The Unforgiving Slave
An article specially designed for parents to read with their children
HAS anyone ever done something wrong to you? Did he hurt you or say something unkind to you? It made you feel bad, didn’t it?
When something like that happens, should you treat the other person in the same unkind way that he treats you? What do you think?
If someone hurts them, many people will hurt the other person right back. But Jesus said that this is not good. He taught that we should forgive those who do wrong to us.
But what if a person is mean or unkind to us many times? How many times should we forgive him? That is what the apostle Peter wanted to know one day. So he asked the Great Teacher: ‘Do I have to forgive him as many as seven times?’
Jesus did not tell Peter that seven times would be plenty. He said: ‘You are to forgive seventy-seven times,’ if the person sins against you that many times.
That is a lot of times to forgive someone! We do not even remember that many wrongs or bad things done to us, do we? And this is what Jesus was showing. We should forgive others over and over again. We should not try to remember the number of wrongs others may do to us. If they ask to be forgiven, we should forgive them.
Jesus wanted to show his disciples how very important it is to be forgiving. So after he answered Peter’s question, he told his disciples a story. Would you like to hear it?
Once there was a king. He was a good king. He was very kind. He would even lend money to his slaves when they needed help.
But the day came when the king wanted to get his money back. So he called his slaves who owed him money, and asked them to pay him. Well, one man was brought in who owed the king sixty million pieces of money! That is a lot of money. It is more money than I have had in all my life.
The slave had spent the king’s money and had nothing with which to pay it back. So the king gave orders for this slave to be sold. The king also said to sell the slave’s wife and his children and everything that the slave owned. Then with the money received from the sale the king was to be paid. How do you suppose this made the slave feel?
The slave felt very bad. So right away he fell down before the king and put his face to the ground. ‘Please, do not do that to me,’ he begged the king. ‘Give me more time. And I will pay back everything that I owe you.’ If you were the king, what would you have done with the slave?
The good king felt very sorry for his slave. So he told the slave that he did not have to pay back any of the money. He did not have to pay back even one of the sixty million pieces of money! How happy that must have made the slave!
But what did the slave do then? He went out and found another slave who owed him just one hundred pieces of money. That is not much money at all when compared to sixty million pieces. The man grabbed his fellow slave by the neck and began to choke him. And he said to him: ‘Pay back that one hundred pieces that you owe me.’
Can you imagine a person doing something like that? The slave had been forgiven so much by the king. And now he turned around and demanded that a fellow slave pay back one hundred pieces. This was not a kind thing to do.
Well, the slave that owed just one hundred pieces was poor. He could not pay the money back right away. So he fell down at the feet of his fellow slave and begged: ‘Please give me more time, and I will pay back what I owe you.’ Should the man have given his fellow slave more time? Would you have done it?
Well, this man was not kind, as the king had been. He wanted to be paid right now. And because his fellow slave could not do it, he had him thrown into jail. He certainly was not forgiving.
Other slaves saw all this happen. They did not like it. They felt sorry for the slave who was thrown into jail. So they went and told the king about it.
The king did not like what happened either. He became very angry at the unforgiving slave. So he called him, and said: ‘You bad slave, did I not forgive what you owed me? So, should you not have been forgiving to your fellow slave?’
He should have learned a lesson from the good king. But he had not. So now the king had the unforgiving slave thrown into jail until he paid back the sixty million pieces of money. And, of course, in jail he could never earn the money to pay it back. So he would stay there till he died.
As Jesus finished telling this story, he said to his followers: ‘In the same way my heavenly Father will also deal with you if you do not forgive each one his brother from your hearts.’—Matt. 18:21-35.
You see, we all owe God very much. Everything good that we have has come from God. Our life comes from God, but because we do wrong things he could take it away from us. Never, in our whole lifetime, could we earn enough money to pay God what we owe him.
When compared with what we owe to God, other people owe us very little. What they owe us is like the one hundred pieces of money that the one slave owed to the other. But what we owe to God is like the sixty million pieces that the slave owed to the king.
God is very kind, and he will forgive us what we owe him. But he does that only if we believe in his Son Jesus, and if we forgive other people who do wrong to us. That’s something to think about, isn’t it?
So, if someone does something unkind to you, but then says that he is sorry, what will you do? Will you forgive him? What if it happens many times? Will you still forgive him?
If we were the person who was asking to be forgiven, we would want the other person to forgive us, wouldn’t we? We should do the same for him. We should not just say that we forgive him, but we should really forgive him from our heart. When we do that, we show that we really want to be followers of the Great Teacher.