What is the meaning of the Parable of the Unforgiving / Unmerciful Servant?



Question: "What is the meaning of the Parable of the Unforgiving / Unmerciful Servant?"

Answer:
We find the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant only in Matthew 18:23-35. The Apostle Peter had asked how many times one should forgive, "till seven times?" and Jesus answered, "not seven times but seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21-22). The context of this passage is Jesus teaching His disciples about the "kingdom of heaven." We can take some very important principles from this parable and apply them to our lives today.

The servant whose lord forgave him much, ten thousand talents, equivalent to several millions of dollars, was unwilling to forgive another servant who owed him a hundred denarii. A denarii was a day's wage and was worth approximately sixteen cents. Therefore, compared to what the first servant was forgiven, this was a very small amount. The principle here is, "the one forgiven much, should forgive much." In other words, this principle of forgiveness is that grace or forgiveness to another is without limit. The disciples are not to count the number of times they forgive. Rather, as the parable teaches, they are to forgive much because God has forgiven much.

In the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, Jesus is presenting a new principle that is similar to the basis of the forgiveness command for believers found in Ephesians 5:32, "And be ye kind to one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." Jesus is teaching His disciples pre-cross and therefore pre-church age, but the principle for the basis for forgiveness is the same. Because God has forgiven us, we are to forgive each other. Therefore, because we have received much grace, "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8), we are commanded to give that same grace to others. The difference between the parable of the unforgiving servant is that the first servant's debt was forgiven, and he was not required to repay until his unforgiving nature was discovered. In contrast, our sin debt was paid in full by Christ and is the only basis for God's forgiveness. We cannot repay our debt to God or earn our salvation. It is a gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Therefore, in the Parable of the Unforgiving / Unmerciful / Unjust servant, Jesus is teaching His disciples, and us by application, that forgiveness should be in like proportion to the amount forgiven. The first servant had been forgiven all, and he then should have forgiven all. In like manner, a child of God by faith through Christ has had all sins forgiven. Therefore, when someone offends or sins against us we should be willing to forgive them all from a heart of gratitude for the grace to which we ourselves are a debtor.


Recommended Resource: Parables of Jesus by James Montgomery Boice.


Related Topics:

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Good Samaritan?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Rich Fool?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Mustard Seed?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Sower?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Prodigal Son?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Talents?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Sheep and Goats?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Fig Tree?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Ten Virgins?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Vineyard?

What is the meaning of the Parables of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Wedding Feast?

What is the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares?

What is the meaning of the Parable of the Two Sons?



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What is the meaning of the Parable of the Unforgiving / Unmerciful Servant?