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The Parable of the Debtors

    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 talents 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.

    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, canceled the debt and let him go.

    But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denari. He grabbed him and began to choke him. "Pay back what you owe me," he demanded.

    His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, "Be patient with me, and I will pay you 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 greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

    Then the master called the servant in. "You wicked servant," he said. "I canceled 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 turned him over to the jailers until he should pay back all he owed.

    This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart. -- Matthew 18:23-35

The message of the New Testament is one of goodness and mercy. Its very essence is love, love to God, and love to man. Christ came to establish an empire of clemency and kindness in our world. He insisted that his disciples cultivate a merciful and forgiving spirit.

This parable, sometimes known as the parable of the unmerciful servant, came out of a conversation Jesus was having with Peter. Peter had asked the Lord how many times he should forgive his brother when he sins against him. Peter asked, "Up to seven times?" Christ replied, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." Then came the parable of the debtors.

The conduct and character of the king

  • Dignity, wealth
  • Paid attention to the accounts of his servants
  • Was not lazy or neglectful of the concerns of his kingdom

The conduct and behavior of the indebted servant

  • Servant of the king could be a minor prince or someone employed to collect the revenue
  • Very much in debt to the king, we are not told how or why
  • Made no offer or attempt to pay even a portion of his debt until after the king ordered his own possessions sold

The course taken by the king

  • Reasonably demanded payment
  • Justly insisted on punishment for nonpayment
    • The understood terms
  • Moved by compassion, he forgave his servant his debt
    • Full forgiveness
    • No payment plan

The unmerciful spirit of the forgiven debtor

  • Amount owed by the fellow servant was much smaller
    • He too, was unable to pay
    • Offered to pay debt, if time were given
    • Begged for mercy
  • Pardoned debtor was unforgiving, and acted violently
  • Pardoned debtor showed no mercy, but had his fellow servant cast into prison

The course of action then taken by the king

  • Angry
  • Treated servant as he had treated his fellow servant
    • Do unto others ...

Application of the parable

  • God is a God of mercy
  • God expects his servants to be merciful, as well
  • An unforgiving spirit may cancel out God's offer of mercy

Overview of Bible Study