Reading in Matthew 18 about the parable of the unmerciful servant made me reflect back to verses I discussed in a previous blog post. In Romans 2:4-5, the Apostle Paul says:
Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
Here the extremely serious question arises as to whether those who are professing Christians, yet who are stubborn and have unrepentant hearts, will be Raptured with the true Church of Jesus Christ, or must go through the refining fires of the 7-year Tribulation, otherwise known as the Day of God’s Wrath.
Following on that, let’s review Matthew 18:21-35:
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Notice in this parable that the man has an impossible debt. Yet his master has mercy on him and forgives it all.
This is our sin condition before the Lord. Our sin is so great that we can never conceivably repay it. However, God in His great mercy, in the sacrifice of His Son, has forgiven us. Through this free gift of salvation, God forgives our sins as far as the east is from the west.
But this same man has a debtor. Unlike his master, he doesn’t forgive this man’s debt. Despite his pleas, the who owes the debt is cast into prison. Understand: he’s thrown in prison until he can repay the debt.
How can this possibly happen? In prison, you can’t work. It’s an impossible situation. This man will never be able to repay the debt.
The master hears of this situation, and it angers him greatly. He tells the man that because his master had mercy on him, so should he likewise have mercy on others and forgive their debts. So incensed is the master at this man’s heart condition that he reverses his initial mercy because of the unforgiveness this servant harbors. The master throws him in debtor’s prison until he can pay. Again, this is an impossible situation. He can never repay such a debt.
God likewise commands us to be merciful to others. He commands us to forgive others their sins against us. We are not to harbor bitterness and unforgiveness in our hearts.
If we continue to do so, there is a consequence. Let’s look at the last verses of this passage again:
In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.
Do you see that? If we don’t forgive others, God won’t forgive us!
What does He mean that He’ll hand us over to the jailer to be tortured?
This is the impossible circumstance. It illustrates the critical importance of forgiveness in God’s Kingdom.
Is this a situation where someone in sin doesn’t gain heavenly rewards? Does it mean someone losses their salvation? Can this imply that an unforgiving heart, just like in the Romans verses, may cause a believer living in this sin to go through the Tribulation for his heart to get right?
I don’t know the answers, but this Scripture gives a clear, unmistakable warning. God’s mercy is greater than anything we can imagine. However, He expects us to reflect the love of Christ in our lives.
If we live in the sin of unforgiveness, there may be terrible consequences for us as a result.