The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
Matthew 18:21–35 (NKJV)
Around this time last year, our family made a life changing decision.
Yep, that’s right.
We finally decided to extend our family and we pulled the trigger and got ourselves a puppy.
Featured on the screen, you’ll see she’s a sheltie.
Isn’t she cute?
And me wanting to be a good dad, gave my kids the honor of naming her.
They came up with the genius idea of calling our new puppy, North.
Do you know why?
Because we’re living in North Carolina!
But it didn’t take long before North became part of the St Louis clan.
But having puppy come with several responsibilities like walking them from time to time.
When North got old enough, I bought a leash and attempted to go outside to walk her.
But North wasn’t having it.
Every time I tried to walk her, she tried to get away from the leash.
So in order to resolve our disagreement, every time she would pull away, all I needed to do was yank the leash, which pulled her back so she couldn’t get free.
So that got me thinking.
The leash I held in my hand, held her hostage, kept her bound, and she was unable to run away.
She couldn’t break the chain.
No matter how much she tried, she couldn’t wiggle her way out of it, bark her way out of it, or run her way out of it.
She was stuck and bound.
The more she tried, the harder it got.
You know in the same way, many of us, may find ourselves held hostage by a spiritual leash.
Where the links on the chain are many.
There’s the link of anger, the link of bitterness, the link of resentment, and the link of revenge.
But no matter how many links are in the chain, they all boil down to one thing, unforgiveness.
There are many of you sitting here today who are being held hostage to an offense that was caused by someone in your life, once upon a time.
And if that chain isn’t broken, my fear is that you’ll never be able to experience the joy, peace, and freedom that can be only found in Jesus Christ.
So today, I’ve tagged this sermon, “Breaking the Chains of Unforgiveness” because I believe that there are many people who need to be set free from the links of bitterness, anger, resentment, hurt, and pain that has controlled your life for far too long.
And my prayer and hope is that God can speak to you today in a way that you simply cannot ignore.
Whether you were the offended or the offender, God wants to set you free today.
d) So let’s turn to our text for this morning.
If you have a Bible with you and I hope you do, please open them to Matthew 18:21-35.
We will be reading from the NKJV.
e) I believe the Word of God is powerful, sufficient, and true, able to address the difficult and complex issues of our world and I believe that unforgiveness is an issue that’s plagued believers for quite some time.
So, what does the Bible teach?
I believe Matthew 18:21-35 has three elements that will help us wrestle with this difficult subject:
a. Element#1-The Problem of Unforgiveness (v.21-22)
Element#2-The Parable of Unforgiveness (Depicted in 3 scenes) (v.23-34)
Element#3-The Penalty of Unforgiveness (v.35)
Then we will end this morning by providing you with some helpful tips so you can overcome unforgiveness and begin to break those chains that’s keeping you from experiencing freedom in Jesus Christ.
The Problem of Unforgiveness (v.
Matthew 18:21–22 (NKJV)
21Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?
Up to seven times?”
22Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Before we look at unforgiveness, we need to understand forgiveness.
Dr. Charles Stanley’s book The Gift of Forgiveness offers a helpful definition: He says, “Forgiveness is the act of setting someone free from an obligation to you that is a result of a wrong done against you.”
It’s the deliberate and intentional act of freeing someone from a debt that was owed to you.
Forgiveness is when someone ceases to feel resentment for wrongs and offenses.
According to Charles Stanley, forgiveness has 3 elements:
1. There’s the injury…
2. Then there’s the debt that resulted from the injury
3. Then there’s the cancellation of the debt
In order for one to forgive, all 3 of those elements must be present.
Peter’s question in verse 21 comes from Jesus’s teaching on Church discipline in verse 15 of the same chapter.
Look with me in verse 15, it reads, 15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he hears you, you have gained your brother.”
At the core of Peter’s question was this idea of an offense/injury.
He really wanted to know what to do if you were offended by someone and furthermore, how long should you put up with them?
We’ve all experienced repeated offenders before (to some degree).
Whether it’s a friend that’s dishonest or a family member that keeps borrowing money but never repaying, sometimes our patience runs thin.
Regardless of what that may look like for you, we’ve either seen it or experienced it.
I think we can relate a little to Peter’s question here.
Peter wanted to know if there was a limit or cap to forgiveness.
Peter knew that the Rabbis of his day suggested that a person should forgive the offense of a brother up to 3 times.
However, Peter thought he was being generous when he suggested 7 times.
You see, the number 7 in the Bible represented completeness and was always understood in a positive way.
But there are some problems that stick out here with his question:
You see, he assumed that in every conflict that resulted in wrongdoing in his life, he was going to be the victim.
He was sure that he would be the offended party.
“He asked Jesus, how many times shall he forgive his brother who sins against him?”
In other words, if there was fault, then it was against him, not the other way around.
That meant there was a level of pride in Peter that needed correction.
He lacked humility and Jesus was about to help him see the error in his question.
2. Another issue in Peter’s question is when he asks Jesus, if there’s a limit or cap to how often one ought to forgive.
Peter assumes that once you’ve forgiven the person 7 chances to get it right, then you no longer have to deal with that person anymore.
Perhaps he thought Jesus would be pleased with him increasing the limit from 3 to 7.
Although there are problems with Peter’s questions, I do think they are legitimate questions.
Because many people in our day have to deal with repeated offenses by the same individual all the time.
Whether it’s a family member, a spouse, a best friend and etc.
The offenses and/or debts that we find the most difficult to forgive are usually committed by the people who are the closest to us.
But Jesus shocks Peter when he replies by saying that a person ought to forgive not just seven times, but seventy times seven times.
Jesus takes the gracious number offered by Peter and multiplies it by seventy.
Meaning, if a brother or sister stole your fish or boat Peter, then you’d have to forgive him or her 490 times before you can move on.
Can you imagine the look on Peter’s face!
That was an impossible number to track.
But Jesus was making a point: He wanted him to understand what forgiveness really meant from a divine perspective.
If God graciously forgave our debt of sin and considered the matter settled, he expects us to do the same.
But by the show of hands, how many people sitting here today can say with certainty the number of times they’ve sinned against God? What’s the number?
How many times have we lied to him or made empty promises or made commitments to him only to go back and do our thing without even a shred of concern?
The answer to that question is obviously no one.