Ungrateful Servant


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In Matthew 18:23-35, we read, 

“23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.

25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:

33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?

34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”


This parable describes a servant who owed the king 10,000 talents and when the sum was demanded, he was not able to pay it back. And because he wasn’t able to pay it back, the Lord of the servant was going to have him and his entire family be sold as slaves and take everything that he had. 

But when the servant begged for mercy, the King was moved with compassion, and forgave his entire debt. 

But sometime after he was forgiven, this same servant went and found his fellow servant who owed him an hundred pence. 

The parable goes on to describe how this forgiven servant grabbed his fellow servant by the throat and demanded what he owed. And when the fellow servant wasn’t able to pay him back right away, the servant who was forgiven by the king previously showed no pity and threw him in prison until he should pay the debt. 

When the King learned how this servant treated his fellow servant, he was not very happy. In fact, He called him a wicked servant and punished him and reinstated all that the servant owed him previously. 

And Jesus ends the parable by saying, vs. 35 “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” 

One of the first immediate lessons we find in this parable is that, unlike the unmerciful servant, having had God’s incredible mercy extended to us, we also ought to extend mercy to those who have wronged us. 

Another lesson we find in this parable is that there’s a condition to God’s forgiveness. The parable illustrates how the king’s forgiveness was contingent upon how the servant treated his fellow servant. It appears that how we respond how we were treated and how we choose to reconcile our relationships with one another has a direct bearing on how God chooses to reconcile with us. In fact, the king’s forgiveness was actually forfeited when the servant was unaffected by his own forgiveness by not demonstrating the same act of mercy to his fellow servant. 

And if you haven’t noticed before, we can find further evidence of this principle in the Lord’s Prayer: 

Matthew 6:9-12 “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread.”

And Notice the following verse. Verse 12 reads, “And forgive us our debts, [How?] as we forgive our debtors….” 

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus showed His disciples (and all of us) how to pray. Interestingly, what Jesus has instructed us to do is to build into our prayers, a request for God to forgive us in the SAME way that we have forgiven others who have wronged us. In other words, the way that we are to ask for forgiveness, actually forces us to reexamine how we have treated others. 

The Lord’s Prayer concludes with verse 13, but just in case we’ve missed the point, in the very following verse, Jesus states it very plainly how our un-forgiveness toward others would ultimately nullify God’s forgiveness toward us. 

Verse 14 says, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” 

So, again we see that there’s a condition to God’s forgiveness. 

Another way to look at this is that, anyone who refuses to reconcile or forgive others is really demonstrating that he has not truly received Christ’s forgiveness himself. (see Matt 5:23-24)

The servant owed the king 10,000 talents 

A talent was a unit of measurement for weighing precious metals, usually gold or silver and it was a way to measure a monetary value. And a talent is equal to about 75 lb or 34 kg. 

The parable doesn’t tell us whether it was a talent of gold or silver…but for the sake of our illustration, let’s assume that it was gold and lets just put this in perspective as to how much 10,000 talents would be worth in our day. 

Based on the price of gold today (Oct, 2020) being about $1,930/oz, one talent of gold would be worth about $2,316,000 million dollars. Therefore, 10,000 talents of gold would be over 23 billion dollars.

Did you know that according to a recent survey, an average salary in the US is $50,756?

How many years do you suppose it would take for a person earning an average US salary to pay off 23 billion dollars? 

ven if he devoted his entire annual salary each year, it would take him 456,300 years! 

Since I live in the Bay Area where the average annual salary is higher than the national average… The average salary of a high-tech employee in the Bay Area is about $124,000. Again, even if the person devoted his entire annual salary to pay off 23 billion, it would take him 185,483 years. 

The servant who owed ten thousand talent begged for mercy, but remember, he also promised that, with some time, he would repay the entire debt.  

But, it becomes quite obvious how absurd it was for this servant to even think that he COULD “pay everything back”. 

Thus, we can see that the scenario described in the parable shows that the debt that was demanded was insurmountable and that the indebted servant was not able to repay with his own efforts, even if he wanted to. And the parable is drawing a parallel as to the debt that we owe as sinners, and how we also cannot ever repay with our own efforts.

But here is an important point, while God’s forgiveness may be conditional, we shouldn’t confuse the conditions of forgiveness with the idea of “earning” forgiveness. 

If God says we must do something to be forgiven, the doing of that thing is not necessarily “earning” our forgiveness. 

Rather, we are fulfilling, what God deems it a necessary demonstration or fruit that shows that we have truly accepted his gift of mercy. In other words, God’s free gift of mercy, when it is received with gratitude should transform the receiver and it should manifest in showing mercy toward others. 

Because, if God was NOT willing to forgive us, and if God never initiated His plan of redemption, If Jesus did not shed his blood on our behalf, then it wouldn’t have mattered what we did. Our only option would have been a fearful eternal death. 

We often forget that we are not entitled to receive anything from God… and God does not owe us anything. But thank God, not only is He willing to forgive, he loves us so much that He does not hold anything back! 

And not unlike the servant who owed the king 10,000 talents, we are also indebted to God. We owe a debt that demands our life and it must be paid.

And not unlike the servant, when we cry out to God, when we sincerely repent and beg for mercy, God always extends his mercy to us and forgives us.

But how many times have we gotten on our knees, confessed our sins and actually considered how we have treated others who have wronged us?

How many times have we asked for forgiveness and soon after, were so quick to lash out at someone for even a little wrongdoing?

How many times have we asked for God’s mercy while still holding unto feelings of bitterness, resentment and anger toward someone who have wronged us?

You know, we experience God’s amazing grace and mercy every day… and we so routinely, confess our sins but many of us have such little understanding of the gravity of our confession…. We should never forget that an infinitely high price was paid in order for God to forgive us. It required the very life of the Son of God and His shed blood. 

Hundred Pence 

But Let’s go back and reconsider the “hundred pence” that the fellow servant owed the first servant. 

Matt 18:28 says,“But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence…? 

How much do you suppose 100 pence is worth in our day? 

The effect of this description kind of gets lost in translation, so it’s easy for us to overlook and we may think that it’s just a small amount that we can easily dismiss. 

But let’s think about another parable, the parable of the laborers, found in Matt. 20.

If you remember this parable, there was a wealthy man who hired laborers for the whole day. And he hired laborers through out the day at different times, but at the end of the day, he paid all of them the same wage…

Do you remember, what the full day’s wage was? 

Matthew 20:1, 2 “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. 2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.”

In this parable, the laborer’s full day’s wage was a penny. And this was a reasonable wage for a working-class man at the time.  The word penny in the original Greek is “dā-nä’-rē-on”, and it’s actually the same word as pence. 

So assuming that laborers took the Sabbath off, they made 6 pence a week. So, one hundred pence is about 16 and a half weeks’ salary, or almost 4 months’ wage.

So 100 pence was not a small amount; it was about one-third of a year’s salary, or four months’ wages.

Now, let me ask you a question. Is it so easy to just forgive someone who owes you four months salary? Just think about your own four-month’s salary…

So, in viewing the hundred pence as a substantial sum, and while we understand that it’s still pales in comparison to ten thousand talents, but it helps us to remember that it’s not merely the “little things” we need to forgive but something that may be considered a great deal of loss.

We need to forgive not just those who have annoyed us or inconvenienced us… like someone cutting us off during traffic but we need to forgive those who have really hurt us and hurt us badly—even those who have done terrible, unspeakable things to us; those who have maliciously mistreated us or have intentionally taken advantage of us.

Jesus says this in Matthew 5:43-44,

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” 

We’re told, not only to forgive those who have wronged us, but we are also called to even love our enemies. You realize that we don’t inherently possess the kind of love and compassion that Jesus calls us to have.

I mean, God forbid, me being a father of two children, if my children became victims of some heinous crime, or if a child predator violated their innocence, I honestly wouldn’t know what I would do or how I would react toward the perpetrator…. and I’m not so sure if I would be able to forgiv
e… I would readily concede that it would be very difficult, perhaps impossible, if it were not for God having to change my heart.

So, while there is a provision for God’s forgiveness (forgiving others), in order for us to fulfill the condition, it would actually require God to transform our hearts…We need God’s grace to work in our hearts even to fulfill the very condition needed. 

Titus 3:5 “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;”

Again, going back to the parable, why was the king so angry?

Ultimately, the King was angry because the servant was ungrateful.

Again, based on how he was treated, the servant should have been more than grateful for having received King’s mercy. 

You realize then that how we treat those who have wronged us is actually an indication as to how grateful we really are of God’s forgiveness toward us.

So then, when we forgive, when we extend mercy to those who have wronged us, it’s actually an expression of our gratitude toward God for all that He has done for us.

In other words, when we forgive, it’s really an act of thanksgiving toward God. Again, It’s an expression of our gratitude. We are demonstrating to God and to others as to how thankful and how grateful we really are for what God has done for us!

By contrast, when we harbor unforgiving spirit, when we withhold mercy, we are actually demonstrating that we are NOT grateful for what God has done for us…. In fact we are rejecting God’s mercy and we forfeit our own forgiveness…

So, again, when we forgive, it’s an act of thanksgiving; it’s an expression of our gratitude toward God.

Our future course of action affects our previous standing.

But this parable gives us another dimension. The servant in the parable WAS forgiven and yet his future course of action CHANGED his previous standing with his Lord.

Then the question is, “if it is possible to forfeit our previous forgiveness, then how does that affect our salvation? Are there parallels we can learn from this parable?

You’ve heard the phrase, “Once saved always saved”?

But, think about this… If anyone refuses to forgive, then he forfeits God’s mercy and his sins remain unforgiven.

Can a person be saved without his sins being forgiven?

Furthermore, if salvation can be lost, then when is that decided? 

Revelation 22:12 says, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”

This verse tells us that when Jesus comes, He comes with his reward.  So, if Jesus is bringing the reward with him, He must have decided or judged everyone’s fate at some point BEFORE his coming.

If that’s the case, then there must have been a time of investigation in order to determine whether or not a person is saved or lost.

Consider this: Whenever our prayer for forgiveness ascends to God from a true heart, God forgives us.  “Amen” But after we’re forgiven, we may at times change our minds…. Our subsequent actions may show that our repentance, while it may have been genuine at the time, was not permanent. And sometimes a person may choose to live a life of rebellion after he has been baptized, after he has had a saving relationship with Christ. (see Eze. 18:24)

Remember, in the parable, the servant WAS forgiven. But then, the servant’s future course of action was brought to view before the King by other fellow servants-there was, if you will, an investigation and consequently the king rescinded or overturned His previous decision. 

I would like for us think about the implications of this but within the context of the times in which we are living in. 

What if, there IS a time of investigation, BEFORE Jesus comes back, where God judges and weighs in on our entire lives (all of our previous confessions and repentance) to see if they have been genuine by seeing the fruit in how we have treated others and thereby determine whether or not we are truly fit for heaven. 

Do you realize that Seventh-day Adventists call this the Investigative Judgment or Pre-Advent judgment? 

Daniel 7:9-10

9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. 10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.”

Adventists believe that this judgment scene described for us by the prophet Daniel’s vision refers to Jesus’ final work of judgment as our heavenly High Priest in the Most Holy Place to once and for all, wipe clean or to blot out the record of our sins, and to determine each person’s eternal destiny.

The prophecies in the Scripture also tell us that this judgment actually began in the year 1844, the very year that marked the END of the 2300 prophetic days mentioned in Daniel 8:14.

We are also taught that this judgment or the cleaning of the sanctuary was foreshadowed by how the ancient Israelites observed The Day of Atonement when the High priest went into the Most Holy place once a year to intercede on behalf of the people of Israel.

“The blood of Christ was not to cancel sin. It will stand in the sanctuary until the final atonement.” (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 357) 

For the Israelites, the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur was one of the most solemn times.

And before the sins of the people can be wiped clean or blotted out, it had to be re-examined… and the people had to reflect on their PAST SINS to see if their repentance had been genuine. And they did this by “afflicting their souls” on that day. (Leviticus chapter 16 and 23)

I realize that the scope of this subject matter deserves much more time than we have this morning, but again, I would like for us to really think about this parable within the context of the times in which we are living in. 

Judgment is come 

14:6 and 7
, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, 7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come:” 

Again, the Verse 7 says, “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come:”

You realize that this judgment mentioned in the Three Angel’s Message of Revelation 14 is to alert the people that there’s an investigation going on in heaven and that God’s judgment HAS begun.

1Peter 4:17 “For the time IS come that judgment must begin at the house of God (with those who claim to be God’s people): and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”

Revelation 20:12 “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”

In the book, The Great Controversy p. 483, under the chapter heading, “The Investigative Judgment,” it describes this judgment scene in this way:

 “As the books of record are opened in the judgment, the lives of all who have believed on Jesus come in review before God. Beginning with those who first lived upon the earth, our Advocate[Christ] presents the cases of each successive generation, and closes with the living.

“Every name is mentioned, every case closely investigated. Names are accepted, names rejected. When any have sins remaining upon the books of record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the book of life, and the record of their good deeds will be erased from the book of God’s remembrance….”

The author goes on to say,

“All who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon entered against their names in the books of heaven; as they have become partakers of the righteousness of Christ, and their characters are found to be in harmony with the law of God, their sins will be blotted out, and they themselves will be accounted worthy of eternal life.”


The Parable of the unforgiving servant reminds us that how we choose to reconcile our relationships with one another has a special bearing on how God chooses to reconcile with us.

It also reminds us that the way that we choose to respond to God’s mercy and the way that we choose to treat our fellow man has a profound, eternal consequences. 

Psalms 116:12 says, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” What will YOU render unto the Lord for all his benefits? 

My simple appeal is this: Let’s remember what an insurmountable debt of gratitude we owe toward God. But we can express our gratitude by extending mercy to others… by being generous. By making amends with those that we’ve been at odds with before. By forgiving our debtors by remembering how God has also dealt with us. Again, when we forgive, it’s an act of thanksgiving toward God. We are demonstrating to God and to others how thankful and how grateful we really are for what God has done for us!