A Dangerous Game
Matthew 18:23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants…
It is so easy to see when another is living in ridiculous hypocrisy. I may be blind to my own inconsistencies, but when I see them in others, I am hypersensitive. Jesus’ parable here was crafted for such a purpose, to display the dangerous hypocrisy of refusing to forgive.
In the story, a king finds one of his servants to be in debt to him to the ridiculous amount of 10,000 talents, apparently, the earnings of many lifetimes. There was no hope the servant could ever repay the debt, so the servant begged his king for leniency. Out of pity for him, the master released him and forgave him the debt (vs 27).
The forgiven servant, in turn, finds another servant, who owes him 100 denarii, the equivalent of a day’s wages. And Seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, Pay what you owe (vs 28). The second servant could not repay the first, so, in an act of profound hypocrisy and cruelty, the forgiven servant had his indebted brother thrown in prison until he could repay.
Word quickly spread back to the king, who responded in appropriate anger. You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you (vss 32, 33)? The unforgiving servant was then thrown in jail (a life sentence) to pay off his debt.
I trust it is obvious that you and I are the first servant, having been forgiven for a lifetime of destructive behavior. God, in his mercy, through Christ’s death on the cross, has forever severed us from the eternal consequences of our sin. We have been restored to right relationship with our king, though we never had any hope of ever repaying our debt to him.
In turn, I am asked to be merciful and forgiving to those around me. So, I (having been forgiven a lifetime of debt) should be able to clearly see the dangerous hypocrisy of refusing to forgive those who have wronged me.
Still though, I insist on my right to my resentment. I may have chosen to let it go many times, only to allow the bitterness and anger to creep back in. Bitterness, like other defects, is not gone with a once-for-all decision. If I allow, it slithers back into my heart to work its poisonous effect on me.
Even if my debtor never asks, it is necessary for my own spiritual well-being to forgive. It is in my refusal to forgive, that I create my own prison. This prison is so easy to see in others, who live chained to their bitterness. The challenge is to see my own chains.