The Story Of The Unforgiving Servant

Peter asked Jesus a question about forgiving others. After specifically answering Peter’s question, the Lord ended by sharing a story about an unforgiving servant.

Our verse for today concludes the story Jesus told about this unforgiving servant. After we read it, we’ll look at how the conversation began with Peter’s question.

Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. Matthew 18:34

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Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me?” Then, he decided to answer his own question with what he thought was a very generous number.

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! Matthew 18:21-22

The Lord, however,  multiplied Peter’s number by seventy. Jesus wasn’t really telling him to count up to 490 times and then quit. No! He meant for him to just keep forgiving the person.

Jesus Elaborated on the Unforgiving Servant

In His story, the Lord compared the Kingdom of Heaven to an earthly king. This king decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.

When he tallied all the accounts, one of his servants owed him millions. When that servant couldn’t pay his debt, the king decided to take action against him. 

He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. Matthew 18:25

The man with this huge debt fell down before his master and begged him. He asked him to give him some more time to pay it. In response, the king did the following.

Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. Matthew 18:27

He forgave him of a debt of millions of dollars! I’m sure that man left the king with his head up high and as happy as could be. As the story continued, though, he didn’t learn anything from it.

But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. Matthew 18:28

His fellow servant reacted in the same manner as he did. He fell down before him, begging him for more time with a promise to pay him. But the first man wouldn’t yield to his plea.

But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. Matthew 18:30

the Unforgiving Servant

The Servant Paid for His Unforgiving Ways

The servant forgiven of his million-dollar debt learned nothing about forgiveness. And when others saw his unforgiving way towards his fellow servant, they reported it to the king.

Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Matthew 18:32

Because this servant exhibited an unforgiving spirit after the king forgave him, he revoked his forgiveness.

This brings us back to our verse for today. Take a closer look at the message in that verse.

The king didn’t send him for rehabilitation for his release to happen when he learned his lesson.

No! He sent him to be tortured until he repaid his entire debt. How could anyone work off a debt when continually subjected to torture? Jesus then applied this story to every Christian.

That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart. Matthew 18:35

I’ve heard people say, “I’ll never forgive that person?” Hopefully, you don’t feel that way. Because if you do, you learned nothing from this story of the unforgiving servant.

The Lord’s Prayer

In Matthew 6, the Lord taught His disciples how to pray. We call it the Lord’s prayer. We know it by heart and offer it to God word for word. It basically has five components.

  1. Worship our Father in Heaven,
  2. That our Father’s will be done
  3. Supply us with our needs
  4. Forgive us our sins as we forgive others
  5. Protect us from the temptation of the evil one.

But do you know which component Jesus taught about immediately after teaching them that prayer? He continued talking about forgiveness even after telling about the unforgiving servant.

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15

A few years ago, I sat at the bedside of a man close to going into eternity. As far as I knew, he was ready to meet Jesus. But he asked me how he could be sure he would go to heaven.

My answer consisted of two questions. First, I asked, you have asked Jesus to forgive you, and you are saved, correct? He said yes.

Then I asked, are you harboring any unforgiveness towards anyone? I didn’t expect an answer from him right away. But I suggested that he pray and ask God to help him to search his heart.

forgiveness of sins
Unforgiving Servant

Forgive Like Jesus Forgave

Jesus made the importance of forgiving others clear with the unforgiving servant story. He has offered forgiveness without reservation to all who call upon His name.

A songwriter captured His teaching with the following words.

He paid a debt He did not owe.
I owed a debt I could not pay.
I needed someone to wash my sins away . . . 
Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.

Do you want the Father to forgive you? Then, call on Jesus for His forgiveness. When forgiving others, remember the story of the unforgiving servant.

In other words, forgive others the same way the Lord has forgiven you.

Lord, help us to understand the importance of forgiveness. Sometimes, others hurt us, but then we have done hurtful things to you, and you’ve always forgiven us.

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