The Circle of Forgiveness: The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Circle of Forgiveness - Photo by Begona Jan 29, 2016

I sat at the kitchen table and folded the crisp pages of the bill we received after my last shoulder surgery. We owed over forty-eight thousand dollars.

After incurring extra expenses when serving as my mom’s live-in caregiver, we depleted our savings. Still, God provided every time a need arose.

Not once did my husband hesitate when I asked him to send supplies or told him about unexpected expenses during my time away. But this?

I pressed my face into my hands. I don’t know what to do, Lord.

Considering that my husband had recently taken a severe pay cut after nearly a year of unemployment, even paying half the amount of this medical bill would require years of payments. I mulled over my minimal options, unfolded the letter, and laid it flat on the table.

Help us, Lord.

I called the office, explained our situation to the billing clerk, and asked her for a payment plan as I held back tears.

She sighed. “Hold on a second.”

As the on-hold music played, I prayed. Your will be done, Lord.

The music stopped. “Are you there?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

She cleared her throat. “We zeroed out your account.”

I swallowed hard. “Excuse me?”

“The doctor zeroed out your account.”

My voice quivered. “But we owe you−”

“Not anymore. He said focus on recovery.” Her voice softened. “We’re sorry about your mom.”

I stared at the bill in front of me. Zero balance? “Thank You, Lord.”

The clerk chuckled.

After we said goodbye, I called my husband to share the good news. His response mirrored mine.

For a brief moment, I considered saving the bill. But why would I want a constant reminder of what I used to owe?

The doctor had forgiven our debt. Completely.

In Matthew 18:23-35, Jesus shares “The Parable of The Unmerciful Servant.” In this story, a king decided to settle his accounts. When a servant realized he was unable to pay the amount owed, he pleaded for mercy. The compassionate king canceled his debt of ten thousand talents.

The servant immediately left the king’s presence and went looking for a fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii. When he found his fellow servant, he choked him, demanded full payment, and refused to offer mercy.

He had forgotten the mercy the king had showed him for a debt much higher than what his fellow servant owed.

In New Testament times, ten thousand talents equaled to several million dollars. A denarius compared as chump change, a whopping sixteen cents. One hundred denarii could be earned and repaid with three months wages. But ten thousand talents amounted to an overwhelming debt.

When the king heard about the unmerciful servant, his anger burned. He rebuked the man and threw him in jail to be tortured until he could pay back all he owed.

After presenting the shameful behavior of the unmerciful servant, Jesus says, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35, NIV)

Whenever I struggle with forgiveness, I ask God for a reminder of what forgiveness means.

Forgiveness is an ongoing choice empowered by the Holy Spirit, a difficult journey requiring a daily commitment. Forgiveness is a conscious choice of freeing the forgiver, not pretending the sin never occurred.

Forgiveness isn’t an act of minimizing or justifying the sin of the offender. Forgiveness isn’t dependent on the guilt of the offender.

Forgiveness is a direct reflection of the heart of the offended and their personal relationship with God.

When we forgive, we’re trusting the Lord to judge and offer mercy to whom He chooses. We’re taking responsibility for our own sin, recognizing our need for grace and forgiveness, and understanding others have the same need.

Sometimes, it seems as if evil reigns and sins go undetected. But, the Bible teaches we will all be held responsible for everything we’ve done, including our willingness or refusal to forgive others.

The King of Kings will settle every account when He returns. But will we be willing to follow His example and obey His command to forgive, no matter what the personal cost?

When my doctor wrote off our account balance, he forgave our overwhelming financial debt out of the goodness of his heart, not because of my actions or words. In the same way, God offers forgiveness to those who repent and turn from their sin, because of His own goodness.

The circle of forgiveness begins at the cross.

An intimate exchange that begins with us, as individuals, in loving surrender to God, forgiveness is a command, not a request or a good idea.

This hasn’t always been an easy concept for me to grasp. In the past, I excused my unforgiveness by comparing my sins to the sins of those who hurt me. I justified my unforgiveness as a response to being hurt.

When forgiveness feels impossible, we can ask God to help us see ourselves and others through His eyes. We can ask Him to give us compassion for others who, like us, desperately require God’s grace.

When we consider all Christ did for us, all He gave for us, all He has forgiven us, our icy hearts melt into submission and loving obedience.

In His power and by His grace, our forgiveness toward others will begin to flow freely, more often than not.

Lord, thank You for knowing how hard it is for us to trust You to decide who deserves mercy, especially when we’ve been hurt. Please reveal our own sin to us and help us to stop comparing ourselves to others. Give us courage to commit to living a lifestyle of forgiving, as we remember You alone are qualified to be judge. In Jesus’ name, Amen.




A version of The Circle of Forgiveness: The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant by Xochi E. Dixon was previously published on the FBCVV Blog in March 2015.

Photo take by and used with permission from Begona Maier.

Meme Created by X. E. Dixon



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