Forgiven but Unforgiving
“My lord, please, I don’t have any money. Is there another way?” he begged, as he prostrated himself before the king. The poverty-stricken man was penniless and poor. Bankrupt and beggarly, he owned only the shabby and moth-eaten clothes on his back. He had run out of money and could not outrun justice, for the king of his country had come to collect a debt. “Then you leave me no choice,” thundered the king. “Guards—seize the man, his family, and his possessions—prison shall be his home until payment is made.”
Sapped of strength at this awful verdict, the man dropped to the ground, hugged the king’s feet, and implored him while tears rushed down his dusty cheeks. “O, noble king, this mammoth debt is mine to pay, down to the last penny. But my pockets are depleted. I beg you for mercy.” The sight of his misfortune and suffering made the king’s heart quiver with compassion. “Then it is done—I shall have pity on you, my servant. The entire debt is forgiven,” the king assured. The man, overcome with joy, sprouted from the dirt and kissed his family, overwhelmed by the mercy that had been shown to him.
The following morning, a familiar fellow passed by his home and he rushed out to stop him. “I know you, and you owe me money! Pay up right now!” Then said the fellow, “Alas! Sir, I am meager and moneyless. Please, have patience and when I am able, I will pay every cent of this small debt.” But the man shook the passerby and even began to choke him. “If you can’t pay me, then you will pay in prison,” he said, and he ordered the authorities to put him away.
The townspeople chattered about this damnable hypocrisy until it reached the king. Infuriated with the man’s double-dealing, he sent for him to be brought before the throne. “What have you done?” he roared. “I forgave you because you pleaded with me, and you showed no mercy to your neighbor who owed only a little? Be gone and live the rest of your days in chains!”
I wish this story were an original, but this is actually a parable Jesus told in response to Peter’s question about forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35). Obviously, I have added details for emphasis, but the point is clear: because the man was forgiven a gargantuan debt, it should have been easy for him to forgive one who owed him a smaller debt. Likewise, if God forgave the multitude of your sins against Him, you ought to forgive others when they trespass against you. Dire consequences await if you don’t (see v. 35). Therefore, forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven you (Eph. 4:32). If God has given you mercy, give mercy to others.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Beagle).