The Unmerciful Servant | Matthew 18:20-35


The forgiveness we offer others should be the same that the Father offers us.  God’s forgiveness is deep and generous.  It is given to us as undeserved and unmerited. For Christ earned our forgiveness, though we have done nothing to deserve it. Through Christ, the Father forgives each of his children a mountain of debt in exchange only for their gratitude and loyalty. He forgives and requires only that we love him as he first loved us.

In this parable, a man who owed an enormous sum begs for his life and is granted mercy.  The man had racked up a ridiculous sum, probably due to excessive cruelty and foolish living, and yet he was forgiven the massive amount of debt anyway.  His debt was a king’s debt that could only be forgiven by the king.  It was a debt so large that this king might not ever be able to recoup the losses in the future.  Nevertheless, the king lavished a kindness on the undeserving servant and pardoned him of everything.

The servant’s response shows us the depth of wickedness and just how little he loved his king.  His response should have been one of gratefulness and joy.  He had been offered a new life, free from the bondage and oppression that awaited him. All those sleepless nights worrying about the day of reconciliation before his king were now a distant memory.  He was free to start over.

But instead of expressing a changed and grateful heart, the servant immediately went out and violently demanded money from a peer who owed him a little money.  Though this was a sum that could have been repaid in a matter months, the forgiven servant offered none in return and had the servant thrown in jail.  Though this servant had owed his king more than 1,000 lifetimes of average wages, he chokes a fellow servant and jails him for only a few months worth of debt. The servant should have imitated his king.  He should have set aside his rights to any uncollected debt out of gratitude.  He should have forgiven this servant as his king had forgiven him.

As amazing the king’s compassion was towards his servant, equally amazing is the cruelty the servant showed towards his brother.  The servant throws his peer in jail, making it all the more harder for him to repay the debt. He mistreats him and shows him no mercy.  He has no gratefulness or appreciation towards his king in the wake of his forgiveness.  The wicked servant had every reasonable expectation to expect this debtor to repay his debt, yet the king had no reason to expect the servant he forgave would be able pay back but a fraction of what he owed.  Yet the servant is the one who acts violently over relatively little, while the king grants mercy over much.

In the end, the servant receives a just punishment – and it turns out to be a punishment far worse than the one he would have originally received now that his forgiven debts are revoked.  And the Gospel implications of this parable are clear.  Now is the time to settle accounts and now is the time for us to forgive our neighbors, brothers and enemies through true faith and a broken heart.  Our faith is best expressed through forgiveness.  For there is no act that proves dependency on God more than forgiveness, and there is no act that expresses love more clearly than pardoning a neighbor.  There is also nothing more potent than showing an undeserved mercy.

God demands that we be like him in every way.  And through forgiveness we imitate his mercy and love.

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