WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
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THE PARABLE OF THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT
(Forgive others as GOD forgives us)
In the first century it was Rabbinic teaching that a person should grant “forgiveness” up to “three times”, for offenses that have been perpetrated upon them by others. Here in Matthew 18:21, Peter thought himself to be very generous when he suggests to JESUS, “seven times”, as an answer to his own question of, “LORD, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me?
One can imagine how shocked Peter was when JESUS, a Rabbi HIMSELF, suggests the unheard number of, “70 times 7”, as being the proper amount of times to forgive a person for a single offense, if necessary. He felt for sure that, in his answer to his own question, he was extending grace plenty enough by “doubling” the suggested Rabbinic amount of “three times”, and then “adding one more for good measure”.
However, in this passage, JESUS buttresses HIS own answer with an astounding parable that I will now attempt to put into perspective. Here JESUS relates the story of a servant who owes his king, by today’s American equivalency, “12 million dollars”. The king calls his servant in and demands immediate full payment of his debt. Naturally the servant couldn’t pay back such a large amount of debt, and so the master suggested that he sell off all of his assets, including his wife and children, in order to satisfy the debt.
The servant pleaded and begged with his king to give him more time and he will eventually get him paid in full. Incredibly, the king felt such deep pity for his servant, that he actually forgave his debt in full, leaving him owing nothing but “a debt of gratitude”. Now, for any person, rich or poor, this would be considered as the ultimate blessing, and should have inspired any normal person, Christian or not, to want to extend that same kind of grace to someone else.
However, in perhaps one of the most astounding turnabouts in the pages of biblical literature, the servant who had just been forgiven millions of dollars in debt, leaves the presence of his merciful king, and tracks down a fellow-servant who owes him the equivalence of less than 3000 dollars by today’s American standard. He, quite literally, grabs his fellow-servant by the throat, and demands instant payment of what he owed him. The fellow-servant fell to his knees begging for more time to pay off his debt, but the once “forgiven servant” would not grant it. Instead, he had his fellow-servant arrested and thrown in jail until his debt was fully paid.
Some of the several servants, who witnessed the man’s actions, and who knew of the king’s mercy towards him, immediately went to the king and reported to him what had happened. The king, who became very irate after hearing the report, called the forgiven servant back into his presence, and revoked the previous mercy that he had shown him. The king then threw the servant into jail, pending payment of his entire debt of 12 million of dollars to him.
JESUS states that this kind of action will be exacted upon anyone who denies mercy and forgiveness to their fellowman. GOD renders mercy and forgiveness to all of us, and HE expects us to emulate HIS behavior toward our fellowman, while we are here on earth.
Just like the debt that had been amassed by the poor unforgiving servant in this passage, the debt that we owe to GOD the FATHER, JESUS CHRIST, and the HOLY SPIRIT, is indeed, “an unpayable one”. However, when make the decision to follow CHRIST JESUS and get on, and stay on “the lighted path to salvation” that HE has already blazed through this dark world for us, we, like JESUS, and through the power, teaching, and guidance of the HOLY SPIRIT, can overcome this world, just as HE did.
The “SPIRIT”, and the “Bride” (the true Christian Church members), say come. However, satan, through the lure of his “sin nature” says the same. The HOLY of GOD will always try to lead us toward CHRIST JESUS. However, the acquired sin nature in us will always try to tug us back towards the world. The battle that goes inside of each of us, between “the reason to do right” (the HOLY SPIRIT), and “the passion to want to do wrong” (sin nature), stays with us, long after we accept the “free gift” of salvation. However, through our new found strength in CHRIST JESUS, we can eventually overcome the “gravitational pull” of this world, and find ourselves in “the ultimate happy ending”, that has been prepared for us by GOD, since the foundation of this world.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website