Summary: The key to forgiveness is to stop focusing on what others have done to me and start focusing on what God has done for me.
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There are three main characters in this parable:
• The king represents GOD.
• The servant represents US.
• The fellow servant represents the people who WRONG us.
A huge debt is forgiven; a small debt is not forgiven:
• The king forgave a debt of 10,000 talents.
A “talent” represented a large sum of money. It was actually a measure of weight, the largest weight in use among Jews (though its precise size is not known). When used, as here, for amounts of money, it was gold, silver, or copper that was weighed. In the parable it’s not specified which metal the talent comprised of, but either way “ten thousand talents” represented a huge sum of money.
10,000 talents = “MILLIONS of dollars” (NLT)
• The servant would not forgive a debt of 100 denarii.
A denarius was a Roman silver coin. It was the wage an ordinary laborer was paid for a day’s work. There were 6,000 denarii to a talent.
100 denarii = a common laborer’s wages for 100 DAYS
The wages for a hundred day’s work is not an insignificant amount of money. But a debt of 100 denarii looks very small when compared to a debt of ten thousand talents!
This parable teaches us why and how we should forgive:
1. We have been forgiven FAR MORE that we will ever forgive.
He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:10-12).
As we read this parable we, like the servants in the story, we get angry with the unmerciful servant. But then we realize that we are like that servant when we refuse to forgive.
(This is reminiscent of the parable Nathan told King David, culminating in the devastating accusation, “You are the man!”)
2. We will NOT be forgiven by God if we are UNFORGIVING.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you…” (Matthew 18:35a).
“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15).
3. We should forgive CONSTANTLY.
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” (Matthew 18:21-22).
There was a rabbinic view that a person needed to forgive someone only three times: “If a man commits a transgression, the first, second and third time he is forgiven, the fourth time he is not forgiven” (Yoma 86b). Surely forgiving the same person seven times would be enough?
“Revenge is sweet.”
“Lamech said to his wives, ‘Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times’” (Genesis 4:23-24). “Cain said to the Lord, ‘…whoever finds me will kill me.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over’” (Genesis 4:13, 14-15).
We must be as extravagant in forgiving as Lamech was in taking revenge.
Those who are concerned as to whether the number should be seventy-seven or 490 have missed the point. If one is still counting, however generously, one is not forgiving.
4. We should forgive WHOLEHEARTEDLY.
“…unless you forgive your brother from the heart” (Matthew 18:35b).
THREE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS
This parable raises some difficult questions:
• Question #1: What kind of judgment does v. 34 picture?
Answer: It probably pictures ETERNAL punishment.
• Question #2: Does this parable disprove eternal security?
Answer: NO, people who have no desire to forgive are probably NOT true followers of Christ.
• Question #3: Do we have to forgive those who are unrepentant?
Answer: It depends on what is meant by “forgiveness.”
(1) If “forgiveness” means reconciliation, then NO.
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).