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The Parable of The Unmerciful Servant

(Matthew 18:21-35)

This is a well known parable. It is about a man who owed a huge debt to his master, but was forgiven that debt. The master had compassion on him. However, when this man, found a fellow servant who owed him money, he threw that person into jail for not paying the debt. When the master heard of this he was outraged and said: “I forgave you a huge debt, yet you refused to show mercy on your fellow servant and forgive his debt. Because of your hard heartedness I no longer forgive you of your debt and I demand that it be repaid. You will be thrown into jail until then.”

So we will go through it and we will see what insight the Holy Spirit will give me.

Matthew 18:21-22 says: Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

Does that mean we are to forgive someone four hundred and ninety times and then we can stop forgiving them? No! Jesus was using two very important numbers: seven and ten. (Seven times seven is forty nine but ten times that is four hundred and ninety.) Both these numbers are highly significant in the Bible: nothing happens by chance with God! What Jesus was saying is that we are to forgive a person ad infinitum. We are to forgive a person into eternity.

According to a study on “Biblical Numerology” the number seven is the symbol of “spiritual perfection.” In the first book of the Bible we read an account of the first seven days of God’s activity on earth. He then rested on the seventh day! Enoch who never died but was taken by God was the seventh generation from Adam. Moses was the seventh generation from Abraham. In the last book of the Bible we read about: seven churches, seven candlesticks, seven stars, seven lamps, seven angels, seven spirits, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls made up of seven plaques and so on. The Apostle Paul wrote to seven different churches and three other individuals – ten altogether.

Ten too is another important number to God: Even in this book, there were ten virgins, ten talents, ten minas, ten coins our whole numbering system is structured around the number ten. Ten denotes: “Man’s responsibility to God - ten speaks of judgment!” There were Ten Commandments written by the finger of God. A “tithe,” one tenth of our income belongs to God. In Genesis Chapter One: the words “God said” occur ten times. Noah and his family were saved from God’s judgment of flood on the tenth generation. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened ten times: there were ten plagues. There were ten lepers. The antichrist’s world power will be made up of ten kingdoms, symbolized by ten toes and ten horns.

However, to balance this: every child of God is reassured to have a tenfold security promise. Let’ look at Romans 8:38-39 “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our future is very secure in Christ – our judgment was taken upon the physical body of our Lord Jesus Christ. The only judgment we will have will be for “rewards” given to us on our stewardship as Christians on earth!

Both seven and ten were used by Jesus in this parable. Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants, and when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents (Matthew 18:23-24).

Ten thousand talents was a tremendous amount of money. Wikipedia says that one talent could pay a man for six thousand days of work. Therefore, ten thousand talents is a gigantic debt—so huge that the master commanded that the man’s wife and children be sold as payment.

In a former parable, I shared that in Roman times, a father could sell his child as a slave up to three times. Once he had money, he would redeem the child back and then sell him again. In this parable, the master commanded that the servant sell his wife, children and all that he has. So a portion of the payment of the ten thousand talents would be re-paid.

Verse 26 says that the servant therefore fell down before him saying, “Master have patience with me, I will pay you all.” Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him and forgave him all his debt.

Both the servant and the master knew the debt was un-payable, so the master exercised grace and forgave the huge debt. In this parable, Jesus shared something that is a deeper truth. So, let us be very clear about this. The fact that you are saved is simply the grace of God. It is “undeserved” favor that we receive from God: it’s a debt that we could never repay. Nothing that we could ever do could possibly even begin to pay the debt.

If I won a million dollars I couldn’t even repay Heidi Baker or Andrew Wommack for what they have done for me. Let alone what Jesus has done for me! To be accepted by Him as His own child and to be able to spend eternity in heaven is far beyond all the riches of earth! A trillion million dollars wouldn’t even come close to meeting that debt. I would have no hesitation in giving a million dollar win away to further the message of the Gospel for the salvation of “lost souls” means everything to God. This is why we have the master in this parable forgiving such a gigantic debt.

You will notice in this parable that the servant said, “Have patience with me, I will repay you.” The truth is: the Bible says we were separated from God for all eternity. No amount of money could save us from going to hell. Then God, our Creator came to earth and with His own blood, He paid the ransom price for our forgiveness and restoration to wholeness. The sin debt was fully paid and totally forgiven forever. This man who had been forgiven in the parable should have been so grateful for the grace shown by the master that he should have said to his debtor: “Man, don’t even worry about repaying me. I have just received a windfall – your debt to me waived!”

The Parable continues: “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet] and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

So My Heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Matthew 18:28-35).

What is the message? Jesus was saying that we need to forgive all the people that wrong us. We have been forgiven and we will continue to be forgiven by God for thousands of wrongs that we have done.

Yesterday I went on a Christian chat site and the people sort of ganged up on me and attacked me because of something that I said. It made me very angry and part of me wished I could jump through the computer and hit people on the other side of the Internet. I told my roommate Stephen about it and he laughed. Still today, I am upset about it and had a thought a while ago about going online and having another argument. This is the sort of debt we need to forgive. I may come across as the nicest guy ever when all is said and edited, but underneath I am human like everyone else.

There are so many illnesses, sicknesses and demonic oppressions that come from not forgiving others. We suffer when we refuse to forgive. There exists a sort of emotional and spiritual torture that we put ourselves through when we hold bitterness and un-forgiveness in our hearts. I feel that this anguish is what Jesus is referring to with the torturers. Sometimes we feel that we have a right to punish people and make them pay for hurting us. Jesus is telling us that we have been forgiven for so much more than anything anyone else can do to us, and it is our duty, as a believer in Him, to forgive.

People do not realize but when they refuse to forgive, the person who offended them goes on enjoying life! We put ourselves in bondage while they are free! How stupid is that!

But far worse than that: when we refuse to forgive we give the devil an open door to do with us whatever he wants. We can’t claim protection from God because we have deliberately put ourselves out of His umbrella of protection. We need to repent and to ask God to enable us to forgive. If He knows that we genuinely want to forgive then He will supply the power to finish the work. If we refuse to be even willing to forgive, His hands are tied! Jesus said to call out to Him all who are weak and heavily laden and He will give you rest for your soul. In our own strength, it’s difficult to forgive but all things are possible with God. If it were not so, Jesus would not have shared this parable with us.

Let the one who hurt you off the hook, because the bitterness hook has two barbs: the hate you have for others comes back to hook you. Let God deal with the offender and ask God to heal you in your heart by His amazing grace. God bless you.

To read more about Matthew Robert Payne or to know how to book him to speak at your church click on my name Matthew Robert Payne