Summary: A consideration of the parable of the unforgiving servant, and the danger of living in a prison of unforgiveness.
Intro: C.S. Lewis wrote, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war. And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. Forgiveness is so often such a difficult thing because it means that something has been done to us -- something that is wrong, something that is hurtful, something we didn’t deserve, and in some cases something we never thought WE would have to deal with. But Jesus teachings on the subject of forgiveness reveal the deep importance of forgiving those who have wronged us.
Prop.: A study of the parable of forgiveness in Matthew 18 will alert us to the necessity of forgiving others in order to have a right relationship with God.
I. The Story of the Parable
1. - A young executive enters the office of the president of the corporation.
- To his left is the chief accountant, to the right a police officer.
- The president makes the demand for an amount of money so astronomical no one can imagine it.
- The young man knows that the money is gone, embezzled and invested in poor stocks that have failed.
- The president orders him arrested, he will be tried for his crime and will lose all that he has, and spend years in prison - his life is forfeit, his family will be destitute.
- The young man does the only thing he can. With hands outstretched he pleads for mercy, begging to be allowed to work of his debt. Even if his salary were doubled though he could never work off the debt, not in two lifetimes.
- Then the president does an amazing thing, he forgives the debt - swallowing it up at his own personal cost, but he does more, he waives the charges against the young executive, and more yet, he allows him to keep his job.
- As the young man walks out of the office a weight has been lifted from his shoulders, he is free.
- But as he exits the elevator at the ground floor he spots the man who owes him three months rent. Grabbing a-hold of him by the scruff of the neck he demands payment.
- The other man pleads for a little time to gather the funds, but the young executive will not show mercy, he drags him to the Justice of the Peace and demands that the man be made to pay, or held until he can pay.
- Those who are standing around are appalled at the lack of mercy the young executive has shown to another so down on his luck and word gets back to the president of the company.
- The next day when the young man shows up for work the police are there to arrest him -- as they take him away the president shakes his head angrily and says, “You wicked man, I forgave and canceled your great debt, could you not have done the same for another who owed you so little?”
2. The dollar amount-60 million days labour-the income of the empire.
3. The enormous grace, not only a debt forgiven, but freedom, and the job retained!!!
4. The immediacy with which he seeks out his fellow servant, not to forgive him, but to demand payment.
5. His complete intolerance with the man, even to the point of having him imprisoned immediately!
II. The Meaning of the Parable
1. The king in the story is God, our heavenly Father.
2. We are the servants of the king (this story may be told of believers, as we know that God’s grace is sufficient, and also this is a series of Jesus words about life in the kingdom).
3. The debt is sin, in one case against God in a great amount, in another case against the forgiven sinner in a small amount.
4. Different Aspects of Forgiveness - If we do not distinguish the various aspects of forgiveness as set forth in the Word of God, we are likely to be in great confusion of mind because of God’s disciplinary dealings with us after our conversion to Christ. When He saves us He forgives us fully and eternally, and will never, as Judge, remember our sins again (Heb. 10:17). but as His children, we are to confess our sins whenever we fail, and He give restorative forgiveness (1 John 1:9).... Members of the Church who offend against God’s righteous principles are to be disciplined, but forgiven when they give evidence of repentance (II Cor. 2:7).
III. The Relevance of the Parable
1. Do we insult the grace of God by with-holding forgiveness? Perhaps it is your spouse who has wronged you, perhaps your parents are harsh or overbearing, perhaps your child has spurned you, perhaps you have been taken advantage of, or someone owes you money. Perhaps you were not loved by your parents, or someone in the church has said or done something that hurt you. Or perhaps it is deeper, perhaps you have been touched by sin in a way that most people never experience - and now you are angry and bitter, perhaps you feel that you have the right to hold on to the bitterness and hatred -- perhaps this whole message makes you angry - because forgiving is the last thing you’ll ever do! I know what it’s like! I was there once.