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 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 servants master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’
~ Matthew 18:23-33 ~
This parable is two-fold. On one hand, it speaks of God’s mercy shown to us when He sent His one and only Son to die in our place, to redeem us, to buy back our debt of sin (John 3:16). For we know that the wages of sin is death and God’s gift to us is eternal life (Rom. 6:23). Thus, when the master forgave the debt of his servant, he made it as though it never was. Nothing had to be repaid on account of the servant. This was no small matter. The ten thousand talents would be equivalent to millions of dollars today. That man quite literally never could have paid that debt even if he gave his master everything he made and more for the rest of his life. The lives of his wife and children and the sum of his possessions could not pay it back either. Neither could his own life. This is the same for us. There was nothing we could do to pay off our debt to God. Our sin was too great. We were on an irredeemable path to condemnation. Yet God in His mercy sent His son to us to die so that we might be redeemed. He gave Himself freely so that we too might freely give, showing compassion, mercy, grace, and forgiveness to others as well. We were to follow Him in this. God’s grace and forgiveness is the first message.
But what does the second part of the parable teach? The second part gives us a mirror to what we do in our daily lives, in addition to the punishment for such sins. This servant, just after he had literally been given his life back, goes out to condemn his fellow man. He seeks out a man who owed him a small debt and imprisoned him for it. Instead of showing mercy as he had been shown, he sentenced the same condemnation he deserved even more.
How often do we do this? How often do we go and condemn our brethren in Christ when they wrong us, we who have received our lives and forgiveness from Christ? These are minor infractions, really, considering all that we have been forgiven of. Even so, we try to justify our withholding forgiveness. Perhaps someone lied to us, or deceived us, or harmed us in some personal way, great or small. These things seem a great injustice! And they are surely wrong and they are in need of repentance. But what are we called to? Are we called to condemn them in the way we justly deserve? By no means! We are called to forgive such infractions because and as God forgave us.
Remember, Christ died for us while we were dead in sin (Rom. 5:6-11, Eph. 2:1-10). He did not die for us because we were holy, but He made us holy by buying back our debt to Him. He forgave the unforgivable in us with His death and resurrection, though we did not deserve it. If this is what He did for us, when we owed our Lord more than we could ever hope to pay back, how much more should we forgive those who have wronged us! We may ask how we could forgive the unforgivable – for that is often how we think of these wrongs – but we forgive because and as God forgave us. Thus, this parable teaches us not only of the grace given to us but also demonstrates for us the way we should also forgive others, showing them the grace they also are in need of.
Blessings to you and yours,