Crossroads: The Unmerciful Servant

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Matthew 18:21-35

Have you ever not wanted to forgive someone? Have you ever been so mad at someone that even when they asked for forgiveness, you didn’t want to forgive them? We all have times when we don’t want to forgive someone else. Perhaps that person really hurt us and the wound is too raw to think about forgiving them. Or perhaps they embarrassed us in front of everyone, and we don’t want to forgive them. Or maybe their request for forgiveness doesn’t seem sincere. Have you ever given someone exactly what they deserved instead of mercy? Have you treated someone with justice but without mercy?

My Story

As a teenager, I was involved with an activity called Teen Court. We were the lawyers and the jury. Although this court had a real judge, we were in charge of determining punishments. There were only certain teenagers who could have their cases heard in Teen Court—first time offenders of non-violent crimes (stealing, traffic violations, etc). There was one particular case where we gave the person every punishment we could—he had to apologize to the judge, apologize to his mother, write a letter to the newspaper, write an essay, and perform several other tasks. In this case, we perhaps gave him justice and what he deserved, but we showed no mercy.

Your Story

Tell your children a story about a time when you didn’t want to forgive someone, or a time when you gave someone justice but not mercy, or even a time when someone forgave you, but you kept doing the same thing. This lesson is an important one on forgiveness. It can be hard to show others that we sometimes have a difficult time practicing forgiveness. It’s important for your child to learn to forgive even when they don’t feel like forgiving that person. Forgiveness isn’t always about the other person—particularly if that person isn’t sincere about wanting forgiveness. Instead, forgiveness helps us—it changes the way we view others and helps us remember that God is quick to forgive us. Forgiveness allows us to let go of the pain others have given us and allows us to be free.

The Bible Story

Read Matthew 18:21-35. Option: If you have a 3-7 year old, this version will be easier for them to understand:

The Man Who Refused to Forgive (From Sharable Parables by Steven James)

One day, Peter came to Jesus and asked how many times he should forgive people. “Is 7 times enough?” he asked. But Jesus said, “Not 7 times, but 77 times!” And when he said that, Peter was surprised! (Make a surprised face) And then, Jesus told him this story… Once, there was a servant who owed the king lots of money. In fact, he owed him millions of dollars! (If you have monopoly money, use it here) And whenever the king let him borrow more money, he was happy! (Make a happy face) So when the king told him he had to pay it all back, he was sad. (Make a sad face) And he said, “I can’t pay you back. I’ve used it all up buying candy bars!” Well, something like that…And then the king got angry! (Make an angry face) The king said, “Then you and your children and your wife are all gonna be sold as slaves until you can pay your debt!” When the servant heard that, he was surprised. (Make a surprised face) And sad (make a sad face)…He dropped to his knees and said, “Oh, please! Give me more time! I’ll pay it all back! I promise!” Well, the king thought about it and decided to cancel that servant’s debt and let him go. When the servant thought about it, he was very, very, very, very surprised! (Make a surprised face) And happy! (Make a happy face)…But then, something unexpected happened. That servant went out and found someone who owed him a couple of dollars (show $3 in Monopoly money is you have any). And he got angry. (Make an angry face) “Pay me my money! I want more candy bars!” And, he started choking the guy! When he did that, the poor guy was really surprised! (Make a surprised face) And he was choking! But then the man dropped to his knees and said, “Oh, please! Give me more time! I’ll pay it all back! I promise!” Just like the other guy had done. But instead of canceling the man’s debt, he sent him to prison until he could pay the money! And that made the guy really sad. (Make a sad face) When he did that, the other servants were surprised! (Make a surprised face) They went to tell the king, and when the king heard about all that, he got really angry! (Make an angry face) So, once again, he called in the servant who had owed him all that money. “You wicked man! I canceled your debt, but you refused to have mercy on this other guy!” When the servant found out the king knew about what he’d done, he was surprised. (Make a surprised face) And sad—(make a sad face)—because the king was angry—(make an angry face)—and not very happy! (Make a happy face) So the king sent him to jail where people would hit him! And believe me, that guy was very sad. (Make a sad face) And then, Jesus said, “That’s how God will treat you unless you forgive others from your heart.” ‘Cause when we hold a grudge and refuse to forgive, it makes the Lord angry (make an angry face) at the way that we live! But when we forgive others, God’s happy (make a happy face)….because then we’re treating others like he’s treated us!

Discussion Questions

Ask your children to think of a time when…
• You held a grudge against someone—what happened? Did it help or hurt?
• You were more concerned about being fair than about showing mercy.
• You did something wrong and someone forgave you—how did that make you feel?

Action

How can you practice forgiveness this week? Is there someone you need to forgive? How can you show someone in your family mercy this week? Work on practicing forgiveness as a family this week. You can tell your child that you forgive them for something they have done, or ask for forgiveness because you forgot to do something, or practice forgiveness with your spouse.

Pray

Thank God for forgiving us when we don’t deserve it. Ask God to help you forgive others and to help you show mercy.

Jessica Asbell is currently serving as the Minister to Children at First Baptist Church of Roswell, GA. She has worked with children in various capacities at several churches, including Winter Park Baptist in Wilmington, NC, First Baptist of Decatur, GA, and Highland Hills Baptist in Macon, GA. She has a Master of Divinity from McAfee School of Theology and a BBA from Mercer University. In her spare time she loves to read, watch movies, and of course spend time with her sweet kitty, Lucy.

Kevin Head began serving as Minister to Young Families at First Baptist Roswell, Georgia, in February 2012. He has pastored three churches in Kentucky and more recently served as Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Lumberton, North Carolina. In 2007, Kevin and his wife, Amy, began a ministry-based counseling practice called New Perspectives for Life in East Cobb, Georgia. He is a graduate of Furman University (B.A.) and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ph.D., M.Div.) in Louisville, Kentucky. Kevin was ordained by the First Baptist Church of Belvedere, South Carolina. His model of ministry is based on John 8 and the amazing, continual grace of Jesus Christ. Kevin and Amy have two children, Jenna and Joshua.

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