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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
in!

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
               children astray.)

          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
               question. 

                    (1) Is Peter's question a serious question? 
                    (Yes)

                    (2) Has Peter learned he should start answering
                    his own questions?

                         (a) Why does Peter suggest forgiving 7 
                         times? 
                         
                              i) Does It seems like a generous 
                              number without letting yourself get
                              "run over?"

                              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
          injuring him!)

     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 
               offenses?

               b. We get an insight into whether Jesus is talking
               about numbers or an attitude by the story that
               comes next.

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
               generous heart.)

     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
               fellow servant.)

               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
          treatment.)

     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
     <URL:http://www.cameronlaw.com>]

     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
               for forgiveness?"

                    (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!