Focal Passage: Matthew 18:21-35
You may remember the movie from a few years back called, “Pay it Forward.” The movie begins with a student who comes up with an idea for a class project. If someone does something for you, you don’t pay it back. You pay it forward by doing something good for three other people within 24 hours. Each of those three people then does something for three other people and so on. After two weeks of this process more than four million people will be touched by a good deed.
Apparently the servant in our story didn’t see the movie. If he felt gratitude, joy or thanksgiving he certainly didn’t pass it forward to anyone else. At the beginning of our story we see the servant has incurred a debt of millions of dollars. How did he get such a huge debt — embezzlement, misuse of funds, stealing? We have to assume the master trusted this servant and gave him a lot of freedom with his money.
Although the servant offered to repay the debt, a servant simply does not have access to that kind of money. The master canceled the entire debt, telling the man, “You are free to go.”
The first person the servant saw was someone who owed him something like $20. We might expect, “Hey guess what just happened to me? I want to show you grace like that.” Instead he grabs his friend by the neck and demands his money.
The other guy says, “Be patient with me and I will pay you back.”
But our forgiven friend is not going to cut him any slack. He is not going to show any mercy.
When the master heard what happened he threw him in jail, where this time he is to be tortured until he pays his debt. It seems the servant’s debt was settled but his heart was not. He should have come from his experience overwhelmed with the generosity of his master so that he wanted to pay it forward to others. Instead he took the gift for granted and never considered the implications.
We sympathize with the main character, then rejoice in his good fortune. We stand in shock when he grabs his friend and demands his money, then cheer when he gets thrown in jail. It’s all good until you realize that Jesus is talking about you and me. Look again at the main character — he’s got our face.
As a saying attributed to Confucius goes, “Those who cannot forgive others break the bridge over which they themselves must pass.”