Finishing up on this topic of forgiveness, we look at what Jesus said His Father will do if we refuse to forgive people from the heart in Matthew 18. The point to keep in mind always is this is not a threat, but it is a gift from God to protect us from the effects of un-forgiveness.
If you haven’t read the blog before this one, you might want to start with at least Part 3 before reading this one. We pick up at verse 28 where the king has compassion on the servant, releases him and forgives the debt. “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe.’”
The first word we note is “but”. We learn from this transitional word that the forgiveness and freedom he had just been granted meant nothing to him. His own debt was owed to his master, someone superior to him with whom he was to show submissiveness. The master had every right to demand the debt be paid. However, the servant went out and demanded a debt be paid by an equal, a fellow servant. This is an interesting scenario in the context of honor! Even more interesting is the absurdity of this servant’s actions on several levels.
- He found a “fellow” servant whereas his master called for his own servant
- He was only owed 100 denarii while he owed ten thousand talents – the comparison being one hundred days wages compared to 5475 days wages.
- He seized his fellow servant and began to choke him compared to a verbal request made of him
- He showed no compassion and was unwilling to forgive while he was extended compassion, released, and was forgiven his entire debt.
- He threw his fellow servant into prison whereas he was released
Jesus shares this parable to demonstrate we are exactly the same as this presumptuous servant. Jesus, our Master, Lord, and Savior, shows compassion to us when we cry out for mercy and beg Him to have patience with us while we pay for our transgressions. But we rarely show the same level of compassion to others who have transgressed against us. We owe our very lives to Jesus yet hold offense against people for far less. We are much more forceful, insistent, and demanding to others while God offers us forgiveness and freedom quite readily.
The story continues as the fellow servant falls down at the feet of this servant begging for patience until he can pay the one hundred denarii back, but the servant who had just recently done the same thing to his master and been forgiven, would not extend patience and in fact threw his fellow servant into prison until he could pay back all he owed. We should take note here that when we refuse to extend forgiveness to our brothers and sisters in Christ we are placing them in a prison, and unless they know the key of forgiveness, they stay in the same prison we find ourselves bound to. Even more worthy of note is the impossibility of paying someone back while in prison. When imprisoned we have no freedom enabling us to make money to pay back a debt. Thinking of this in terms of forgiveness, we throw people into the prison of anger, hurt, bitterness, or worse when we don’t forgive them from the heart, and while caught behind those emotions they are never able to pay us back for the hurt they caused. Why? Because they can never do enough, make up to us enough, demonstrate enough love to pay us back what we “feel” is owed to us. They are in prison and have neither the ability or freedom to pay us back, thus we and they remain “victims” of un-forgiveness, eventually leading to death.
There is a verse tucked in the middle here between the actions of the servant and the master pronouncing a new judgment. We are told the other servants had witnessed the un-forgiveness of the servant and they were grieved. In their grief they went to tell their master all that had been done. We do not like that scenario, perhaps thinking they are tattling on their brother. Yet this is exactly what is necessary in the body of Christ to keep us accountable and healthy. We are not to judge one another, but we are to care enough to speak the truth to our Jesus. We must take seriously the encouragement to remove the log from our own eye SO THAT we can remove the speck from our brothers. Most often in the body of Christ we witness co-dependency, people standing with others in un-forgiveness, under the false notion of friendship, when true friends would see sin and take it to the Lord in prayer, not supporting un-forgiveness but getting people free.
After throwing his fellow servant into prison his Lord re-summons the servant he had previously released and forgiven. The Master points out He forgave him ALL the debt owed to him because the servant pleaded with Him. Likewise, Jesus responds to our need for forgiveness when we ask. He provided it for us, but expects us to ask for forgiveness, in fact, “beg” for forgiveness. The same way we receive forgiveness for our sins, we are to grant forgiveness to others. The story continues to reveal that because of the servant’s unwillingness to forgive his master was angry with him and handed him over to the torturers until he could repay everything he owed. When Jesus concludes this parable he says to the disciples, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
The Father gets angry! We must understand the biblical warning about anger is that while angry we must not sin. The concept of getting angry is real and permissible. Sinning while angry is real and not permissible. Jesus gives us this conclusion to the parable so we take very seriously that forgiveness is not an option. Being handed over to the torturers is not a pleasant thing nor should be taken lightly. Not to mention how difficult it is to repay while being tortured. What or who are our torturers today? Here are a few: Anger, bitterness, pay back, hurt, victim mentality, depression, violence, gossip, and slander.
We don’t have to stay in the hands of the torturers. Jesus has made a way of escape. All we need to do is use it. Ask and we will receive, seek and we will find, knock and the door will be opened, forgive as we have been forgiven. We get the privilege of showing compassion as He shows compassion, release people from bondage as we have been released, and forgive people their debt as we have been forgiven our debt, because Jesus paid it for us. In Matthew 6 Jesus taught us how to pray “Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.” We are declaring ourselves to be people who forgive when we pray in this manner. It is written in past tense, as a declaration we receive forgiveness because we have already extended forgiveness. What a powerful testimony!!! Un-forgiveness? It will kill you. Forgive? It will bring life now and forevermore!