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?”
22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’
27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’
29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’
30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.
31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.
32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.
33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’
34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Peter questions Jesus as to how often we should forgive those who offend us. Seven times should be enough for a habitual offender. Jesus turns around and says in effect that seven times is nothing. We should forgive seventy times seven (70×7=490?), which would imply countless number of times. Jesus is dealing not only with the quantity but also the quality of forgiveness. He goes on to explain what He means through a parable.
Jesus likens “The Kingdom of heaven” to “a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.” Notice the length and details of the parable. During this process of account settling, “one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.” The servant prays to his master (mostly likely appeals) for patience and time to repay the debt. His master, moved with compassion, relents and releases the servant. He even writes off his debt!
The servant must have been relieved and happy at this turn of events. He is not punished but totally forgiven. This should have made him a grateful man not only towards his Master but the world at large. [I’d be very generous and forgiving towards one and all if my debts were written off!] The Master’s generosity and goodness should have flowed through him to others.
Not so this ungrateful servant. He finds a fellow servant who owes him almost nothing compared to what he owed his master. He “laid hands on him and took him by the throat!” Generosity and gratefulness are tossed out of the window! The fellow servant’s prayer for patience and time to repay the debt fall on deaf ears. He demands, “Pay me what you owe!” The ungrateful servant goes a step further and throws his debtor in prison.
His behavior has a serious impact on the other servants who report the matter to the Master. The Master is infuriated. He summons the ungrateful wretch and says to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” The Master delivers him over to the torturers / tormenters until “he should pay all that was due to him.”
Jesus concludes the parable by saying, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
The table below should give us an idea of the enormity of the debt the Master forgave because he had compassion and also the lack of it on the part of the ungrateful servant.
|Item||1 denarius||1 Talent (6000 denarii)|
|Unit||About 4 gm silver coin||About 33 kg gold|
|Value||A day’s wage||16 years’ wages|
|In the Parable||100 denarii = 400 gm silver coin
Just over a year’s wages.
|10000 talents = 330000 kg gold
About 160,000 years’ wages!
Jesus is teaching how God forgives our debts (sins) when we repent of them. In fact, He paid the debt on our behalf. He expects us to forgive our brothers and sisters in the same way.
That’s the key to forgiving. It has to be from the heart as God forgave (forgives) us. Nothing shallow about what our Master is teaching! Not from the lips but from the heart. With God everything involves our hearts. Sincerity of purpose.
Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39. See also Mark 12:30-31 and Luke 10:27.
“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7.
An unforgiving spirit leads to bitterness, anger, and resentment. A heart with such an attitude cannot have true fellowship with God. By not holding grudges we have a state of mind that is ready and willing to forgive. Reconciliation is the goal, and if there cannot be reconciliation, a willingness to forgive must be maintained. Jesus taught that God will forgive us only when we forgive others. Moreover, God keeps forgiving us every time we repent and ask to be forgiven.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14, 15.
“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11:25, 26.
If we do not forgive others then God would not forgive us. So, how many times should we forgive? As many times as necessary.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.