Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning against me, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” answered Jesus, “but seventy times seven because the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Once there was a king who decided to check on his servants’ accounts.
He had just begun to do so when one of them was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.
The servant did not have enough to pay his debt, so the King ordered him to be sold as a slave, with his wife and his children and all that he had, in order to pay the debt.
The servant fell on his knees before the king. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay you everything!’
The king felt sorry for him, so he forgave him the debt and let him go.
“Then the man went out and met one of his fellow servants who owed him a few dollars. He grabbed him and started choking him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he said.
His fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’
But he refused; instead, he had him thrown into jail until he should pay the debt.
When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very upset and went to the king and told him everything.
So, he called the servant in. ‘You worthless slave!’ he said. ‘I forgave you the whole amount you owed me, just because you asked me to.
You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you.’
The king was very angry, and he sent the servant to jail to be punished until he should pay back the whole amount.”
And Jesus concluded, “That is how my Father in heaven will treat every one of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
GNT – The gospel reading of Matthew 18: 23 – 35, of the parable of the unforgiving servant is part of the teaching of how we should act towards one another. It deals principally with the question of forgiveness and to give an insight into the question posed to the Lord by Peter of “how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to 7 times? To which Christ responded: “I do not say to you after seven times but up to 70 times seven.” (v 21 – 22)
The dynamics of the reading is as follows: a servant is forgiven an impossible debt that he had no human capacity to repay. That same servant sees a fellow servant, his debtor of a small sum, and insists that he be dealt with according to the law when he cannot repay when he makes demand upon him. Upon finding this out the King, who had released the offending debtor from his colossal debt, seized him and demanded payment of what is owed – just as that wretch had demanded from the one who owed him. Consequently, both are now in prison until the payment of their respective debts.
Notice this, that in those days if you could not pay your debt you were thrown and stayed in prison until your debt had been repaid. Whether for 10,000 talents or 100 denarii, due and owing, the punishment was the same. Now you may think that the debt for 10,000 talents, once forgiven had been extinguished. Yet this King to whom we are all servants, in whom we move, breathe and have our being reimposed that penalty upon that wretched servant. But, consider this: did he really reimposed that obligation or did something else happen?
Here’s the thing: our King will forgive all debts due and owing to him provided we show compassion and love to our fellow man. By the same measure we mete we also will have meted out. We cannot ask for forgiveness and refuse to forgive. Do not forget the forgiveness of the sinful woman. As Christ said “her sins, which are many, are forgiven for she loves much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” (Luke 7:47). If we love much then we will forgive much. If we fail to show forgiveness then we love little and hence are self-condemned. Then any forgiveness that we may have received will evaporate and then once again we will be under the same condemnation that we had been forgiven of.
So, the reality is that this King who rules over us is not capricious. Rather, it is our actions that move us into the kingdom or slam the doors of the kingdom shut in our face. And the beauty is this: we are never affixed to one or the other. We can through our conduct is easily lose it or gain it, and we may go from condemnation to salvation and vice versa in a flash. You see, love of Christ is manifested through love of neighbor and if we deny neighbor, then we deny Christ and if we deny Christ we deny ourselves. And the thing is we never know when we will be facing our King to render account – and that fearful day may see us on the divide of condemnation. Then if we are condemned to the torturers we have no one to blame but ourselves. That is the just threat of punishment hanging over us all..