Parables - The Unmerciful Servant
The Unmerciful Servant
Text: Matthew 18.21-35
Thesis: To note that we as Christians are to forgive others because we have been
greatly forgiven by God.
(1) “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt. 5.7).
(2) The Background:
“Then Peter came and said to Him, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt 18.21-23).
(a) At this time, Jewish rabbis taught that one should only forgive another up to 3 times.
(b) Peter must have thought that he was doing well because he doubled what the rabbis taught and added one for good measure.
“He was trying to reduce forgiveness from mercy down to mathematics” (Stough 230).
(c) In response to this, “Jesus confronts Peter with the truth that the spirit of forgiveness really knows no boundaries” (Believer’s Study Bible).
1) There is some confusion in translating “seventy times seven” because some suggest that it should be rendered as 77 times.
2) The phrase “is a typically graphic Jewish way of saying ‘Never hold grudges’” (Keener).
3) Nevertheless, “It is not a problem of counting, but a problem of conduct” (Lightfoot 1:47).
(3) In order to illustrate this point, Jesus tells the parable of the unmerciful servant.
I. The Servant’s Debt (Matt. 18.23-25):
A. The king decided to settle all of his debts.
B. The servant owed the king 10,000 talents.
1. One talent equaled 6000 denarii (i.e., a day’s wages); therefore, the sum of the debt was 60 million denarii.
a. Different figures are given as to how much this would equal today, but the most common estimate is around $10 million dollars.
b. Another possibility is to think in terms of today:
(1) Average day’s wages today: $50
(2) $50 * 6000 = $300,000 * 10,000 = $3 Billion Dollars
2. The debt is unimaginable.
a. If the servant were to use all of his earned income to pay on the debt, then he would have to pay on it for 200,000 years.
b. In other words, he could not possibly pay the debt.
C. Song: He Paid a Debt He did not Owe, We Owe a Debt we could not pay
1. Rom. 3.23 – We have sinned
2. Rom. 6.23 – Sin’s wages is death
II. The King’s Mercy (Matt. 18.26-27):
A. Justice demanded that the debt be paid and therefore all that the servant had including his family was to be sold to pay toward the debt.
B. Yet, the servant pleaded for mercy.
C. Hence, the king was moved with compassion.
1. This “suggests being inwardly pained at the suffering of another”
2. This is representative of what God has done for us.
III. The Servant’s Ingratitude (Matt. 18.28-34):
A. Immediately after receiving mercy for his debt, the servant goes out to settle his accounts with those who owe him.
1. He finds one who owed him 100 denarii (about $17-20 dollars then,
today - $5000).
2. He was unwilling to show mercy to this one who was in debt to him.
B. Word gets back to the king and the king casts the servant into prison until all of his debt be paid.
(1) The point is: “So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart” (Matt. 18.35).
(2) This is consistent with what Jesus taught in Matt. 6.14-15 in which He stated that God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others.
(a) We don’t forgive to be forgiven.
(b) We forgive because we have been forgiven.
(c) Yet, if we fail to forgive, then we will not be forgiven.
“A man spent 4 years as a slave laborer in Germany during WWII. He saw his mother and father killed on the streets. His brother and sister died in a Nazi gas chamber. Humanly speaking, he had every reason to hate. When asked how he managed to have such a kind, loving spirit which was evident to all who knew him, he replied, ‘It is simple. In the beginning I was filled with hatred. Then I realized that in hating I had become my own tormentor. If a person is blinded for 5 years, he loses 5 years of seeing. If a person hates for 5 years, he loses 5 years of loving. Unless you forgive, you cannot love, without love, life has no meaning” (Shelly 89).
(4) As Paul wrote, “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Eph. 4.32).