Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, until seventy times seven. 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. 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. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 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. 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. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. Matthew 18:21-35
Today (and next week) I wish to do an exegetical (verse by verse) study of one of the Lord’s parables. Of the 70 parables listed in the four Gospels, I find this one to be a very compelling one indeed. In this teaching we will uncover a hidden truth that I have personally never heard anyone else teach on before. I’m sure there are many out there who have seen this same truth, and have even taught on it…I’m just saying that I personally don’t know of any. When we get to this truth; it is going to rock some sacred cows, so-to-speak.
It starts off in verse 21 with Peter asking the Lord about whether or not there was a limit to forgiving your brother who sins against you. I personally think that Peter asked this question because he remembered that earlier Jesus had said this, “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” So Peter really wanted to clarify which one it really was; is it seven times, or is it 70 times? You’ll notice a subtle difference: one of them is a brother coming to you asking forgiveness, and the other one is just you forgiving your brother…whether he’s asked you to or not. It’s important that we remember this truth. Love covers a multitude of sins. Quit waiting (and expecting) your brother to come to you asking forgiveness…JUST FOGIVE HIM at the very moment it happens. This is one of the signs of great spiritual maturity.
Now please notice that verse 22 starts off with the word “Therefore” which means that verse 22 is tied into verse 21. In other words, verse 22 is because of what was asked in verse 21. The context of this parable is the king (King Jesus) and His servants. It’s important that you understand this principle before we go any further…these are His servants. Now, a certain man was brought to Him who owed him 10,000 talents. Let’s crunch some numbers here to really put this into perspective. The average wage per day in New Testament times for the average Jewish worker was one denarius. The Jews were commanded to work six days a week, therefore that equals 313 denarii per year. A talent was made of silver and was worth $1,920.00 in New Testament times. It would take 613 years (or 12.25 lifetimes of working careers) to earn one single talent of wages. 10,000 talents was worth $290,850,000.00 (Yes you read that right…Two Hundred and Ninety Million, Eight Hundred and Fifty Thousand dollars). This is the equivelent of 122,500 lifetimes of working a 50-year job!! So, now we understand that this man will never be able to pay back his debt in this lifetime, let alone over another 122,499 lifetimes (because of interest being accrued on the debt).
This $290,850,000.00 debt can be likened unto our sin. If left to ourselves, we owed a debt for our sin that couldn’t be repaid in 122,500 lifetimes of trying to pay it off, or work it off. Our debt was so great that the only thing we deserved was to be forever sold into slavery (us and our families) until the debt could be paid. But the point is that it could never be paid. Even if we worked for 7,350,000 (Seven Million Three Hundred and Fifty Thousand) years, we could never repay the Lord the debt of our sin, unrighteousness, transgression, and iniquity. It would be the same thing if Bill Gates went utterly bankrupt and was living on the streets begging for money; and the IRS comes to him and says, “Mr. Gates, you owe us two-trillion dollars in taxes, would you like us to set you up on a payment plan?” The debt is so overwhelming, so astronomical, that there is no way for him in a million lifetimes to pay it off.
Now, back to our study. So this man asks the Lord to please have patience with him and he will repay it all. There is no way this man can pay this off, and the Lord knows it. So He has compassion on the man and totally forgives him of this enormous debt. This same man goes out and finds another brother who owes him 100 pence ($17.00 which is a 3-year debt – an average debt) and demands he repay it to him. The man can’t repay it on the spot and he asks for the same mercy to be shown him that the first man received; but he was shown none. He refused to forgive the man of his little bitty-itty debt, and he threw him into prison until the debt could be paid off.
When the Lord heard how this man whom He had forgiven the greatest debt in the universe wouldn’t forgive his brother a minor debt; He called the man back to him. And this is where it starts going south real quick. Notice that the Lord now calls him a “wicked servant“. But now notice something mind-blowing: it ends with the Lord bringing back up all the debt (the sins) that he was forgiven for and throws him to the tormentors in prison. And He ends the parable with, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” He ended up going to hell over his unforgiveness. It wasn’t worth holding on to that unforgiveness and harboring it in his heart, was it?
A little rabbit-trail here may bring clarity to what I’m trying to say. One time while traveling and preaching/teaching in Africa, I was on the outskirts of a little town called Bungoma with a dear brother named Geoffrey (I know you’re reading this Geoffrey Omurwa…and I hope it brings back fond memories of our time together. I’ll be over there with you soon brother.), and Geoffrey wanted me to minister to this lady who had left the church because she got offended at her ex-husband for leaving her and her small children and wouldn’t help support them financially. He had left her for a much younger woman…which is a very common practice in Africa. While sitting in this woman’s round one-room hut made with mud and a grass roof; and seeing and hearing how bitter this woman was (she actually told us that she cursed her husband when she woke up in the morning, she cursed him throughout the day, and she cursed him as she went to bed at night). She was so bitter and filled with unforgiveness, that I didn’t know what to say. I had never encountered someone with this much hatred, animosity, and unforgiveness in their heart towards another. But the anointing was mightily upon me, and in a moments time the Lord dropped the real truth of this parable into my heart. And I looked at this woman and I read her this parable out of Matthew 18; and then I looked at her with sternness and said to her, “Thou wicked servant, God has forgiven you of all your sins and your wickedness that you had committed against Him and has had mercy on you and forgave you of a debt that you could never repay in a thousand lifetimes only because you asked Him to…and you won’t forgive your husband for one measly dollar. You will split hell wide open and spend eternity in the regions of the damned because of your unforgiving heart and speech towards him.”
When I said that to her, she broke down and wept and wept and said, “I see it!! I see it!! I see the truth now!! I’ve been deceived. I would have ended up in hell over this.” She repented on the spot and sought God’s forgiveness and said that she would never speak ill of him again, and that she would tell him that she forgave him for all that he did. Because you see, his minor offense is nothing to be compared with our major offense of not forgiving.
“To forgive is to let go of pain. To not forgive someone is the same as choosing to stay trapped in a jail cell of bitterness, serving time for someone else’s crime.”
NOTE: New Testament monetary information taken from “The Monetary System, Taxation, and Publicans in the Time of Christ” Muirhead Publishers 1907 Page 48, and the Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible