2017-12-08 - The Unmerciful Servant - Part 1
A Lesson in Forgiveness
We love to be forgiven when we do something wrong but giving forgiveness is often a tough thing to do.
C.S Lewis – “We all agree that forgiveness is a beautiful idea until we have to practice it.”In fact it’s often easier to say “I love you” than “I forgive you” but if you can’t say the second you do not mean the first. 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us love keeps no record of wrong-doing. Forgiveness like love is a choice. It is given not earned. I don’t wait until I’m no longer hurt and feel like forgiving. I simply choose to forgive and do so. I like the way Gary Inrig put it in The Parables: Understanding What Jesus Meant, “Forgiveness is a servant of the will, not a prisoner of the emotions.”
Today, I want us to all have a Lesson in Forgiveness pulled from the story of the unmerciful servant told by Jesus in response to a question from one of his disciples found in Matthew.
Matthew 18:21-35 (NKJV)
To summarize this story, one servant owed the king 10,000 talents. One talent was equal to 6,000 Denarii - a denarii was a day’s wage. The man would have to work almost 200 years to be able to repay this debt He begged for patience and received mercy. The debt was cancelled. Then he found a fellow servant who owed him 100 Denarii or about 1/3 a year’s pay and he refused to show the man any mercy. The king found out and threw the first guy into prison and had him tortured.
This is a Story of Forgiveness
Jesus was a great teacher. He was a great teacher for many reasons but one of those is because he taught with stories. And to understand this story I’m going to fall back to what students are taught in school – The 5 W’s and 1 H - Who what when why where and how?
Start with the what.
Right up front in verse 21, Peter lets us know his question is about forgiveness. And he tells us the who in verse 21.
His question specifically relates to our brothers and sisters. Jesus had been talking earlier in the chapter about church discipline among Christian brothers and sisters. This immediately follows after that but I also believe Peter was referring to his fellow Jew as brother and not just the handful of disciples so the who can be extended to everyone
Peter thought he knew the when. Rabbinic law said to forgive 3 times so he doubled it and added one figuring that would be more than enough times. Jesus answers with the real when though. His words are translated as 70 x 7 but could also be translated 77 times. Either way he is giving a big number.
Seven is a number of completeness and perfection so he is in essence saying forgive them as many times as it takes. The 77 times forgiveness would also be a contrast to Lamech in Gen 4:24 who vowed to avenge wrong doing against himself 77 times over.
Also in this question is not just the quantitative how many times part of the answer but also the causal, if-this-then-that, part of the answer. It's not just when they ask but when a wrong has been done. Believe it or not there are times when people may hurt you and never realize they did it and never apologize. Forgive them anyway. There may be times where the person is a complete jerk so they never ask. Forgive them anyway. Sometimes they may argue they didn’t do whatever you say they did. Forgive them anyway!
Forgive Then for They Know Not What They Do!
The where is not stated but I believe, if there were limits to where, Jesus would have told us or Peter would have asked about them so I infer from the lack of a specific where that it is limitless – wherever you are wronged – whether at work, at church, at home – forgive.
Until next time …
All scripture references are from the NKJV unless otherwise noted.