14 September 2014

Matthew 18:21-35

"Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart." (vv. 32-35)


Talking about forgiveness Jesus uses a parable about a slave who both owed, and was owed money.

The slave owed 10,000 talents (the equivalent of some hundreds of millions of pounds in today's money) to the king, and obviously could never hope to repay it. Yet the king forgave him this debt and the slave was saved from being sold with his family and possessions.

The debt owed to the slave was about one hundred-thousandth of this - totally insignificant in comparison. Yet he got his fellow slave thrown in prison because he could not repay the small amount.

Looking in from the outside, we think it ludicrous of the slave to insist on his own debt being repaid when he had been forgiven so much. What was he thinking of? Did he forget that he had just been forgiven his own enormous, unpayable amount?

But Jesus is saying that we are all in the position of this slave. We have been forgiven all our debts (meaning sins) through Jesus Christ. But do we forgive in our turn?

The first step is realising that we have a debt to be forgiven. We are tempted to think of ourselves as decent moral people - maybe we commit no crimes and might even pay off our credit card bills from time to time.

But we all fall short of loving as we should. We exclude and belittle each other in subtle, unconscious ways. When push comes to shove we want to put ourselves first. The human condition is inherently self-centred and this is the tragedy and the sin.

This is why we hurt each other and ourselves, despite all our efforts. And this is what we have been forgiven. Once we realise the enormity of the debt that has been cancelled our hearts will overflow with forgiveness for others.

To Ponder

  • What do you owe to others?
  • How do you seek forgiveness?

Bible notes author

Dave Webster

Dave Webster works for the Connexional Team as internet communications coordinator. He is responsible for this website and other internet-based projects for the Methodist Church.