Matt’s Musings

September 17, 2023


Dear St. Paul’s Friends and Family,

So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ (Matthew 18:26)

The parable of the unmerciful slave is one of those stories that Jesus told that stings with bitter irony.  A master calls due the accounts of one of his slaves who owed him money.  This was no ordinary debt.  For whatever reason, the slave had accumulated a huge sum of debt, in fact, equivalent to many life-times worth of wages, that were owed his master.  The master knew that his slave could not pay, so he made plans to sell the slave and his family members to recoup some of what was owed to him.  The slave pleaded for mercy and in a shocking move, the master granted him pardon and release from his debts.  

It would have been great if the parable had ended there, but it doesn’t.  The newly pardoned slave does not “pay it forward” with another act of grace but seizes a fellow slave who owed him a paltry amount of money and demanded payment.  When he could not pay, the unmerciful slave has him thrown into jail until he can make the payment.  The master caught wind of the unmerciful slave’s actions and had him imprisoned and tortured until he could pay his entire debt.  

Jesus told this parable after Peter asked him about forgiveness.  Peter figured that he was generous with grace, suggesting that to forgive someone seven times was sufficient.  Jesus’ vision for forgiveness was more extreme as he corrected Peter, saying, forgive not seven times, but 77 times.  

You would be forgiven if you came away from reading this passage of scripture thinking it was all about you and me and the challenges of forgiving others.  Yes, Peter’s question deeply implicated us as followers of Jesus, but the main actor in this text is God.  One of the things that the parable demonstrates is the utter impossibility of any of us being able to sufficiently payoff what is owed God.  Despite how hard we may try; we are imperfect people who often struggle to be faithful to Jesus’ teachings.  Jesus suggested that this isn’t even owed him, but instead that God pardons all of our failures out of a deep and abiding love for us.  The tricky twist to this grace-filled way of relating to us is that God wants us to extend that love and grace to others.

Many of the challenges we face in our world today comes from a lack of being able to see and have empathy for our neighbor.  Jesus’ parables often speak to this reality and the complexity of being in community with one another.  Jesus did not ask for perfect conduct or error free living, but instead he hopes that we will live life with humility, receiving God’s grace and love and then respond by sharing grace and love with others.

May you sense God’s unconditional love and forgiveness in your life, and may you respond out of gratitude by being gracious to those you meet on life’s journey.


Pastor Matt


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