The following study is based on Matthew 18:21-35.
What was the reason why Jesus gave this parable?
- Matthew 18:21
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
- Peter thought that he was pretty noble that he would forgive a person seven times for what he did against them. He actually put a limit to it. Seven times! That’s quite a lot right? Don’t think that seven times is a small number.
- Look, if someone did something evil against you seven times, some people would think that that’s foolish of you to allow them to do that to you that many times! The saying goes, “Once bitten, twice shy.” The first time they offed you, you can forgive easy. The second time? Would be hard to forgive already right? So seven times seemed like a good limit already, it seemed pretty righteous already!
- On top of that, the Bible does talk about the number seven! We know that seven represents complete.
- Leviticus 26:24
Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.
- God would punish us seven times for our sins. This would be the last straw for us. God punishing us seven times is a punishment we probably won’t come back from.
- Proverbs 6:16
These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him.
- This is probably representing completely in sin!
How did Jesus reply Peter’s question?
- Matthew 18:22
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
- What a shock it must have been to Peter to hear Jesus say – not seven times but seventy times seven!
- I mean, who’s counting anyways right?
- But you see, seven times was easy to count. There was a limit to that. But four hundred and ninety times? You would have become immune to what that person was doing to you by the time you got to four hundred and ninety times of forgiveness.
Right away, Jesus jumps into the parable to illustrate why seventy times seven and not only seven times.
- Matthew 18:23-25
23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
- A king begins to take account of his servants one day and discovers that one of his servants owes him ten thousand talents.
- What is ten thousand talents worth today? That is about 213,840 kg worth of silver (in some other research it is even more). As of writing this right now in 2021, silver is about USD$835/kg or about RM3400/kg. That means 10,000 talents is worth around USD$178,556,400 or RM732,081,240! How a person can owe so much, I have no idea. And how the king does not know is also baffling. But obviously this king must have been very rich. Needless to say, it was an inordinate amount that this servant owed.
- So now we understand how much he owed, then we see that the actions of the king did not seem to be so unreasonable – selling the servant and his whole family. Were they really worth over $170 million? Even in a few life times would this servant never be able to pay the king back!
- This king is justified in his actions.
But how does the servant react?
- Matthew 18:26-27
26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
- The servant falls down and worships the king and begs for patience and mercy.
- The kings heart must have been touched because he went and forgave him the whole debt. $170 million of debt wiped out just like that. Isn’t that amazing?
Happily the servant goes out from the presence from the king with a heart unburdened from his massive debt. But what happens next?
- Matthew 18:28
But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
- The servant that was just forgiven of over $170 million goes out from the king’s palace and finds his friend that owes him 100 pence! He takes him by the throat and demands for it back.
- What is 100 pence? That is about 1 day’s wage back then. So if a person earned $100 per day, that would be $10,000 that this person owed to his friend.
- Now when you compare $170 million to $10,000, it is obvious that what his friend owed him was insignificant compared to what he had just owed the king a moment before. It’s about 0.5% of what he owed the king! Not even 1%!
- But yet what did this servant do?
- Matthew 18:29
29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
- He has no mercy for his friend but throws him into prison until he would pay the debt.
- Now the amazing thing is this. How could his friend pay him if he was in prison right? He should have told him he needed to work harder to pay him back!
- If you compare the plea of his friend to when this first servant was pleading before the king, you will see that their pleas were the same. Both of them fell down at the feet of the person they owed and begged for mercy.
- But yet, the first servant did not treat his friend in the same way that the king treated him! He totally forgot the mercy and the debt that was forgiven him from the king.
So what happens?
- Matthew 18:31-35
31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
- The one who was thrown into prison, his friends feel sorry for him and go and tell the king what happened and he comes and delivers him to the tormentors until it was all paid!
- This is what happens when we don’t forgive those who have wronged us.
The king obviously represents God.
- The focus of this parable is on that first servant. The one that owed over $170 million dollars. His actions were the ones in the spotlight.
- You see, we all owe God a debt that we can never pay. It is beyond our comprehension. What debt is that? It’s sin!
- Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- Sin demands death which we could pay with our life. That is the only way to satisfy the transgression of the law. But there is no mercy or life in that!
- But Jesus has come to give us that freedom from sin. That was God’s mercy and grace to us. The gift is Jesus Christ to grant us that eternal life.
- We didn’t deserve it one bit. All we could do is bow down and beg for mercy. And God in His love had heard our pitiful cries and has forgiven us freely!
But remember, Jesus’ command to each of us through his reply to Peter was that we should forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven!
- That probably seemed too large a number for Peter to comprehend. How could I forgive a person that much?
- But the parable that Jesus gave illustrates how little a person owes us compared to what we owe Jesus. And that amount that is owed us, $10,000, is comparable to the 490 times that someone has sinned against us! It is insignificant.
- Yes, even is someone steals from you 490 times, the same person does that to you 490 times, Jesus is saying, that is the equivalent of them owing you about $10,000 compared to what you owe me – $170 million!
- So is there ever a reason that we can ever come up with to withhold forgiveness from anyone?
- Think about this. What is the worst thing that someone has ever done to you? Then multiply that by 470 times!
- I think many of us, even after the first time it happens, we already put this person to prison until the whole debt is paid.
- We get too sensitive with how people treat us and we react too quickly!
- What is the problem? We forget the debt that we owed to God! $170 million compared to $10,000!
What causes us to forget? How can we ever forget that we owed someone so much?
- Well it’s easy. We become tunnel vision in focusing on others at the expense of everything else.
- And not only that, we focus on ourselves. Poor me. Self is alive and not Christ! We care so much about ourselves and how much people have offended us. We take things so personally and get sensitive about the smallest of words and the smallest of actions that people do to us.
- We get upset because someone didn’t talk to you. Or we get upset because of something someone said to us. We get upset because we didn’t get invited to a part. We get upset because someone even just looked at us funny.
- Why? Why does all this happen? Self is alive! We are in self-preservation mode. We care so much about ourself and our own lives at the expense of everyone else!
But Jesus is telling us, don’t focus on yourself and don’t even focus on others. Focus on Me! Remember what I have done for you! Remember the debt that you owed Me. Remember how you treated Me! And remember how I have forgiven you!
So often we look at forgiveness as a command. We know the Lord’s prayer.
- Matthew 6:12
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
- God, forgive us as much as we forgive others!
- But this verse does not change us. We react by saying, I would rather go to hell than forgive that person. Or we tell others that we just simply cannot forgive!
- Forgiveness does not come by focusing on our responsibility to forgive.
- God starts by showing us how helpless it is for us to forgive. It’s just like everything else in the Christian. Keeping the 10 commandments, living righteous life, any action! Without Him, we can do nothing.
- Some of us think we forgive but we don’t. We just cut them out of our lives and want to forget it ever happened. But when we see that person again, all those hurt or angry feelings come back.
- However once we come to this realisation that we cannot forgive then we got to go back to Jesus. He’s the only One that can help us. He is the only One that can put love in our hearts for others to even want to forgive them in the first place.
- It is through the Holy Spirit that we can have that love!
- Romans 5:5
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
- We find it difficult to forgive because we forget totally about God! We focus on others and not on God.
- He is the One that makes our heart soft and willing to forgive someone who has hurt us many times over.
When we forgive someone, where does it need to come from?
- Matthew 18:35
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
- It has to come from the heart.
- So God today has to change our hearts!
- Ezekiel 36:26-27
26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
- God wants to give us a heart of flesh today. He wants to put His Spirit in us. And in doing that, He wants to put His love in each of us. What will be the result? We will walk in His statues and keep them.
Today, God commands us to forgive just as He has forgiven us. That is just as important at the 10 commandments or anything that God has put in His word for us to follow. But it will be impossible to do this and we will ever remain the unforgiving servant until God changes our hearts.
Today if you are struggling with forgiving someone, I don’t want you to focus on that person or even on command from God to forgive. I want you to focus on God, on Jesus Christ. I want you to focus on asking for the Holy Spirit that you can be just like Christ in love. God is the One that will put all that love in your heart. And one day, He will have filled you with so much of His love that forgiveness will be the by-product.
May God give each of us His heart today!