Palms Baptist Church Bible Study
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant: The Hardest Thing in the World
February 22, 2022

Parable of the Unforgiving Servant: The Hardest Thing in the World

February 22, 2022

  • Treatment: Treat other as you want to be treated – Matthew 6:12
  • Judgment: The same measure you judge will be returned to you – Matthew 7:2
  • Mercy: Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy – Matthew 5:7
  • Justice: Eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, mercy for mercy, grace for grace- Matthew 5:38

*We like to speak of Gods love, but rarely of His holiness and Justice

*Most of Jesus parables end with a nod to judgment. IF THERE IS NO JUDGEMENT, THERE IS NO NEED FOR SALVATION!

*To not give what you receive is unjust…and then your just like the world and apart of the Gospel system.

Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”

  • Last week we learned:
    • Must be like little ones/sheep
    • Do not lead sheep astray
    • If a sheep goes astray, chase after them

*Now, peter asks, how many times should we chase i.e. forgive? Jesus responds with our attitude and approach towards those who have strayed

  • Talmud stated you should forgive/chase three times for a member of the community of faith who strays
    • Here, peter is actually being overly graceful for his culture!

 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

  • Jesus comes in and essentially says whatever radical grace you think your giving, its not nearly as radical as Gods!
    • The Kingdom comes with limitless grace in the midst of an evil world, but with it comes a limitless demand to give it!
  • Remember Matthew 7:2 with judgment: Do you only want 7 chances/forgivings from God?

23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.

  • The Greek word for servants is Doulos which means bond-servant/slave
    • However, in the ancient world it was not uncommon for slaves to handle finances for their masters
    • Here, it is for a king, so even free man were considered doulos to the king
    • We are not talking about a day laborer, rather a minister of the king
      • Just as this servant is an overseer for king finances, we too are overseers of Gods church and kingdom

When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.[h] 

  • The Debt:
    • One talent equaled about 5,000 denarius
    • One denarius was a single days wage
    • Equaled about $12 billion in modern America

*It would have taken the common man 144,000 years to pay of this debt

  • Ten thousand talents communicates two things:
    • This servant owes a debt he cannot pay
      • Similarly, we as servants of the King owed a debt we could not pay
    • Focuses the Jewish mind to Purim i.e. first holocaust with Hamman
      • Hamman pledged to pay 10,000 talents upon destruction of the Jews

*In other words, Jesus speaks of a debt like one of the most prolific, anti-semetic men in Jewish history. That’s the practical association of monetary debt Jesus is talking about.

25 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.

  • Theoretically, wives could not be sold, slaves were not valid payment for debt, and torture was not permitted in Jewish society

*This statement would have VASTLY offended a Jewish audience because this associates God and His kingdom with a GENTILE King and kingdom!

 26 So the servant[i] fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’

  • This is what repentance looks like…on your knees, imploring in complete humility
    • Note: He pledges to repay a debt he cannot pay; recognizes the justice surrounding the owed debt, and authority of the king

 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 

  • It was out of the character and city of the master, not the merit of the servant that forgiveness was given

28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,[j] and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 

  • Do you sense the injustice and ungrateful absurdity of this servant?
    • He was forgiven an unpayable debt, but treats a FELLOW Servant i.e. member of kingdom/church with total disdain for a much lesser debt

*Whatever the offense/sin against you, it is never measurable to your offense/sin/debt towards God

  • We plead for forgiveness for our offenses, but then routinely DEMAND retribution for those who sin against us
    • Remember Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 – Forgive us our debt as we forgive those who are indebted to us

31 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. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,[k] until he should pay all his debt.

  • NOTE: It was the Fellow Servants i.e. members of the kingdom/church who observed the injustice, but it was the MASTER who passed the judgment

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

  • This is not a theology, but is theological. Jesus stresses the importance of forgiveness and the seriousness in failing to give it!

*IF you are refusing to forgive someone in your life, YOU ARE this ungrateful servant! Contrast the treatment you received from God and the treatment you give

Questions for Guided Discussion

  1. Why is forgiving so difficult?
  2. In what situations are you most likely to demand retribution from others as the servant did in Vs. 28-30?
  3. Do you give mercy and forgiveness as freely as you take it from God?
  4. In verse 21, peter offers a level of grace that exceeds his culture, but Jesus increases the demand to a limitless amount of grace. Just as the servant owed a debt he could not pay that is likened to the debt of Hamman, reflect on your own unpayable debts towards God. Now, think about those who have offended you. After this reflection, do you find it easier now to forgive? If not, then why?
  5. Have you repented like the servant in this parable? On your knees, in humility, and at the complete mercy of God? Share your true repentance story.
  6. The unmerciful servant could not forgive a much lesser debt owed to him then the massive debt he owed to his master. Why do we struggle to forgive the lesser debt? Do you feel your own debt is not as high as God says it is? Or maybe, you feel a debt owed to you is more offensive than a debt owed to God? When we feel this way, what does that say of our heart? Our perspective?
  7. Whether it was the debt owed to the master or the debt owed to the servant, the master was the one who passed the ultimate judgment. Often, our struggle to forgive derives from our unwillingness to surrender judgment. How does surrendering our desire for judgment help us forgive better?
  8. Ultimately, this parable stresses the importance forgiveness plays in the Kingdom, and how seriousness God takes our unwillingness to give it. How do we respond to this parable of Jesus? How do we do better?
  9. Whom do you need to forgive? What are your next steps for reconciliation?


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