You may have heard Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful Servant in the New Testament book of Matthew, though this is a popular parable- there may be more to learn.
Forgiveness is a word, often offered as a remedy during times of relational strain.
Sometimes this comes from a good place that shows a great desire for resolve- and even reconciliation. Other times it comes from a place of unwillingness to walk alongside people experiencing difficulty, and the word ‘forgiveness’ is thrown around to
Forgiveness can leave an icky feeling in the mouth of the offended for a couple of reasons:
Forgiveness feels like the offender gets off without having to face calculated choices…
Forgiveness feels like the offended is stuck to clean up a mess that they didn’t create.
In this article, we will meet two debtors and two very different outcomes. You may have heard of them before, but probably not in the way you will now.
Today we are going to talk about these ideas.
The Trap of Unforgiveness
& Unhealthy Forgiveness
What is a Parable?
First, lest define ‘parable’. Jesus taught in parables, which are simply put a word picture. He relied heavily on stories to help Him get His point across and reach the hearts of people who would listen.
A Parable is a simple story that helps illustrate an idea.
“The word “parable” in Greek literally means, “to set beside,” as in the English word “comparison” or “similitude.” In the Jewish culture, things were explained not in terms of statistics or definitions as they are in English-speaking cultures. In the Jewish culture of biblical times, things were explained in word pictures.
Jesus taught in parables all the time.
Here are just a few of the most well-known of Jesus’ parables:
The Parable of the Lost Sheep & Coin– Luke 15
The Parable of the Sewer– Mark 4
The Parable of the Mustard Seed– Matthew13
The Parable of the Unfruitful Fig Tree– Luke 13
Why Did Jesus Teach in Parables?
When Jesus’ disciples asked why he would teach in parables, they received Jesus’ answer. He said, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Matthew 13:11-14
Jesus does make his teachings easy to understand by using this powerful teaching tool. He used these stories about agriculture, food, land ownership, and relationships, which his listeners would have been familiar with, to help them see and hear.
What is the Story in Matthew 18:21-35
What is the Story in Matthew 18:21-35
The parable of the unforgiving servant starts with a question from the apostle Peter directed toward Jesus. Then Peter asks, “My Lord how often shall my brother sin against me and, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus’ response, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”
He goes on to tell the parable that starts with a king who wants to ‘settle his accounts’ with his servants. One of these servants owed ten thousand talents- a huge debt. But because he was unable to pay he ordered the man to be sold with his family. The debtor fell face down, begged for the king’s patience, and promised to pay back the tremendous debt. The servant’s master had compassion and forgave the entire debt of ten thousand talents.
He received the king’s forgiveness- full forgiveness.
After his debts were forgiven, the first servant found a fellow slave who owed him 100 denarii- a small amount of money. In his anger, he grabbed the throat of his debtor and told him, “Pay me what you owe me.” The man fell face down and asked for patience, telling him he would pay his debt.
Even though it was a small debt, the evil servant threw the second servant in prison until his debt could be paid.
When the forgiving king found out about this he was enraged. He called for the servant he had forgiven. He said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all the debt because you begged me. Should you not also have compassion your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?”
The angry king who had forgiven an enormous debt, imprisoned the servant who was unable to forgive a small debt that was owed to him.
He was imprisoned and tortured until his debt was paid- the hardest sentence.
What is Forgiveness in The Bible
Marriam-webster.com defines forgiveness this way; to cease (or give up) resentment against an offenter, or relief from payment of a debt.
Forgiveness is not necessarily a second chance, though.
Forgiveness is a release from the punishment of wrongdoing. Which seems counter-intuitive when it appears that wrong has been done and there needs to be justice. We see this in both the human relationships with a perfect God, and a relationship with other humans. Biblical forgiveness is defined as letting go.
Forgiveness Isn’t Fair
I agree with you, forgiving others who have hurt you is hard. Forgiveness isn’t fair. It is not fair for a person who has wreaked so much havoc to get something so beautiful. And I don’t always know how to reconcile my own feelings when I am the one who has to do the hard work of forgiveness and I am left with cleaning a mess that I didn’t make.
What I do know is this…
Whoever hurt you will never be held any closer to you than when you hold onto their wrongs and your own unforgiveness.
And you will never be more beautifully released from someone who you have set free (from yourself) with forgiveness.
Maybe we shouldn’t say “Kill ’em with kindness”… instead, “Kill ’em with forgiveness.”
Why is Forgiveness Important
Why is forgiveness a big deal? It may seem like a bigger deal to the one in need of forgiveness than the one who is doing the forgiving.
Forgiveness is not necessary unless wrong has been done. It can go without saying that usually there is pain inflicted to some degree. It may seem unfair for the hurt to also be responsible for doing the forgiving.
Let me repeat that again, it may seem unfair for the person hurt to also have to do the forgiving.
Don’t let that thought go too far. Stick with me ok?
What if forgiveness is not just a gift you give to the person who hurt you, but a gift you give to yourself?
When you forgive a lot of things happen. Emotions start to flow- maybe even some tears. There may be a dance between forgiveness and unforgiveness.
Most impactful, forgiveness is necessary because it is directly related to our own forgiveness. Unbelievers refer to this as Karma. The Bible is clear, however, that the seeds you plant are the seeds that will grow. Galatians 6:7 says, ‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
God, who knows and sees all, is aware of what happened to you. His silence is not disapproval of the situation. We may never know why God chooses not to intervene, why he doesn’t rescue the victim, and why bad things happen. But people are not off the hook for the consequences of their actions.
When my son was three, we were getting ready to go outside to play in the snow after being cooped up in the house all day. As I was getting his little sister ready to go outside he found a box of beads and acted as if he was going to dump them. Putting on the last sock to keep her tiny toes warm, I warned Big Brother, “If you dump those you will pick them up.” His little hands turned the box over. Beads of every color were on the floor and the box was empty beside the colorful pile.
I look at him with a bummed face, “Oh buddy, now you have to pick them up.”
I didn’t lecture, I didn’t yell- there was no anger. I allowed him to feel his consequences. We weren’t able to go outside and play in the snow that day. He did not enjoy picking up the beads and I didn’t enjoy watching him have to pick them up. But he learned, and he never dumped anything like that again.
I think of forgiveness with God like this. He doesn’t rescue us from our consequences, but he doesn’t punish us either. And it is for our growth and strengthening that he allows us to learn.
Ways Debts are Held
Ways Debts are Held
Unforgiveness can show up in a lot of ways. For starters, forgiveness is healed in your heart, in your body, and in your mind.
More specifically, debts are being held when these things are present.
There is a regular recounting of the wrong done.
There is a desire for there to be pain felt by the wrongdoer
Your joy is gone and you feel like you are still suffering.
It’s painful. Painful for you, who has already endured so much. And painful to those around you who care about you most. This all feels (and looks) a lot like coals being held tightly by clenched hands.
Unforgiveness is binding.
You don’t have to use unforgiveness as a protective tool. You aren’t going to forget about the wrong done. And there are ways to protect yourself by setting good and strong boundaries.
It doesn’t set anything right. It doesn’t change the past. It doesn’t even make things easier (at least for a while). But it does allow some distance to be created.
Letting go, forgiving, will set you free, my friend.
lessons in the Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor
Lesson in the Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor
The meaning of this parable is to show the heart that people should have toward one another. It is still applicable to our lives today, we can learn a lot from this teaching of Jesus. Unforgiveness is a serious sin and it leads to a lot of heartache.
At the end of this article, we will talk about
-The connection between repentance and forgiveness
-& The dangers of premature reconciliation
What God Reveals through the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
When we read the word of God, we can learn a lot about God’s character because of the things he reveals to us.
When we read about the things God commands, it is because he is that way. When the Lord says people shall not lie, it is because has set the standard based on who He is. He does not lie, so we should not lie.
The same is true with forgiveness. God forgives the sin debt, just as the merciful king forgave the unforgiving servant. God forgives, he expects us to forgive. This goodness reflects his goodness.
Those who want god’s forgiveness, Jesus Christ says, must also forgive.
Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.
To answer Peter’s question, we are not called to forgive people seventy-seven times, but seventy times seven. An unending amount of forgiveness- because that is what God does for us. He who gives good gifts gives us the gift of forgiveness.
What Forgiveness is Not
What Forgiveness is Not
If you are still reading, you have likely had a thought that starts with something like this:
“If I have to forgive then I guess _ is also going to happen.”
Any of these things can fill in the blank.
– If I forgive them then I have to also give them second chances.
– If I forgive them then they will think what they did wasn’t that bad… they may even do worse next time.
– If I forgive that means my pain is not acknowledged.
– If I forgive then I am hurt and also have to clean up this mess.
– If I forgive then that must mean it wasn’t that bad.
My friend, forgiveness does take work. Don’t get me wrong it is messy and frustrating and it even hurts sometimes.
Forgiveness can be a lot more like taking off a backpack full of rocks than like picking up a broom and sweeping broken glass- if you allow it to be. It does require a shift in perspective, but it is much lighter.
The Trap of Unforgiveness
The Trap of Unforgiveness
Unforgiveness wears many disguises. The two most damaging are the Disguise of Protection and Strength.
Wearing unforgiveness is common, just take a look at those around you. They don’t know it’s obvious, but to everyone else it is, kinda like broccoli in your teeth.
We may disguise (intentionally or unintentionally) unforgiveness as protection. This often comes from a desire to have protection where there is a lack of protection. This kind of ‘protection’ is not like healthy boundaries- there is a difference.
Healthy Boundaries- are limits that a person puts on themselves and on others to allow for safe interactions (or no interactions) for a set time or for all time. Healthy Boundaries keep you in control and allow you to stay on the path you desire for yourself and your life.
Unforgiveness Disguised as Protection & Strength- Is often hostile and aggressive, or passive-aggressive. There is no real strategy for how you will keep yourself safe, but you will fight your way through uncomfortable situations. These are walls that are built where fences would have done just fine.
Healthy Boundaries provide a true sense of self and give you a road map of what to do when things get tough, and the lines aren’t as clear. The disguise of Protection and Strength leaves you lost in the woods with only a fight to get yourself out. Or for the non-fighters, you may be stuck in the woods and refuse to leave.
Forgiveness is not as much for the offender as it is for you. Holding onto a painful event is heavy and will deprive you of all of your resources- your energy, your patience, and your joy.
My friend, I don’t know what you have been through, but I do know that it was horrible. And I am so, so sorry. It is something that has likely changed you forever. You may have lost a great deal because of this.
Forgiveness is not condoned. Forgiveness is not acceptance. Forgiveness is letting go so that what hurts you can not hurt you any longer. Forgiveness is allowing God to take over. And choosing to wait on Him.
Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.
Lewis B. Smedes
An important principle to note is that forgiveness and reconciliation do not go hand in hand, but repentance and forgiveness always do. There has been an idea circulating that forgiveness means that the relationship is restored. However, forgiveness does not always result in a reconciled relationship.
Are you certain that the forgiveness you are giving is true forgiveness, or could it be false forgiveness?
Wait! What’s that? False forgiveness is when you act like you’ve forgiven, but you haven’t.
False forgiveness can be just as bad as unforgiveness, and it takes form in a couple of ways.
1. False Forgiveness can create the perfect environment for pain and resentment to fester. When it appears that forgiveness is the only thing standing in the way, it happens prematurely.
2. False forgiveness does not allow for there to be a true rebuilding of a relationship if reconciliation is a possibility in the future. Premature reconciliation can be even more dangerous. Without a true change of heart, mind, and behavior, the change is only going to be temporary.
3. Premature Reconciliation is dangerous when there is abuse and coercive control because it perpetuates the cycle, and gives the offender more power and control.
4. False Forgiveness can be given as a way to urge the offender towards change. Even though this may be done with the best of intentions, and driven by a desire for reconnection
When the process is rushed, it may appear to be done with the best of intent. Forcing forgiveness, and reconciliation means that God is not being allowed the time to work on all parties involved. Lean on Him for His perfect time and allow Him to do good work in your heart and your life.
Model your behavior and your boundaries after Jesus. Yes, Jesus had boundaries.
Modeling Your Walk with Jesus
When Jesus started his earthly ministry his works began to be recorded.
Jesus called it like it was.
He said to them, “The scriptures declare, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.’ But you have turned it into a den of thieves.” Matthew 21:13
Jesus showed mercy.
John 8:4-5 A woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus while he was teaching in the temple courts, by teachers of the law and Pharisees. They spoke to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” John 8:7 “And as they continued to ask him, he stood up to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Jesus was kind and gentle.
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not forbid them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. Matthew 19:13-15
Jesus called out bad behavior.
Mark 3 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.
Jesus held good boundaries.
John 6:15-17 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone. Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them.
Mark 3:9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. For he had healed many so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.
John 6:26 Jesus answered, ” Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”
New Testament Verses About Forgiveness
Daniel 9:9 To the Lord our God belong to Mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him.
Proverbs 17:9 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy
2 Chronicles 30:9b For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.
“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2
So, my friend, if you’re still with me all the way down here, please know that the principles of forgiveness are to set you free in your own life. Pray and ask God to give you the grace of the king towards his servant. And set the heaviness of unforgiveness down at His feet. God’s heart towards you is that of the heart of the King, he has a readiness to forgive and will forgive huge debts. This is not an easy thing to grasp. I believe that if you seek Him, He will guide you.