2018-06-27 / Religion

Parable of the unforgiving servant

Sunday School Lesson
Rev. James Temples

Matthew 18:21-35

The need for forgiveness seems to be locked in the heart of sinful mankind. The first use of this term in scripture is in the account of the sons of Jacob approaching their brother, Joseph, after the death of their father, Jacob — Israel. Genesis 50:17.

The idea of forgiveness is presented in the earliest accounts of our lost race being confronted by our loving Heavenly Father — the creator of the universe. Though not stated, directly, in the divine record, we see that the second son of Adam and Eve — Abel — experienced this fact. The record does not tell us “how” the sons of our first parents knew to offer sacrifices. See Genesis 4:1-4. We are told that Jehovah “had respect unto Abel and to his offering.” Genesis 4:4c.

The word in scripture that is translated “forgive” or “forgiveness” comes from the root meaning of “release” or “loose.” The human heart — the fountain of life — is designed to sense “wrong” actions, as well as the recognition of that which is “right.”

There are people who question the concept of “right” or “wrong.” Their skeptical question becomes “Who says what is right or wrong?” The answer depends upon the Standard that is accepted for personal action. When the human mind becomes the standard, the sinful nature of mankind changes the “rules,” as the circumstances change. For the person who desires to follow the eternal Word of God, the revealed Record — the Bible — is the Standard. The Ten Commandments, given at Mount Sinai (Exodus 20:3-17), are the basis for moral Law for the Jewish nation and for much of the world.

During the time of his earthly ministry, Jesus Christ of Nazareth had much to say regarding “forgiveness.” In the “Sample Prayer,” he taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us.” Luke 11:4a. Matthew recorded, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12. The word, “sin” means “to miss the mark.” The thought of “debt” is “that which is owed.” Spiritually, we have all “missed the mark.” See Isaiah 53:6a; Romans 3:23. We are all indebted to God for any blessing that we ever know. Psalm 24:1.

The thought of forgiveness was addressed by the rabbis at the time of the ministry of Jesus. Their “fence laws” required one to forgive another seven times. Simon Peter inquired about this teaching — “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” Matthew 18:21. The divine answer must have been shocking to this disciple — “Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times: but until seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:22. This statement shows an unlimiting titude.

This sincere inquiry was answered, further, by a parable. “Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.” Matthew 18:23. We are given no hint as to how the enormous debt had been made. “And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.” Matthew 18:24.

The fact of the debt is the major thrust of this teaching. “But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold [as a slave], and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.” Matthew 18:25. The response of the servant is understandable — “The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.” Matthew 18:26. From the divine account, there is no reason to doubt the sincerity of the servant. The creditor was not without concern for the family of this debtor. “Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him his debt.” Matthew 18:27.

Our Lord gave us an account of the attitude of the forgiven servant. “But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence (a small amount): and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, pay me that thou owest.” Matthew 18:28. The response of this second servant was similar to that of the first — “and his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.” Matthew 18:29, 30.

This action did not “sit well” with other servants. “So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.” Matthew 18:31.

The forgiven-servant was called to face the lord, regarding his personal actions. “Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desirest me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion, even as I had pity on thee?” Matthew 18:33. This time, the judgment was swift — “and his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.” Matthew 18:34.

The conclusion is quite clear — “so likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from the hearts forgive not every one his brother his trespasses (false steps).” Matthew 18:35.

When our Lord gave the disciples the Sample Prayer, the only part with a direct comment regarded the thought of forgiveness. “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you.” Matthew 6:14, 15.

It is important for us to “take stock” of our attitude and actions. We can determine our personal eternal destination, as we reflect on our obedience. Please give your whole life to Jesus Christ, today. I John 1:9.

Rev. James C. Temples’ Sunday School Lesson has appeared in the Early County News each week since 1967. A native of Early County, Rev. Temples taught in public schools 32 years and 10 years at Southeastern College of Assemblies of God, in Lakeland, Fla. He also served as pastor and evangelist during those years. He can be contacted at P. O. Box 1484, Swainsboro, GA 30401; 478- 299- 2068. Email: temples_ james@ yahoo. c om

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