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OceanSide church of Christ

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Part of the series: PARABLES OF JESUS
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The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Matthew 18:23-25




A.   Lt. Colonel Norman Macewan:  “Happiness is not so much in having as sharing.  We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”


B.    Two points about gifts:

1.     At their highest value, gifts are sacrificial in nature. 

2.     Tangible gifts are easier to give than intangible gifts.

a.     In benevolent work, it is easier to give money than a couple of days each month.

b.    In mission work, it is easier to send support than to be part of a mission team for two weeks.

c.    In marriage, it is easier to give gifts than to give intimacy.

d.    Kind words, encouragement, and patience are difficult gifts to bestow.


C.   One of these intangible gifts that can be difficult to give is forgiveness.

1.     In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus addressed personal disputes between brethren and how they should be handled.

2.     Peter knew that a brother could repent and that forgiveness would need to be given.  He wondered how often this was to be done (Matt. 18:21).


Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him:  till seven times?


a.     The rabbis taught that forgiveness should be extended three times.

b.    Peter doubled their requirement and added one.  He thought he was being extremely generous.  He did extend forgiveness to the perfect number “7”.

3.     Jesus, however, taught Peter and His disciples that forgiveness ought to be limitless (Matt. 18:22).


Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times:  but, Until seventy times seven.


D.   Knowing that this kind of forgiveness is difficult, Jesus continued with a parable known as “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant” (Matt. 18:23-35).


I.           DEEP DEBT (Matt. 18:23-25)


Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account

of his servants.  And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed

him ten thousand talents.  But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to

be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.


A.   The exact amount of the debt.

1.     It is difficult to determine the exact dollar amount of the debt because the amount of a talent is not known.

2.     It was an amount more than a servant would ever be able to pay.  “We know, for example, that the annual taxation of all Israel was about 800 talents, making the servant’s debt more than ten times the taxes of an entire nation” (Riders of the Great Roundup, p. 22).


B.    We, too, have a debt that can never be repaid.  It is the debt of sin that we have committed against the God of heaven.

1.     The sinful condition of both the Jews and the Gentiles:

a.     Jews (Rom. 3:21-24).

b.    Gentiles (Eph. 2:12).

2.     Summary statements about man’s condition:

a.     Romans 3:9


What then, are we better than they?  No, in no wise:  for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.


b.    Romans 3:10


As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.


c.    Romans 3:19b


…and all the world may become guilty before God.


d.    Romans 3:23


For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.


C.   Sin demands punishment.

1.     The servant was rendered to be sold, his wife, and children, and all that he had.

2.     Our sins demand punishment:

a.     Ezekiel 18:20


The soul that sinneth, it shall die…

b.    Romans 6:23a


For the wages of sin is death…


II.         MAGNANIMOUS MERCY (Matt. 18:26-27)


The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.  Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.


A.   The Lord forgave the debt that could never be repaid.  The servant’s record was wiped completely clean.


B.    God is willing to wipe our sins away as well (Heb. 8:12).


For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.


C.   The key ingredient of the forgiveness was the lord’s compassion.

1.     The word “compassion” originates from two words:  com (with) and passion (to suffer).  Thus compassion means “to suffer with.”

2.     Our Lord loves us and suffers with us in our affliction, distress, and even our sins.

3.     His love and compassion and mercy are magnanimous.

a.     Riches of his goodness and forbearance (Rom. 2:4).

b.    Mercy

1)     Great mercy (Num. 14:18)

2)     Rich in mercy (Eph. 2:4)

3)     Abundant mercy (I Pet. 1:3).

c.    Grace

1)     Riches of his grace (Eph. 1:7; 2:7)

2)     Grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant (I Tim. 1:14).

d.    Love

1)     Great love (Eph. 2:4)

2)     Breadth, length, depth, and height of God’s love (Eph. 3:18-19)




But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence:  and he took and laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

A.   In relationships, we are going to get hurt by others.  They are going to say or do something that involves a transgression against us from time to time.


B.    NOTE:  These offenses are described with the words:  which owed him an hundred pence.

1.     This would amount to approximately 3-4 months wages.

2.     The transgressions of others against us are minor when compared to our transgressions against God.

3.     It is often difficult to keep this in perspective as we live our daily lives.


IV.        AGGRESSIVE ACTION (Matt. 18:29-30)


And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.  And he would not:  but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.


A.   There are two thoughts that come to mind.

1.     How quickly we forget what the Lord has done for us.

2.     How mean and cruel we can be to our fellowman.

a.     Description of the servant’s cruelty:

1)     Took him by the throat

2)     Cast him into prison

3)     Till he should pay the debt

b.    How would the Lord describe our aggressive actions against those who sin against us?

1)     Never speak to them again

2)     Speak evil of them to others

3)     Wish evil upon them in many different ways

4)     Write them up in a brotherhood publication


B.    The appropriate actions involve bearing the wrong, continuing to love, and extending mercy to them.

1.     Matthew 5:7


Blessed are the merciful:  for they shall obtain mercy.


2.     James 2:13


For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.


V.          DIVINE DEMANDS (Matt. 18:31-34)


So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.  Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:  shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?  And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.


A.   The Bible warns us about the wrath, justice, and judgment of God.

1.     Hebrews 12:29


For our God is a consuming fire.


2.     Hebrews 10:31


It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.


B.    Forgiveness after forgiveness, is conditioned upon forgiveness (Matt. 6:14-15).


For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:  but if ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.


C.   We must be able to release another of his debt to us from deep within ourselves.

1.     Anger can keep us from it.

2.     The desire for more payment can keep us from it.

3.     The wishes of others can keep us from it.

4.     The passing of too much time can keep us from it.

5.     Pride can keep us from it.




A.   It is possible to pay attention to the details of God’s Word, yet forget the weightier matters of the law (Matt. 23:23).


Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For ye tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith:  these ye ought to have done, and not to leave the other undone.


B.    Let us never be guilty of failing to extend mercy to our fellowman.  This was the entire point of Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:35).


So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.


1.     Though our debt has been cancelled, there is still much that we owe to others.

2.     The apostle Paul understood that he was a debtor to all men (Rom. 1:14).


I am a debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.