- The Third Forgiveness Saying
- The debt of the Unmerciful Servant was impossible to repay
- The Forgiving King possessed greater material wealth than King Solomon
- Our great debt obligates us to give forgiveness to whoever has need of it
- The King’s practice of mercy and forgiveness was precedent-setting
- The Servant’s actions were disgraceful and insulting to the King
- The Unforgiving Servant exchanged his privileged life for a jail cell
- In the kingdom of Adonai forgiveness is a compulsory act
The Third Forgiveness Saying:
עַל־כֵּן דּוֹמָה מַלְכוּת הַשָׁמַיִם לְמֶלֶךְ בָּשָׂר וָדָם שֶׁהָיָה יוֹרֵד לְחֶשְׁבּוֹן עִם־עֲבָדָיו׃ וְכַאֲשֶׁר הֵחֵל לְחַשֵׁב הוּבָא לְפָנָיו אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר הָיָה חַיָּב לוֹ עֲשֶׂרֶת אֲלָפִים כִּכְּרֵי זָהָֽב׃ וְלֹא הָיָה־לוֹ לְשָׁלֵּם וַיְצַו אֲדֹנָיו לִמְכֹּר אוֹתוֹ וְאֶת־אִשְׁתּוֹ וְאֶת־בָּנָיו וְאֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־לוֹ וִישַׁלֵּם׃ וַיִּפֹּל הָעֶבֶד עַל־פָּנָיו וְיִּשְׁתַּחוּ לוֹ לֵאמֹר אֲדֹנִי הַאֲרֶךְ־לִי אַפֶּךָ וַאֲשַׁלֵּם לְךָ הַכֹּל׃ וַיֶּהֱמוּ מְעֵי אֲדֹנֵי הָעֶבֶד הַהוּא וַיִּפְטְרֵהוּ וַיִּמְחֹל לוֹ אֶת חוֹבוֹ׃ וַיֵּצֵא הָעֶבֶד הַהוּא מִלְּפָנָיו וַיִּמְצָא אֶחָד מֵחֲבֵרָיו וְהוּא חַיָּב־לוֹ מֵאָה דִינָרִים וַיַּחֲזֶק־בּוֹ וַיַּחְנְקֵהוּ לֵאמֹר שַׁלֵּם אֵת אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה חַיָּב לִי׃ וַיִּפֹּל חֲבֵרוֹ לִפְנֵי רַגְלָיו וַיְבַקֵּשׁ מִמֶּנּוּ לֵאמֹר הַאֲרֶךְ־לִי אַפֶּךָ וַאֲשַׁלְּמָה לְּךָ הַכֹּל׃ וְהוּא מֵאֵן וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיַּנִּיחֵהוּ בַּמִּשְׁמָר עַד שֶׁיְּשַׁלֶּם־לוֹ אֶת־חוֹבוֹ׃ וְהָעֲבָדִים חֲבֵרָיו רָאוּ אֶת־אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשָׂה וַיֵּעָצְבוּ מְאֹד וַיָּבֹאוּ וַיַּגִּידוּ לַאֲדֹנֵיהֶם אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשָׂה׃ וַיִּקְרָא אֵלָיו אֲדֹנָיו וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אַתָּה עֶבֶד בְּלִיַּעַל אֶת־כָּל־הַחוֹב הַהוּא מָחַלְתִּי לְךָ יַעַן אֲשֶׁר־בִּקַּשְׁתָּ מִמֶּנִּי׃ הֲלֹא הָיָה גַם־עָלֶיךָ לְרַחֵם עַל חֲבֵרֶךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר רִחַמְתִּי־אֲנִי עָלֶיךָ׃ וַיִּקְצֹף אֲדֹנָיו וַיִּתְּנֵהוּ בְּיַד הַנֹּגְשִׂים עַד כִּי־יְשַׁלֵּם אֶת־כָּל־חוֹבוֹ׃ כָּכָה יַעֲשֶׂה לָכֶם גַּם־אָבִי שֶׁבַּשָׁמָיִם אִם־לֹא תִמְחֲלוּ אִישׁ לְאָחִיו בְּכָל־לְבַבְכֶם׃
The Unmerciful Servant
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king of flesh and blood who was going down to settle accounts with his servants. When he had began to settle a man was brought before him who was indebted to him for ten thousand kikkarim (talents) of gold. But since he did not have any way to repay, his master commanded to sell him, along with his wife and children and all that was his, for repayment to be made. The servant fell down on his face (prostrated himself before him), saying, “Master, be slow to anger with me, and I will repay everything to you.” The master of that servant was moved with compassion, so he released him and pardoned him of his debt. That servant went out from before him and found one of his fellows who owed him a hundred denarim. He grabbed him and (began to) choke him, saying, “Pay me what you owe me!” His fellow (servant) fell down at his feet and entreated him, saying, “Be slow to anger with me, that I may repay everything to you!” But he refused (was unwilling), and he went and left him in prison until he should pay back his debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were very upset, so they came and told their master all that had been done. The master called to him and said to him, “You worthless servant! I pardoned your whole debt in response to your request to me. Was it not incumbent upon you to show mercy to your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?” His master became angry and gave him over to the torturers until he should repay his whole debt. “My Father who is in heaven will do the same to you, if you do not completely pardon (forgive) others from your heart.”
The debt of the Unmerciful Servant was impossible to repay:
The Third Forgiveness Saying of the Messiah tells us of an amount owed by an unmerciful servant that is an extremely large sum (cf. Mattai 18:23-35). Ten thousand talents was an amount equal to sixty million denarim (denarii) and one denari was a normal daily wage. Contrast this amount with Herod’s annual income, which was nine hundred talents. Solomon’s temple, world renowned for the massive amount of gold it contained, possessed an amount of just over eight thousand talents (1 Chronicles 29:4-7). Incredibly, this man owed ten thousand talents. An ancient talent normally weighed between seventy-five to one hundred and ten pounds. So the forgiven amount was just over twelve million ounces of gold!
The Forgiving King possessed greater material wealth than King Solomon:
The story setting is placed at the court of an oriental potentate, where gold flows like water and the courtiers are called ‘servants.’ The debtor to the king was likely a man of high rank. Ancient kings assigned provincial governors to collect their taxes and administer their affairs throughout their kingdoms. For this king to have forgiven the vast sum of ten thousand talents, he would have had to be a person who possessed greater material wealth than King Solomon. This extreme degree of material affluence, existing on a grand millennial scale, would not have escaped the notice of the Jewish populace of Messiah’s day. More inspiring was the King’s extreme generosity, compassion, and forgiveness. In a very real sense the debt forgiven was nonetheless a debt owed to the Forgiving King himself.
Our great debt obligates us to give forgiveness to whoever has need of it:
The story of the Unforgiving Servant is a deconstructing one. It addresses our taken-for-granted assumption that forgiveness is a preferential option and not a Divine compulsory act. The story opens us up to the possibility that our own personal experience of Divine forgiveness has been so great that we are morally obligated to give forgiveness to whoever has need of it. This redemptive story of Messiah revises our thinking and re-authors our lives. We have been forgiven a debt which is beyond all paying; for the sins of every person have brought about the death of Adonai’s own Son.” The Messiah’s payment of our inestimable debt of sin to Adonai has re-storied our lives. It has inverted our sense of entitlement. No temporal debt owed to us can ever in any way compare to the eternal debt we owe Adonai. Our debt to the heavenly Father has placed such a severe obligation upon us that others are entitled to obtain whatever forgiveness they need from us.
The King’s practice of mercy and forgiveness was precedent-setting:
The unmerciful servant who owed ten thousand talents or twenty million ounces of gold, could not bring himself to forgive his fellow servant who owed one hundred denarii (roughly three months’ pay for an average laborer). This decision greatly and cruelly harmed the humble servant, his wife, and children. It harmed the innocent observers, who also were employed in the service of the Forgiving King. These loyal servants grievously watched as their ruler’s (inspiring) precedent-setting act of compassion and generosity was completely discounted. Ignored by one of highest ranking servants- governors in the Forgiving King’s kingdom. The generous and compassionate act of mercy of the Forgiving King toward his high ranking servant obligated not just the governor but all of the kings’ servants to do likewise. Therefore, the Message here is by accepting the Divine forgiveness we are all obligated to forgive all others who have need of our forgiveness.
The Servant’s actions were disgraceful and insulting to the King:
The high ranking servant’s blatant public insensitivity to the preferences of the Forgiving King was insulting and disgraceful. The Ungrateful Servant in his impudence, self-importance, and lack of compassion and mercy had harmed the Good King’s name, reputation, and word. The reputation of a king is enhanced by the loyal behavior of his subjects. A subordinate, especially one of the high rank and privilege enjoyed by this man, should have known that he more than others was expected to live his life and administer his affairs in perfect accord with his king’s noble words and deeds.
The Unforgiving Servant exchanged his privileged life for a jail cell:
By injuring the king’s good name the Unforgiving Servant had harmed the Forgiving King and all of the subjects of his domain. Most of all the ungrateful one harmed himself. For out of his own hardness of heart, he constructed the very means for his own permanent and tortuous imprisonment. Permanent because his debt was too high to ever be repaid. Tortuous, for after his sentencing he no doubt perpetually rehearsed in his mind the privileged life he once enjoyed but had so foolishly lost. And for what did the Unforgiving Servant give up his previous privileged existence? The self-satisfaction of punishing another lesser servant for a small debt that could have been easily repaid. In his extreme foolishness the Unmerciful Servant permanently lost his former privileged place in a kingdom characterized by compassion, mercy, forgiveness, kindness, generosity, and affluence. This he foolishly exchanged for the deprivation, hardship, and depressing reality of living the rest of his life in a jail cell.
In the kingdom of Adonai forgiveness is a compulsory act:
This story is a somber warning to all of us: that if we fail to embrace forgiveness in our hearts for others we will inevitably subsist in a prison of our own hard-heart’s making. This is because in the kingdom of heaven the practice of compassion, mercy, and forgiveness is not optional. It is universally required. Therefore, in the kingdom of Adonai forgiveness is a compulsory act! Those subjects of The Forgiving King who foolishly persist in practicing vengeance, anger, wrath, malice, bitterness and unforgiveness will ultimately incur the wrath of Adonai. In the exact measures that these ungrateful servants have ruthlessly punished others so will their punishment be. Divine Forgiveness or Judgment? The decision is really up to you and me.