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Parables Bible Study 5: The Unmerciful Servant

Title: Parables Bible Study 5: The Unmerciful Servant

Subject: Forgiveness

Age: 13 + years

Location: Matthew 18:21-35

Handout for note taking: Bible Study Worksheet

Begin the bible study with a prayer. Read the passage, and then allow time for quiet reflection. Share the following notes on the parable.

This parable focuses on forgiveness. When are you forgiven, you must forgive. The question arises, after Christ died for us, what state are we in? If we are forgiven, then where must we begin?

Review Matthew 6, the Lord's Prayer. We request of God to act toward us as we act towards others. So forgiveness, we can say is more than a commandment, forgiveness is a condition for being forgiven.

Review the Sermon on the Mount. Spiritual disciplines include alms, prayer, fasting, trusting in God completely, and the release of judgment. Notice that the final and most difficult task, forgiveness or the release of judgment comes after the other four disciplines. We can only reach such a blessed state if we have mastered the easier disciplines. To some degree, while each of these disciplines stands on its own, they are truly related and dependant on one another. They could be viewed as preparatory to the last spiritual discipline; the ability to not judge. What we are saying is that all of these disciplines prepare the soul to be able to love, and thereby release any hold we have over judgment. For example, if we take just one of the preparatory spiritual disciplines such as trusting God completely, we can see its relation to judgment in the following manner: By trusting in God in all things we learn to let go of our will. We learn to accept all things as God directed, and thus we are able to remember God.

The matins service has in its beginning the hymn, "God is the Lord and has appeared unto us, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord." This hymn is certainly a reflection on God's incarnation, His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and His second coming, but it can also be a way of remembering that our lives are God directed and we must receive the day as a gift from God.

Rightly the soul is cast as a feminine noun for our souls must be in the position to receive God. Now once we are able to receive all things as God directed, either sent or allowed by Him, forgiveness and the ability to forgive takes on a different character. See Matthew 7:1-2, "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you." Finally, we can say that these words of Christ, describe the actions of/qualities that mark the children of the Kingdom. In a similar way we could say that forgiveness is a requirement of anyone who wishes to be a citizen of the heavenly kingdom.

Debts and Trespasses (opheilemata and paratomata; found in Matthew 6:12 and 6:14):
The emphasis of each word differs.

  • 6:12, debts: sins of omission; sins of failure, we owe our fellow human beings a certain level of treatment based on the fact that they are made in the image and likeness of God. When we fail to do this we sin. Neglect is also failure to do; to be remiss about a duty or obligation.
  • 6:14, trespasses: sins of commission, while the sin of omission is the sin of a small heart, the sins of commission are the sins of a heart grown cold or a heart that has been hardened. These are sins against someone, offenses towards or directed towards someone. These include Pride, Greed, Gluttony, Immorality, Hatred, and Vengeance.

A response to Peter's question in Matthew 18:21, "Then Peter came to Him and said, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?'" What follows is a parable that illustrates the absolute necessity of forgiveness and also how our forgiveness can have no limit.

Notice how it begins, the Kingdom is once again being described and here the means to enter it. There is great difference between the amounts owed, ten thousand talents, an impossible sum for the laborer to repay, and 100 denarii, a 100 days worth of wages. Verse 28, "But that servant went out," the Blessed Theophylact sees this as something more than changing physical location. "It is a forgetting of god and, after having received the inestimable joy of forgiveness, a lapsing into inhumanity" On Matthew 18:28-30.

The power and importance of forgiveness, in all of Jesus' teaching, forgiveness is the most important and central component. First God has, will, and continues to forgive us. Being forgiven, then we must learn to forgive.

  • Colossians 1.14 "in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins;"
  • Colossians 3.13 "bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do."

We must learn to forgive others and forgive ourselves. The height of spiritual pride is found in an un-forgiving heart. Careful examination of the heart is therefore necessary. For what does true forgiveness look like? Are we certain that all the corners of our soul have been examined and cleaned?

At this time, read the passages once more and allow time for quiet reflection. If there is time, you may have a discussion about these parables.

End the bible study with a prayer.

Prepared by Fr. Evan Armatas

Click the link to return to the Parables Bible Study page or continue to the next Parables Bible Study session:  The Laborers and the Vineyard.