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Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Matthew 18:21-35



1. "The Parables of Jesus" we have considered so far have centered around the kingdom of heaven itself...


2. The next parable we consider is one that describes "the character of the citizens" which are to make up the kingdom...


[We begin our study by noticing...]





      1. Peter's question about forgiving a brother - Mt 18:21

         a. He probably thought he was being very gracious

         b. Many Jewish rabbis taught that three (3) times was sufficient

      2. Jesus' initial response - Mt 18:22

         a. His answer is not to be taken literally [490 times]

         b. Rather, Jesus confronts Peter with the truth that the spirit of forgiveness really knows no boundaries.

      3. To reinforce His point, Jesus proceeds to tell the parable...



      1. A king shows mercy to his servant by canceling his huge debt

           - Mt 18:23-27

         a. How large amount was 10,000 talents?

            1) If the Attic talent is intended, about 6,000 denarii’s were involved in just one Attic talent.

            2) Remembering that denarii’s were a day's normal wage, the poor fellow owed something like 60,000,000 denarii’s."

            3) Using the rate of $50 as one day's wage, the amount would be

$3,000,000,000 (3 billion dollars!)

         b. The mercy of the king goes beyond the actual request

            1) The request was for patience to pay the debt

            2) Yet the king was willing to forgive the debt entirely!

      2. That servant in turn then refuses to cancel a fellow servant's petty

debt - Mt 18:28-30

         a. How much was a hundred denarii?

            1) Remember, a "denarii" was equivalent to a day's wage

            2) Using the same rate above ($50/day), the amount would be $5000

         b. The unmerciful servant refuses to heed the same plea made earlier by himself.

      3. The final result:  Upon this cruel servant the king imposes the former sentence, even adding to it! - Mt 18:31-34

         a. Before, he, his family, and his possessions were only going to be sold

         b. But now, he is to handed over to the "torturers".  Aren’t you glad we don’t have those today?!  Some of you who provide services might benefit if we did!



      1. As stated by Jesus Himself - Mt 18:35

Failure to forgive a brother will bring severe punishment!


Prompted by gratitude the forgiven sinner must always yearn to forgive whoever has trespassed against him.


      2. We can also draw several other lessons:

         a. We are all God's debtors – Rom. 3:23 – “come short”

         b. None are able to pay what is owed

         c. But by Christ's atoning sacrifice, the debt is paid - Mt 18:27;

              - cf.  Mt 20:28

Matthew 20:28
Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.


         d. Only those who are willing to forgive others can be assured that

they are indeed forgiven - Mt 18:35; cf. Mt 6:14-15

Matthew 6:14-15
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.


         e. It should be easy to forgive others, for what we owe God is infinitely more than what others owe us - Mt 18:32, 33

         f. The unforgiving person is destined for punishment!

              - Mt 18:34, 35; cf. Rom. 1:31

Romans 1:31
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:


[Perhaps the most important point we learn from this parable is that the kingdom of heaven is to consist of people who are both forgiven and forgiving, who have both received mercy and are merciful. - cf. Jas. 2:13

James 2:13
For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.


Understanding the importance of forgiving others now, how can we develop a forgiving spirit?]





      1. This is where the unmerciful servant went wrong

      2. This is how Paul suggested we develop a forgiving spirit – Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13

Ephesians 4:32
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
Colossians 3:13
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.



      1. Some may protest and say "It is impossible to forget!"


      2. But let's first define "forget"

         a. To be unable to remember (something)

         b. To treat with thoughtless inattention; neglect: forget one's family

         c. To leave behind unintentionally

         d. To fail to mention -- The American Heritage Dictionary


      3. When I think of forgiving and forgetting, it is the last three

definitions I have in mind.

         a. Technically, we may be able to recall the offense to our minds

         b. But for all practical purposes, we so disregard the offense that it

is "out of mind"


      4. Is this possible?  By the grace of God, yes!

         a. The example of Joseph - Gen 41:51

Genesis 41:51
And Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh: For God, said he, hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house.   [Manasseh means ‘forget’]

         b. The attitude of Paul - Ph 3:13

Philippians 3:13
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

         -- Both of these men had plenty of things done to them that could have made them resentful, but God helped them to "forget" those things


      5. Can a person who says "I will forgive but not forget" truly forgive?  Or do they want to remember and hold it against them?


      6. "If I say, 'Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget,' as though God, who twice a day washes all the sands on all shores of all the world, could not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of Calvary love." (Amy Carmichael, devoted missionary to India.)


1. I believe that when we truly contemplate the love, mercy, and forgiveness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus...

   a. It is indeed possible to forgive and forget…

   b. At least in the sense of removing it from the attention of our minds


2. And from "The Parable of The Unmerciful Servant"...

   a. We should learn that it is essential that we do so

   b. For the citizens of the kingdom of heaven are to be characterized by the attitudes of mercy and forgiveness towards others


By releasing someone, you are releasing yourself.  Bitterness is inward, and it eats you from the inside out. 
Set them free.  Set yourself free!


Have we allowed the mercy of God to melt our hearts?  Have we even accepted the mercy of God into our lives by obeying Jesus Christ and being saved?  That kind of forgiveness is step one on our way to forgiving others.

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