LESSON 10 - TO FORGIVE IS DIVINE (MATTHEW 18:21-25)
Copr. 1997, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All Scripture references are to
the NIV unless otherwise noted. Suggested answers are found within
parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard. This
lesson can be found at: <URL:http://www.cameronlaw.com>
INTRODUCTION: This week our study is the parable of the unjust
servant. This parable is found among a series of teachings that are
directed towards helping those around us to be saved. (Or more
specifically, how to refrain from driving them away!) Let's dive
I. FORGIVE HOW MUCH?
A. Turn with me to Matthew 18. This chapter begins with Jesus
talking about little children. Among the things he says is
that we are to be very careful not to cause little children to
sin.(v.6) Jesus then gets into a discussion in which I think
He is talking about the body of believers.
1. Read Matt. 18:9. Tell me how your eye can cause you to
sin? (By seeing things that lead you into sin.)
a. Would just "one eye" do it?
b. Would it be a solution to seeing unhelpful things
to gouge out only one eye? (No! You could still
see. Since these instructions do not seem to make
any sense when applied to a person, I think that
Jesus is talking about the body of believers.
Remember, He was just talking about not leading
2. Still on the point of teaching us not to cause others
to stumble, Jesus moves to the question of how to guide
someone out of sin without causing them to leave the
church. (vv. 15-17)
3. This gets Peter thinking about all the people who have
sinned against him. (Or maybe one person who keeps
sinning against him!) Read Matthew 18:21.
a. Remember last week we studied the question of the
lawyer which was asked to "test" Jesus? Remember
also that Jesus had the lawyer answer his own
(1) Is Peter's question a serious question?
(2) Has Peter learned he should start answering
his own questions?
(a) Why does Peter suggest forgiving 7
i) Does It seems like a generous
number without letting yourself get
ii) Do you think Peter is thinking
about 7 being the perfect number?
4. Someone turn to Genesis 4:22-23. What do you think
Lamech is saying here? (He is saying that his ancestor
Cain was cursed for his sin. My feeling is that he uses
7 as the number of perfection. So he is saying that he
will give perfect revenge. He killed a young man for
B. Read Matt. 18:22. What is Jesus saying? Do you think He has
in mind Genesis 4:23? (I think He is saying perfect
forgiveness as opposed to perfect revenge.)
a. What kind of person would keep track of 77
b. We get an insight into whether Jesus is talking
about numbers or an attitude by the story that
II.THE KING AND THE DEBTOR SERVANT.
A. Read Matt. 18:23-24.
1. Wait a minute! Peter asked, "How many times shall I
forgive?" Jesus begins His story, "The kingdom of
heaven...." Are we talking about forgiveness in heaven?
I think Peter was talking about his problem here. How do
you reconcile the question with this story? (Remember
last week the lawyer asked, "What must I do to go to
heaven?" Jesus is saying that heaven is populated by
people who are willing to forgive! Let's go on to find
out what kind of forgiveness.)
2. How much money is a talent? (Two weeks ago we learned
it was about $250,000 -- adjusted for inflation.)
a. How much money is 10,000 talents? (My poor math
tells me that 250K x 10K = $2,500,000,000! Two and
one half billion!)
3. What does this number alone tell us about this
servant? (He must have been special. Certainly he was no
ordinary servant. Would anyone loan you 2.5 billion? How
about 2.5 billion without collateral? So this servant was
rich and influential. He was the Donald Trump of the time.)
a. Does the servant want to see the King? (No! He
"was brought"(v.24) to the King.)
B. Read vv. 25-27. Would you rather be dead, than be sold,
along with your family, as slaves?
1. What if you were one of the most prominent, wealthiest
families? What if you had a home in Europe, in Asia and
a couple in the U.S.? (The fall is so great, the humility
so large, I imagine that he would rather die.)
2. What does the servant ask for? (Patience to pay the
whole thing back.)
3. Does the King give him what he asked for? (No. The
King canceled his debt. He did more than he asked!)
a. Why would you cancel a debt when you could get
the 2.5 billion back with time? (The King
apparently felt he could never pay or had a very
C. Remember this parable starts out, "The Kingdom of Heaven is
like ... [this story.] (v.23) I suggested a few minutes ago
that the Kingdom of heaven is composed of people who forgive.
Who is doing the forgiving here? (The King! The Kingdom of
Heaven is composed of a King who forgives 2.5 billion.)
1. Who is the forgiven servant in the Kingdom of Heaven?
(Us. Donald Trump is us! Ephesians 2:1 tells us we were
dead in our sins. Ephesians 2:12 tells us we were without
hope and without God. We had a 2.5 billion dollar debt
and no realistic way to pay it back.)
D. Let's read on. Matt. 18:28-30. A hundred denarii is a few
thousand dollars. Remember in our parable last week, the
Samaritan paid two denarii to the innkeeper. It was worth
about 8 cents in the 1st century AD, but was a day's wages for
a laborer. So, adjusted for inflation, let's say a denarii is
about $50.00. So this debt is $5,000.
1. What does the fellow servant request? (The same thing;
more time to pay back the debt.)
2. Does the forgiven servant give him more time? (No. He
throws him in jail where he has no opportunity to pay
back the debt.)
a. What else does the forgiven servant do that shows
he is a "less than friendly" kind of guy? (He
chokes his fellow servant. He was entitled to
money. He was not entitled to physically abuse the
b. Is the King entitled to abuse his servants? (Yes.
These two servants are theoretically equals. But
the King is not the equal of the servant.)
3. Notice that the King gives the forgiven servant MORE
than he asks. The forgiven servant gives his fellow
servant LESS than he asks. And the King is ENTITLED to
inflict more harm than a fellow servant.)
E. Read vv. 31-34. Who blows the whistle on the forgiven
servant? (v.31 "the other servants.")
1. Why do the other servants blow the whistle on the
forgiven servant? (They are outraged at the disparity in
F. Friends, is there anyone who you have not forgiven? Anyone
against whom you hold a grudge? God gave you your life, the
life of your spouse, the lives of your parents and the lives
of your children. You all deserved to die -- forever. Compare
what God has given you (and forgiven you) with the "injury"
inflicted upon you by the person you have not forgiven. The
disparity is so great, even your "fellow servants" realize the
injustice of your attitude. [For more on this subject, read
"Colors of His Love" sermon on the web site at
G. The other servants first complain about the injustice, but
what does the King do in response to their complaint? (He
gives the servant what he gave to his fellow servant.)
1. What about this comment sending him "to be tortured?"
The previously forgiven servant did not do that to his
fellow servant, did he? (I wonder about the NIV's
translation here. There is only one Greek word
(basanitstes) and not two. Therefore, delivered to the
"jailers to be tortured" does not reflect two words which
first identity the person(s) and next describe the
action of the person. The Greek word does mean a
torturer, but Thayer suggests that it could simply mean
a "jailer" because they were generally assigned the
business of torturing.)
2. Is it reasonable that a King would torture the
previously forgiven servant for what he did? (Yes! There
was no comparison between what had been forgiven and what
he was asked to forgive -- and he was choking his fellow
servant when he had no authority to do that.)
H. Read v.35. Wow. Sobering thought.
1. Let me make it worse. What does Jesus mean when He
says, "forgive your brother from the heart?"
a. Have you forgiven your brother "from the heart"
when you say, "I'll forgive, but I'll not forget?"
What about, "I'll forgive him (her) when they ask
(1) Remember where we started out, 77 = perfect
forgiveness? Do either of these (above)
answers reflect perfect forgiveness?
2. If we do not give "perfect" forgiveness" for the
positive reason that God has forgiven us far beyond
anything we are asked to forgive, we should at least
forgive for the negative reason that the NIV might very
well have correctly translated the story "turned him over
to the jailers to be tortured!"
3. Unless we are willing to overlook insults,
overlook offenses, overlook personal injustice, we do not
understand what Jesus has done for us.
His forgiveness, gave you your life.
His forgiveness gave your husband, your wife, life.
His forgiveness, gave your children their lives.
His forgiveness, gave your parents their lives.
He is a great God!
III. NEXT WEEK: "We're On Our Way" Parables about being ready for
the Second Coming. Study!