Brotherly Forgiveness

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Ten Thousand-Talent Debtors
The ten thousand-talent debtor in Matthew 18 instructs us in the way we are forgiven and received into the kingdom of heaven. All of us have been forgiven more than we could ever, in our responsibility, repay. For this reason, it is our place always to forgive in our hearts those that offend us.
The question of Peter, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” prompted a response of the Lord in the form of a parable. The parable teaches us why we should forgive and how often. “Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Seven is the number of perfection, and seventy (ten times seven) is perfection in responsibility. The real meaning of the Lord’s answer is not just until 490 times, but the perfect number of times, which is always.
“Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants” (vs. 23). The parable is a general description of all who are in the kingdom of heaven; it was not just an answer for Peter and the disciples.
A Parable of Wide Application
The parable has a wide application. All who profess to know the King in heaven are a part of the kingdom of heaven. Everyone who enters the kingdom of heaven is received there on the basis of being forgiven. All those in the kingdom of heaven are like the debtor who was forgiven. None enter on the basis of merit. Reception into the kingdom includes those who are real believers and those who are mere professors. Both are in the place of having received governmental forgiveness. Those that are true believers and have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them also have eternal forgiveness. But here He is speaking of the forgiveness which all receive from the King in heaven. They are all like the debtor that owed ten thousand talents.
“And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents” (vs. 24). One person serves as an example of all, because “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” We are all reduced to the same level. And God offers forgiveness to all through the Lord Jesus, who died for all.
When the king demanded the payment, “the servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all” (vs. 26). The consequences of not paying the debt and his inability to repay such a great debt forced the debtor to beg for time. This was at least an acknowledgment of what he owed. The king forgave the debtor because he was “moved with compassion,” not because the debtor could repay the debt. This made him debtor to the mercy and forgiveness of the king instead of the ten thousand talents. He still owed very much to the king. The realization of this teaches us why we should forgive. Although Peter found it hard to consider forgiving many offenses, this would make him conscious of how much God had forgiven him and of his obligation to forgive others for God’s sake.
An Unforgiving Attitude
The seriousness of holding an unforgiving attitude towards others is brought out in the following verses, where the servant would not forgive his fellow-servant a much smaller debt. The same words pleading for mercy were now addressed to him: “Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all” (vs. 29), yet he would not forgive. He “cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.” Such an attitude was unbecoming even though the one hundred pence was rightly owed. It misappropriated the forgiveness he had received from the king and thus misrepresented him to his fellow-servant.
“So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee?” (vss. 3133). The Lord desires that those in His kingdom show the same compassion and forgiveness to others that they have received from Him. If we do not forgive, we are counterproductive to the character and purpose of His will.
The Remedy for an Unforgiving Spirit
The following verse describes the remedy for those who are unforgiving toward their fellow-servants. “And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him” (vs. 34). This is the governmental dealing of God, allowing “tormentors” to discipline those who are not forgiving to others. This can be done in many different ways, such as sickness, loss of property, loss of work or even being taken away in death. It is not a question of whether they are true believers or not. The sovereign King controls all things and can bring about chastening to cause His servants to cease to misuse His compassion and forgiveness.
The Lord Jesus terminates the parable with the admonition, “So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (vs. 35). This word is directed to our heart. While it is true that it is inappropriate to show forgiveness until a wrong is confessed, yet this verse speaks of the forgiveness from the heart regardless of the attitude of the offender. When the time comes that the offender recognizes his wrong, then forgiveness can be extended publicly. We are to forgive from the heart, as expressed in Ephesians 4:3232And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32), “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
D.C. Buchanan