His lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.
As I look at the parable of the unforgiving servant, I notice several principles about forgiveness. First of all, forgiveness is granted, not earned. We give it to people whether they deserve it or not. The first slave in the parable did not earn his forgiveness; the king released him of his debt unconditionally. Why was he willing to do that? Jesus said the king felt compassion for the slave, but I also think the king was a practical man. He realized that the slave could never repay him, so he decided to take the loss and get on with his life.
That is a very practical reason for forgiving other people. We hold on to the debts people owe us because we do not realize the account receivable we are holding is worthless. There is really not much people can do to make up for the deep wounds they have inflicted. How could anybody make up for a childhood innocence stolen by sexual abuse or a marriage destroyed by adultery?
When you forgive somebody, you are saying, “This person owes me because of what they have done to me. But I am choosing to release them of their obligation so that I am free to get on with my life.”
And that leads to a second truth that emerges from this passage: refusing to forgive hurts us more than it hurts our offender. Notice what happened to the first slave when the king heard about his unforgiveness: “His lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him” (Matthew 18:34). Was Jesus saying God is a sadist who inflicts torture upon us if we are unwilling to forgive? Of course not. I like the way one writer put it: “When we refuse to forgive, we enter our own private torture chamber as we relive those offenses over and over again.” Bitterness destroys us emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
Fredrick Buechner once wrote, “Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor the last toothsome morsel of both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back–in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.” Refusing to forgive hurts us more than it hurts our offender.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Freedom Of Forgiveness” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2005.
Frederick Buechner, “Wishful Thinking” (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), 2.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org