Don’t Be Like the Unforgiving Servant

In Matthew 18 Peter engages in that famous exchange with Jesus. He asks, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

And Jesus replies, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” And then he continues on from there in a parable…
Matt 18:23-35

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place.

Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.

So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Too often we act like this unmerciful servant. We have been forgiven of much but we refuse to offer forgiveness to others. As we can see from this parable,  God the Father does not take kindly to unmerciful servants. The servant in the parable was delivered over to the jailer until he should pay his debt, and Jesus says, “So also my heavenly father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” So to refuse to forgive is to live in captivity!

Forgive and you will be forgiven
Again and again Jesus drives home this point – refuse to forgive and you can’t experience forgiveness. It is a very blunt and plain idea:

Luke 6:37 – “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;”

Mark 11:25 – “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

These are very straightforward words. Forgive and you will be forgiven. And if you do not forgive, then you will not be forgiven…When it comes to forgiveness, it appears that God deals with us the way we deal with others. He measures us according to the measurement we use on others.

“He doesn’t say,” says C.S. Lewis, “that we are to forgive other people’s sins, provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don’t we shall be forgiven none of our own.”

So who are you, having been forgiven for so much, to withhold forgiveness from someone else?


This post is part a series on forgiveness, based on a sermon called “Forgive and Be Forgiven”. You can listen to the sermon audio here (or right-click and “Save As…” to download)

Other posts in this series:

Part 1 – Don’t Be a Hypocrite
Part 2 – A Prayer to Be Recited?
Part 3 – Giving Up the Desire to Punish
Part 4 – Don’t Be Like the Unforgiving Servant
Part 5 – The Older Brother Syndrome
Part 6 – Living the Forgiving (and Forgiven) Life
Part 7 – What Forgiveness Isn’t…

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  2. Giving up the Desire to Punish Matt 6:12 says, “forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors….” and then Jesus follows that up in verses 14-15 with, “For if you forgive others their…
  3. Don’t Be A Hypocrite! We all want to be forgiven, but we don’t always want to forgive. CS Lewis said it well: “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to…

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