In looking through Matthew 18 and the Unmerciful Servant, it’s important to realize that the servants are almost the same. Both are charged with a debt to pay, both plea for mercy, and both the master and the unmerciful servant have a choice to make. They can forgive the debt or make the other pay.
What often gets lost in this passage is the amount that each servant owed. It says the one owed ten thousand talents and the other owed a hundred denarii. Most Bibles will tell you that one talent was worth about 20 years wages for a laborer and one denarius was worth about a day’s wage. In our day this means,
- The unmerciful servant owed (ready for this?): $8,000,000,000 (eight billion dollars) to the master
- The second servant owed: $80,000 (eighty thousand dollars) to the first servant.
All have sinned
How could the first guy, after being graciously relieved of such a great debt, not forgive the debt of the man who owed .001% of what he owed the master? Jesus asks the same of us: how can you not forgive your brother when I have forgiven you?
We all are sinners that have defaced the glory of a holy God. I think we as believers forget that. We have our slogan, “I’m not perfect, I’m forgiven”, but we don’t live as though we are. Forgiven people live differently than the world, and according to this parable, they forgive others.
How can we possibly forgive people who have hurt, betrayed and sinned against us? Look at the passage again.
But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants…
If they were fellow servants, who did the second guy belong to? To the same master that forgave the first guy. So it is also possible that the 100 denarii that was owed was actually owed to the master anyway, it was forgiven with the other money that the first guy owed. The master had forgiven it by virtue of forgiving the eight billion, it was now in the first servant’s power and ability to forgive.
It is in our power and ability to forgive people because a great and mighty savior forgave us when we trespassed against a holy God. The sins that others commit against us are nothing compared to the fact that we are sinners, indeed, they are actually sins against God and not just us (much like David’s sin against Bathsheeba being against God and God alone- 2 Samuel 11,12; esp. 12.13).
Forgiveness is something granted to us that we must learn from our savior in order to be the Church we must be.