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Two Servants Imprisoned

Two Servants

Jesus told a story that I only figured out recently. (Matthew 18) It’s about the servant who owed a king a huge amount of money (equivalent to the national debt). The king knew it was impossible for him to pay so he forgave him. A second servant owed the forgiven servant a debt equal to four month’s salary. Compared to the national debt, it was small, but a debt equaling four month’s salary is still a considerable amount. Having it would help the first servant to leverage him to something better. So he demanded payment. When the servant could not pay he was thrown into prison.

It is interesting to observe what the king did when he heard about this incident.

First: The king did not release the second servant from prison. (That is important to remember.)
Second: He put the first servant in prison with instructions to be tortured until he’d paid everything he owed.

This is where I always missed the logic of the parable. If the guy owes a huge debt, and he’s being tortured in prison, how is that going to help pay his debt? It doesn’t make sense, in terms of acquiring money, to imprison and torture someone.

I had to rethink why the first servant grabbed the second one and tried to get his money. Probably because he needed to get funding to repay the king.

The impact of the focus of this parable came to light when I realized who Jesus was talking to. The context of the message is important. Peter asked Jesus: “How many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me – up to seven times?” Jesus answered: “Not seven times, but 70 times 7.” It’s important to note that the focus of this parable is not on forgiving. This story is all about unforgiveness. That is why I was confused.

The king was trying to get the first servant to receive his forgiveness. But even though the King had forgiven him, the guy would not receive the forgiveness. So the king imprisoned and tortured him until he paid everything that he owed. How much did he owe? Remember? Absolutely nothing! His debt had been forgiven. But he wouldn’t accept that. All he had to do was tell the torturers: “I don’t owe the king anything.” On admitting that, he would be released. But as long as his pride kept him trying to pay the debt – or as long as his pride kept him from receiving his forgiveness – that’s how long he had to be tortured. As soon as he swallowed his pride and received his forgiveness he would be released. Then he would be in a position to release the second servant because he no longer needed to exploit him.

There are Believers whose greatest battle in life is to forgive themselves when they have sinned. They feel that they do not deserve forgiveness. They will drive themselves mercilessly; they will flog themselves, they confess endlessly, making everyone around them miserable, because they are trying to pay back a debt for the harm they have caused God. And when they can’t pay, they become bitter. God’s only recourse is to force them into a position where they must receive the forgiveness that they absolutely, positively, feel they do not deserve. Then, and only then, are they able to extend mercy and forgiveness to others. That will only happen once they have realized that though they are a debtor, they have been offered forgiveness freely.

My paraphrase of Jesus answer is: “When you accept forgiveness, it is easy to endlessly forgive anyone else.”

May you be blessed with patience in Jehovah, trust in His Being and expectation in His deliverance. … john Psalm 27:14


(original post Nov 23 2014)


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