Sin breaks relationships
Forgiveness means you bear the emotional cost of what was done to you whether or not there is reconciliation.
Forgiveness doesn’t require an apology
  • Forgiveness doesn’t require admittance of wrong
Trust has to be earned forgiveness doesn’t.
Forgiveness does not mean we hire Michael Jackson to run your daycare center.*
Forgiveness is giving up the right to be angry or to exact punishment against the individual.  
Forgiving might be unjust and it might even empower someone to continue in their wrong  behavior.

Why We Forgive

When I don’t forgive I become controlled by the sins of another person
I am holding onto the past.
  • It is one of the thing the enemy does to keep us from being a positive impact on the future.
  • Life becomes interpreted by my history of pain.  
  • My history shapes how I view present situations.  
I can’t afford to think on something that has the potential of settling down and taking a root inside of me.  

Not Only Christians Strive to Forgive

  • Most major religions speak to a concept of forgiveness
Story: conversation with co-worker
  • Trying to forgive her boss
  • Studying forgiveness
  • “It is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies”
  • Secular Main point: when you don’t forgive others we hurt ourselves
  • Christianity: we have been forgiven of so much

Christian Forgiveness

We realize that we have first been forgiven of an enormous debt
Jesus tolerated the abuse to gain salvation for us
We accept our part of His punishment
  • He died for eternal life for all
  • He died for our personal sins and would have gone to the cross for any one of us
We see that ourselves as the guilty one
Anything we are forced to forgive in our lives is small compared to the forgiveness that we have been granted.
Forgiveness is choosing to see the cross before you see the crime

Gives Satan A Foothold

Bitterness opens you up to the demonic
~”Jealousy is the last stop before witchcraft”
  • and bitterness

Our Relationship With God Suffers

If we fail to forgive our Christian development will suffer
Sin is less concerned with natural consequences and more concerned with relationship.  
Forgiveness is first an internal decision involving you and God.
God cannot trust you with power or authority or responsibility until you have the obtained the character of meekness and the selflessness to forgive.

It’s Hard to Forgive

Some of us have people that when we think about them our teeth grit and we know that if we saw them again we would strangle them.  
We have to admit that it feels good when we say bad things about the person who has wronged us.
When I inflict pain on another person it makes me feel better.
  • When I badmouth this person to a third-party it makes me feel better.  
  • If someone we don’t like is having a hard time that makes us feel good.
If we think “ well they had it coming” that is not Jesus
We are sometimes unwilling to forgive.
  • We are sometimes unable to forgive.  


When someone has harmed us we create a caricature of them that emphasizes their worst features. What we remember of them is only as it relates to the pain they caused us.  
We see ourselves as complex.
  • We say I am weak in this area but I am strong here.  
When it comes to sin we should be charitable towards others and hard on ourselves.
Some people even have a problem forgiving strangers
  • They’re still mad at the guy cut them off in traffic two days ago
  • They’re still telling the story of the stranger who took their parking space at the mall
Compassion is seeing the flaws in the other person but also seeing their pain.  A compassionate person reacts to the pain not the offense.
Instead of saying “what’s wrong with you” we should be asking “what happened to you”?

How to Reconcile

Reconciliation is one of the highest values of the Kingdom
Is there someone whom God is speaking to you about?

Go to God First

First go to God and say I know that I have not forgiven this person please help me.
Ask God - Will you make my heart ready to be forgiving
It is OK to talk to God and say I am angry at you why did you let this happen to me.

Go to the Other Person

  • Matthew 18:15 says go and tell him his fault alone
  • Create the atmosphere to speak to them alone
  • The goal is to win our brother back not to win the argument
Goals of Reconciliation
  • Atmosphere of Privacy
  • Atmosphere of restoration
  • Without judgment
  • Without prejudice
  • Spare shame and resentment
  • Diffuse the intensity
  • Prevent gossip
I will never really love someone unless my love is greater than the sin they committed against me
 —Jack Hibbs
If we have sinned against someone we should go to them to apologize.
  • Not to seek forgiveness  


If they have repented there should be some evidence.  
  • Their internal decision should reflect in their behavior
Your bitterness can blind you to the reality of someone else’s repentance.
You should have evidence of your forgiveness.
  • Your internal decision should reflect in your behavior


The ultimate question of the parable of the unforgiving servant  is not what must I do for God to forgive me.  
It is not How many times should we forgive someone?
The question is will I forgive my brother or my sister?
Jesus came to introduce us to a God who is no longer keeping record of our sins. He came to introduce us to a God who has wiped our debt sin clean for the past present and future sins.
The servant’s debt in the parables was forgiven
  • The servant wasn’t eventually punished because he got back into debt.  
  • He was punished  because of his relationships with his fellow servants.
God is concerned with our relationships with our brethren, our relationships with other people and ultimately our relationship with Him.
Peter was looking for a formula for forgiveness.
Jesus emphasized that he should not look for a formula of how many times to forgive
  • We should not look for the minimum acceptable number of times to forgive
  • We should not focus on the minimum requirements to get into Heaven?
Jesus is saying stop religiously seeking a specific number
  • Stop seeking to determine who is not my neighbor
  • Stop religiously following specific days on a calendar
  • Stop religiously looking for a minimum amount to tithe
Jesus is more concerned with the condition of our heart.
  • I should Focus on how to become a  loving forgiving person?
Jesus is trying to
  • put an end to the rituals
  • put an end to the formulas
  • put an end to the religious traditions and practices.
Jesus is telling us to focus on mending relationships and genuinely loving others.  
Stop trying to figure out the formula to get into heaven.
  • Focus on learning how can I maintain a relationship with my brother and sister.
  • How can I live peaceably with my neighbor?
  • How can I strengthen my relationship with God?
The answer to those questions will inevitably lead you into Heaven.
The answer to those questions and they will inevitably lead you …  to God

Instructor: Michael Leadon


Parable of the Unforgiving Servant - Wikipedia
The parable of the unmerciful servants Part 1 ( Jack Hibb)
Our Redeemer Church podcast
Forgiveness Bill Johnson Dec 2018
Forgiveness Quotes
Rockwall Presbyterian podcast


7 Times Seventy

Jesus’s Goal

Pastors often give an  example about tithing that if we followed the New Testament we should need to sell everything. Therefore we should be happy to only have to give 10%.
Jesus’ goal was not to give us a high standard so that we would be content with the lesser existing standard.
The goal of the laws was to show us that we couldn’t follow it
  • That wasn’t Jesus’ goal
Amos 2:6
6  Thus says the LORD,
"For three transgressions of Israel and for four
I will not revoke its punishment,
Because they sell the righteous for money
And the needy for a pair of sandals.

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