This parable touches every listener because we have all been hurt by someone and needed to forgive them. Forgiveness is one of the difficult things that God asks of us, but when we look at it from the view of how much we have been forgiven; we are humbled and can forgive those who have hurt us. This parable was a very concrete to see the way that God feels when we do not forgive each other. Let’s take a look.
When Peter asked Jesus if forgiving someone seven times was enough, he thought he was being generous. The religious leaders of the day said that people should forgive someone who had offended them three times, so Peter thought he was being generous. Jesus answered “seventy times,” and then told this parable. We learn of three people in this story: the king, the servant with a great debt to the king, and another servant with a small debt to the first servant. The king represents God in this parable. The first servant owed the king ten thousand talents, which was the equivalent to millions of dollars. After the servant pleaded for mercy the king took pity on him and canceled the debt. I am going to stop here for a minute and point out a few things. The servant was going to go to jail for his debt, a debt that was realistically impossible for him to pay back. The king showed him mercy and CANCELLED the debt.
Reflect on that for a minute. When we sin, we don’t just sin against a person we are also sinning against God. God is perfect; He is without sin. When we sin, we have a debt to God that is impossible to pay back. Because God loves us so much, he sent Jesus to make a way to have our sins cancelled! They are gone! Let’s look at the next part of the parable.
Another servant owed the first servant a hundred denarii, which is the equivalent to a few dollars. The servant with the cancelled debt insisted that he get paid back. When the second servant was unable to pay back the debt, the first servant had him thrown in jail. The king was furious and threw the first servant in jail. When I thought about this and why Jesus made the debts so drastically different I realized that really is the way our sins and forgiveness works. Going back to the idea that our debt against God is so huge, we don’t have the ability to ever pay it back. When someone sins against us, it still doesn’t compare to the pain we inflict on God. Please don’t take offense to what I said; this is coming from someone who has come from an abusive childhood and had to forgive for some very painful things. It feels huge (because it is), but when we compare it to the fact that we sin against our maker – the one that will never sin against us and has done EVERYTHING to be with us we realize that our sin against God is so much bigger. Jesus died and rose again so we could be justified in God’s sight, yet we still sin.
With that in mind, think of how it makes God feel when we do not forgive someone when they hurt or offend us. God does not trivialize our pain, but we still need to forgive. Unforgiveness doesn’t hurt the person we are not forgiving, it hurts ourselves (and God). Sometimes the pain is so deep that we can’t bear to forgive. When that happens to me, I ask God to give me the desire to forgive. It is amazing how each time I have prayed that prayer, I find myself with the need to forgive and let go. Once again, God reminds me of the great sacrifice He made for me, and I am able to forgive. When we don’t forgive, it is like we are telling God that we are above the very thing He did for us.
Are you harboring unforgiveness in your heart? If it is difficult to forgive, ask God for help. He will help you because He wants you to forgive just as He has forgiven you.