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Parables: The Unforgiving Servant
What can Christians learn from this parable?
The parables were stories Jesus used which enabled him to explain his teachings in a way he knew that the people would remember. They were also a means in which he could teach tough principles that were central to the Christian faith. One of these was the 'Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.' Matthew 18:21-35:
'Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven. ‘Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him.
Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. ‘At this, the servant fell on his knees before him. “Be patient with me,” he begged, “and I will pay back everything.”
The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go. ‘But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. “Payback what you owe me!” he demanded. ‘His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, “Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.” ‘But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. ‘Then the master called the servant in.
“You wicked servant,” he said, “I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed. ‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’
This parable is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, it teaches of God's forgiving nature - God is like the king who offers forgiveness to all. But there is also another side to the teaching - if we are not like God in the way that we treat others and we do not learn to forgive, then we will be judged.
Christians believe that we need to show grace to all people just as God has shown grace to us. This teaching is echoed in the Lord's Prayer 'Forgive us our sins As we forgive those who sin against us.'