The Necessity of Forgiveness Day 7 – The Wicked Servant
I want you to think of some of your worst moments—words you said or actions that were really, really bad, embarrassing even to recall. Maybe you seriously injured someone by a poor choice you made. Maybe you broke someone’s heart by your own selfishness or foolishness. Or maybe you gossiped about someone in a way that was malicious, hurtful and mean, and to this day that person bears the wounds your words caused them. Spoiler alert, we’ve all been there, if we are being honest with ourselves. The good news is that we don’t have to allow those moments to shape us or define us.
If you’re familiar with the story of the wicked servant in Matthew 18, you know this account is where we get the words about how often we should forgive others: 70×7. Is it a magic formula, meaning we give someone exactly 490 chances, and then we are off the hook? Not at all! As Peter posed a question to Jesus about how often we should forgive someone, he asked Him if the number might be seven times, to which Jesus replied, “Not seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Some translations say seventy-seven). It wasn’t about a specific number; it was about an attitude of continual grace, just like the grace we receive from the Lord when we sin (our number far exceeds 490!).
Let’s revisit the thoughts we had about our own worst moments. If you’re a believer, you’ve likely confessed them before the Father and received mercy and grace. (If not, why not do that today?) We’ve had to do this continually because our own sinful nature is always warring within us and we find that we often fall into sin. The most amazing blessing is that Jesus continues to extend grace to us upon our confession and repentance. There’s never a point at which He turns from us and refuses to forgive when we seek it from Him. This grace should, in turn, enable us to do the same when someone sins against us or hurts us deeply.
If we accept His grace freely for the forgiveness of our own sins and then refuse to extend it to others, we essentially join hands with the offender and are both equally at fault before a righteous and holy God. Jesus even calls the servant who did this wicked. So when I refuse to forgive someone, Jesus looks on me as being wicked and in need of repentance.
I’m going to include the parable of the wicked servant below. My prayer today for anyone who may be withholding forgiveness from someone is that your eyes might be opened to your sin in this and that your heart might be softened as you consider the grace you’ve received from Jesus Christ.
Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” (Matthew 18:21-35, NLT)