Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
(Matthew 18:21-35 ESV)
After explaining how Christians should handle a brother or sister who has sinned against them, Peter asks Jesus how many times someone should be forgiven. The general rule of the day was that a person should be forgiven three times and no more. This was based on some passages in Job and Amos [Job 33:29-30; Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13]. So Peter probably thought he was being very generous by offering to forgive someone seven times. But as, usual, Jesus has a different way of looking at things.
Instead of forgiving seven times, Jesus says we should forgive seventy-seven times (which actually means seventy groups of seven, or seventy times seven). Now, Jesus was not saying we should count up everyone else’s sins and when they get to 491 stop forgiving them. That would be impractical not to mention quite petty.
What Jesus was saying is that we should forgive an unlimited number of times and He explains the reason why (therefore) through a parable. As with all parables, they teach us something about the kingdom of heaven and our relationship with God. In this parable God is the king and Christians are the servants.
One of the servants owed the king ten thousand talents. In Greek the words “ten thousand” are the word μυριοι (pronounced: moo’-ree-oi). While it is the Greek word for 10,000 it also means “limitless; innumerable” and is the word from which we get our English word “myriad” which means the same thing. In other words, this servant had racked up an incalculable, and therefore unpayable, debt against the king.
The servant realized this and fell on his knees, throwing himself at the mercy of the king who had pity on him and forgave him the debt.
Notice that the servant at first claimed he could repay the debt if given some time. But this is ridiculous. This is analogous to someone trying to earn heaven by becoming a good person. It can’t happen. The servant didn’t need more time, he needed forgiveness. He needed his debt to be wiped out.
When a person becomes a born-again member of God’s family through faith [John 1:12] all our sins against God are forgiven. The infinite debt we owe God is erased and our sins are no longer held against us [Psalm 103:12; Daniel 9:9; Micah 7:18-19;1 John 1:9; Titus 3:2-7] because of God’s great mercy for us. God has compassion on those who are genuinely repentant and who throw themselves on His mercy.
Since Christians have been forgiven so much it is imperative that we be just as forgiving with other believers [Ephesians 4:32] as the parable teaches. Nothing characterizes the new nature of a Christian like forgiveness because nothing so characterizes the nature of God [Proverbs 19:11].
Christians are the light of the world. Our lives are to reflect God and show the world what God is like. There is no better and more meaningful way to do that than to forgive.
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