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The Parable of
THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT
Joy was troubled. She had enough of the constant harassing phone calls. She had stacks of unopened mail from bill collectors. On top of that, Christmas was right around the corner, and she hadn’t had time between work and school to visit her children. They had been living with her ex-husband ever since she had given him custody after their divorce last year.
There was one good thing to look forward to, however. She was having lunch today with her best friend, Janet, who was her ex-husbands’ sister.
When lunchtime rolled around, she set down her work, left the office, and headed downtown to the fancy restaurant where they had reservations. Janet was paying for it; she always did. When she arrived at the restaurant, Janet was already waiting for her.
“I hope you haven’t been waiting long”, said Joy.
“I just got here”, said Janet. “Have a seat.”
“I’m so happy to see you”, said Joy. “It’s been ages since we’ve been able to go out to lunch.”
“I hope you brought your appetite”, said Janet. “The menu is incredible.”
During the meal, they covered several topics, but eventually, the conversation got around to the holidays.
“What are you doing for Christmas?” asked Janet.
“I have to work”, said Joy.
“Work?” exclaimed Janet. “On Christmas day?”
“I’m afraid so”, said Joy. “I have bill collectors coming out my ears.”
“Listen, Joy,” Janet said, “My husband Bill and I are doing great with our investments. Why don’t you let me give you a loan?”
“Oh, no”, said Joy, “I couldn’t. It would be too much. I’m behind by two months on my mortgage. I’d better just give up my house. It’s too much money.”
“Will five thousand dollars cover it?” Janet asked sincerely.
“Five thousand?” exclaimed Joy. “Well, yes, that would fix my problems, but how could I possibly pay you back?”
“Then consider it a gift”, said Janet.
“A gift?” Joy was even more shocked. “Oh, no. I couldn’t.”
“I insist”, said Janet. “I won’t take no for an answer.” Before Joy could object further, Janet whisked out her checkbook and handed her a check for five thousand dollars.
“But what will Bill say?” asked Joy. “Won’t he be upset that you didn’t consult him about this?”
“Oh, my husband is a sweetheart”, said Janet. “He’d be the first one to agree with me. Besides, this is my own money from one of my personal ventures. It’s just fun money to me. I want you to have it.”
Joy looked at the check over and over again. It was her salvation. She didn’t know what to say.
Janet did. “Merry Christmas!” she said.
The next day, when Joy left the bank, she was ecstatic. Not only did she have enough money to cover her mortgage and bills, but also she had enough left over to get her children some Christmas presents. She could even afford a few things for herself. She told her boss she wouldn’t be working Christmas day, after all.
Janet called her later, to invite her over to Christmas dinner at her house. Joy’s ex-husband, Ron, would be there with the children, and he said it would be fine with him. Joy didn’t have any family within traveling distance, so she accepted. Now, she was excited about Christmas and looking forward to it. She found great presents for the children, with money left over. She couldn’t wait to see them again.
On Christmas day, Janet greeted her with a warm smile. Joy’s ex-husband and their children were already there. After pleasantries were exchanged, they all opened presents. To her surprise, Janet and Bill had a lovely gift for her.
“But you already gave me a huge gift”, said Joy. “You shouldn’t have.”
“Nonsense”, said Janet. “We don’t want anyone to be without a gift to open.”
Joy wished she had some extra money so she could have gotten more presents. She had only bought a small hostess gift for Bill and Janet. For that matter, there were a lot of small things that she really wanted for her house. She had sparse decorations, since Ron got their old house in the divorce. He got the house and the kids. Not only that, but he hadn’t even started to send the alimony payments that he owed her. He complained he was broke because of sick children, cutbacks at work, home and car repairs; you name it. He was six months overdue, and she could really use the money. She decided to get him alone after dinner and bring it up.
She wasted no time, either. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best timing. She should have chosen a different day. She should have chosen a different place. But she didn’t listen to that still, small voice in her head, and the situation exploded. Before she knew it, she heard herself shouting; “I’ll see you in court!”
After that, a hush fell over the room. As she looked around, she was mildly surprised to see everyone in the house staring at her, including the children. Embarrassed, she rushed out of the house and made a dash for her car.
She didn’t remember driving home, but she found herself sitting in her driveway. She got out of the car and went inside, but before she could get the front door closed, her phone stared to ring.
“Joy, this is Janet. Don’t hang up. I can’t believe what you just did. Not only did you ruin Christmas for all of us, but also I can’t believe you’re threatening to throw my brother in jail! Especially after I just gave you five thousand dollars, and I forgave your debt. If you’re going to be stubborn about this, consider the five thousand dollars a loan, and I expect monthly payments, with interest.” Then Janet hung up the phone.
Joy stared at the receiver, listening to the dial tone. As she put the phone down, she had a moment of clarity. She saw herself making a scene in front of the children, at her best friend’s home, on Christmas day. She saw herself from their eyes, and dreaded what she saw.
In her mind’s eye, she watched herself pouring her heart out in the restaurant to Janet, who responded
with a gift that melted all her troubles away. And when her ex-husband pleaded his case to her, she responded to him with an unforgiving heart. Her spirit wrestled within herself all night long, but it wasn’t over yet. Her head pounded, her chest felt tight, her stomach churned, and she knew it would not be over until she cleansed her soul. There was only one thing to do.
She took a deep breath, and picked up the phone.
THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT (Matthew 18:23-35)
“The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king, who would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents (coins). But as he had not the money to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred coins; and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe me.’
And his fellow servant fell down at his feet and besought him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not; but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told their lord all that was done.
Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, ‘O you wicked servant; I forgave you all that debt, because you asked me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you?’ And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
So likewise shall my Heavenly Father do also unto you, if you from your hearts do not forgive every one of his brothers their trespasses.”