Church of the Good Shepherd

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to forgive?

This week, across the ocean, a nation was asked to forgive the massacre known as Bloody Sunday.

  • On that day, Jan. 30, 1972
  • British soldiers fired on a civil rights march in the majority Catholic area of the Bogside in Derry, killing 14 protesters.
  • It was a day that caused the conflict between the two communities in Northern Ireland — Catholic nationalist and Protestant unionist — to spiral into another dimension
  • It was a day when paramilitaries on both sides became the loudest voices in the conflict, a day that saw people queuing to give up on peace ... mostly young men but also women who had had enough of empire and would now consider every means necessary — however violent or ugly — to drive it from their corner.

Tony Blair commissioned a report a few years ago.

New British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in a meeting last Tuesday said some powerful words …

“On behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry.”

  • 14 people died
  • It was 38 years ago
  • The speech was only 11 minutes long

 “What happened should never ever have happened.  Some members of our armed forces acted wrongly. The government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces. And for that, on behalf of the government, indeed on behalf of our country, I am deeply sorry.”

Is forgiveness possible?

-          In Ireland?

What about in your life?

  • What happened to you should never have happened.
  • Someone you trusted acted wrongly.
  • Someone is responsible…and that person might not ever be “deeply sorry.”

Can you forgive?

ü  Your Dad?

ü  Teacher

ü  Pastor

ü  Sister

ü  Boss

1. Forgiveness is one of the hardest, but most important, things we’ll ever learn.

It is necessary in our messed-up world.

  • Everyone who loves someone will be offended by them
  • Every friendship will have a falling out
  • Every place of work will face the stress of conflict

And in every situation, when the words stop flying and fists stop clenching, ultimately there in something that needs to be done … forgiveness.

Unless real forgiveness is possible, every relationship we will have is doomed to failure.

Sayings we might Know about Forgiveness

Forgiveness is giving up our rights to being angry

Forgiveness is setting a prisoner free, and realizing that it’s you

Forgiveness helps us reflect God’s compassion (To ere is human, to forgive is divine.)

Why is it so hard, so important, so impossible?

2.  We Think of Forgiveness as a Zero-Sum Game

A.  Define Zero-Sum

This is a situation in which a someone’s gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s).

If the total gains of the participants are added up, and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero.


B.  If I Forgive … You Gain and I Loose

It feels unjust

-          Shouldn’t they pay?

-          Aren’t they getting away with it?

-          What about … all my reasons

Something primal in us raises its head and wants to keep us from forgiving … and for some very good reasons.

When we forgive, we actually do loose something.

C.  Limited Quantities of Forgiveness

That’s why the Rabbi’s of Jesus’ time debated this and said, not more than 3 times.

When you forgive, you do loose something

-          Some justified vengeance is deserved

-          Some real anger has been brewing

-          Some real hurt has been done

No one can absorb too much of that … but we should offer some.

Three times seems right.

Peter, in v.21, is being super-generous

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” ” (Matthew 18:21)

3.  Forgiveness Actually Worse Than A Zero-Sum Game

Pattern of forgiveness in v.27

  • Take Pity
  • Let Him Go
  • Cancel the Debt

A.  Un-Payable Debt

A talent was seventy-five pounds, so ten thousand talents = 750,000 LBS

We do not know whether these were talents of gold or silver, but since Jesus is trying to exaggerate the contrast between this debt and the relatively small debt of the other servant, we may suppose that he was thinking of the more valuable of the two talents.  (cf Boice)

  • 16 ounces to a pound
  • So we are now dealing with 750,000 times 16, or 12 million ounces of gold.
  • Last Tuesday Gold hit a record high - $1258 an ounce
  • $15 billion, 96 million dollars.
    • For this to happen, probably a Satrap – Under King
    • Caesar owned everything
    • Gave areas to rulers (Like Herod) with funds to govern
    • Not just bad management of some personal money … but running California into the ground.
    • US Budget Deficit for April was $82.69 Billion … and the IRS wants you to pay it off … personally


  • That is beyond our comprehension, which is precisely Christ’s point.
  • It was an astronomical debt.

This huge debt in the story is an exaggeration … but its goal it to show us our debt to God

You might be thinking “I don’t owe God anything…”

But track with me here … when someone hurts you, do you want reasons why the person is justified, or do you want justice?

Even if you don’t feel connected to God, can you think of someone in your life who it feels like they owe you $15 billion?

 - What do you want from them … or for them?

B.  Undeserved Grace

That huge debt in the parable was forgiven.

-          This was big enough that it would hurt the kings ability to govern his country

-          The king wrote it off.

That doesn’t make the money come back

Someone has to absorb the debt … and the King chooses to be the one.

C.  This Is the Gospel

Jesus absorbs the debt for our sin


We are forgiven … not because God just shrugs and calls it good, but because someone has to pay.

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. ” (Colossians 2:13–14, ESV)

ILL – All the tools I’ve broken

-          Someone has to pay for each and every one of them.

When you forgive … you suffer.

  • You are letting go to something you are entitled to
  • You are giving up a part of your identity (especially if you’ve been mad long enough)
  • You are acting a little bit like Jesus

There Is Room For Everyone, Every Problem, Every Issue at the Cross

General Synod – Race, Gender, Sexuality

South Africa / Apartheid

White Privilege


4.  Living In This Grace Means That We Have Nothing To Loose and Nothing To Gain

You’ve already lost it all …

You’ve already gained it all …

Father’s Day Focus

Can you forgive your dad?

40% of kids who live in a Fatherless home haven’t seen their dads this year.

Dads … Can We Be Men of the Gospel?

Piper – Two issues men deal with, lust & anger … and he argues that anger is more dangerous.

We get frustrated

-          Wife

-          Kids

-          Job

-          Money


  • These frustrations build until it feels like nothing is right.
  • We seethe all the time
  • People are to be blamed
  • This kills everything … every other emotion
  • We become:
    • Sullen
    • Dull
    • Dead
    • Withdrawn
    • Short-Fused

How do you kill this?

Go to this parable every day.

Direct your mind to the blood-bought promises of God, not to your expectations and failures.

We can say we are wrong / sorry

ILL – The Fonz – Can’t say “I was wrong”

We Can Do Extra Work

Women’s work

Kids work

We Can Strive for More at Home and In Relationships





Forgiveness can take wounds that have long scarred over and bring healing

BONO on Ireland:

Healing is kind of a corny word but it’s peculiarly appropriate here; wounds don’t easily heal if they are not out in the open. [This] report brought openness — clarity — because at its core, it accorded all the people involved in the calamity their proper role.

The lost lives rose up from being statistics in documents in the Foreign Office to live once again. On the television news, we saw them ... the exact time, the place, the commonplace things they were doing ... William Nash, age 19, shot in the chest at close range, his father wounded trying to reach him ... William McKinney, age 26, shot in the back while tending the wounded ... Jim Wray, age 22, shot twice, the second round fired into his back while he was lying on the ground outside his grandparents’ house. We saw their faces in old photographs, smiles from 38 years ago ... the ordinary details of their ordinary … entirely innocent lives.

It’s not just the Devil who’s in the details ... God, it turns out, is in there too. Daylight ...

Men – Will you believe the Gospel enough for it to set you free to actually be a man?

Free from anger

Free from vengeance

Free to love

Everyone … Will you forgiven the men in your life?

Will we learn to forgive?


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