Summary: Study on the parable of the unforgiving servant - the necessity of forgiving one another.
He done you wrong. He did. I don’t know who “he” is. I don’t know what “he done.” I just know that, whoever he or she is, and whatever he or she did, I’m right, aren’t I? He done you wrong. She done you wrong. Do you have that person in mind? Do you remember what that person did? He cheated on you. She insulted you. He lied about you. She stole from you. He embarrassed you. She tried to get you fired. He was just rude. She threatened you. Am I close yet?
And somewhere, back there in the past, you decided whether or not you’d forgive that person. Also, somewhere there in the past is the set of ground rules you apply when it comes to forgiving. There are certain parameters; certain do’s and don’ts governing your choices. Not only do those control the way you acted in the past, but you’ve got them at the ready for the next person who “does you wrong.” You’ll need them, because most likely someone else is there just waiting to be the next person who “does you wrong.”
Peter thought he’d run his ground rules past Jesus. (Mt 18) It was a popular teaching of the day that if someone wronged you, you forgave them up to 3X. After that, you were done. You could go ahead and act the way you really felt like acting instead.
I can relate to Peter, and I’ll bet you can too. I’m trying to imagine Peter’s thoughts as he listens to Jesus speak about how we need to resolve differences with the people that hurt us. I wonder if Peter has someone specific in mind. Can’t you just hear him thinking…
“The rabbis say I have to forgive 3X. I could suggest, being a follower of Jesus and all, that maybe we should try 4X. Knowing Jesus, though, He’ll probably say that’s not enough. I know - I’ll double it – I’ll do even better. Yeah – I’ll go for 7X. God likes 7. Surely Jesus can’t expect me to forgive someone more than 7X.” So, Peter asks a question that should have never been asked:
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Not what Peter was hoping for. What Peter and us really need is a lesson about life in the Kingdom of Heaven. Living under God’s rule involves us in something deeper – more than just setting some cap where we can finally quit things – like showing forgiveness when we don’t feel like it. The occasion called for a parable, which we’ll be reading today from Matthew 18. Jesus often turned to parables to make a point. They were stories based on true-to-life situations. The main point of this parable is pretty easy. It’s a story about forgiveness – yours, mine, and how we extend it to others.
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.” The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.