Forgiven and Forgiving

MEMORY VERSE: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” —Matthew 6:12

MATTHEW 18:21-35

IT HAS been said that to err is human, and to forgive is divine! Certainly the spirit of forgiveness is one of the characteristics of God. It is one of the manifestations of God’s love. To be like God in this respect we also must exercise the spirit of forgiveness, and it must be a forgiveness from the heart, and not expressed merely in words.

Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive one who sinned against him, asking if seven times would be sufficient. The Talmud placed the limit at three. Probably Peter knew about this, and reasoned that his suggestion of seven would be very liberal and probably pleasing to Jesus. But the true spirit of forgiveness cannot be measured in this manner.

Jesus’ reply to Peter was that he should be willing to forgive seventy times seven. This is just like saying that he should be willing to keep right on forgiving, regardless of the number of times. And this is truly the spirit of the Heavenly Father, for do we not go to him daily, and often many times a day, asking for his forgiveness of our shortcomings? The Bible speaks of this as going to the throne of grace, there to obtain mercy and find grace to help in every time of need.

Then Jesus gave a parable to illustrate the point. In the parable is a “king” and his “servant.” The servant owes the king a huge sum of money—estimated in our currency as being ten million dollars. This tremendous sum is used perhaps to illustrate the servant’s impossibility of paying the debt, just as it is impossible for us to settle our debt with the Heavenly Father.

At first the “king” refuses to do anything about the servant’s debt, but to demand payment, and this would entail the selling of all that he had, even to the selling of his family into slavery. “The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him [the king], saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.”

This is a moving story, and certainly we cannot help being touched with the compassion of the “king” or “lord” of the parable. How like our Heavenly Father, who, through the provision of grace he has made in Christ Jesus, assures all who go to him in the spirit of faith, obedience, and worship that they will be forgiven.

But then an unusual circumstance develops in the parable. It seems that the servant who owed ten million dollars to his lord, and had his debt forgiven, had a small amount owed to him by one of his fellow servants—a paltry twenty dollars, in our currency—and he demanded full payment, and failing to receive it had his friend committed to prison.

Obviously this man who had owed the huge sum, although he had greatly benefited by being forgiven, had failed to gain the real lesson of his experience, for he had not himself learned to exercise the spirit of love and compassion. Had he learned this lesson he would have been more than happy to extend forgiveness to the man who owed him so little compared to his own debt, which had been forgiven.

The lord of the parable, after hearing of what had happened, summoned his servant before him and said, “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? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, [jailers] till he should pay all that was due unto him.”

Finished with the parable, Jesus then makes the application. He said, “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) It is this same thought which is contained in our memory verse: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”—Matt. 6:12

This is part of our Lord’s Prayer, and how meaningful that our forgiveness by the Heavenly Father is made dependent upon our forgiveness of those who trespass against us! How many times do we think of this when we are inclined to withhold forgiveness from others.


What is implied by forgiving seventy times seven?

What lesson did Jesus draw from the parable of today’s lesson?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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