Are You an Entitled Servant?
C.S. Lewis said, "Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive."
It's true, isn't it? Forgiveness makes a lovely Hallmark card. It's fairly easy for us to counsel others to forgive, but if we are the ones who must choose forgiveness the choice is rarely easy to make.
An easier choice is entitlement. We feel entitled to act out of anger, hurt, or frustration because we've been wronged. We feel entitled to dishonor our parents and other authorities because they've made poor choices that have impacted our lives. We feel entitled to gossip, to yell, to be passive-aggressive, and to harbor bitterness. The painful truth is that God's Word offers us no such entitlement.
Matthew 18:21–35 lays out God's alternative to intentional unforgiveness and all the junk that comes with it:
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
"Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
"The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,' he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.
"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'
"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.
"Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,' he said, "I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all that he owed.
"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
There's no debating who we are in this story. Far too often, we are the sinner whose debts have been forgiven by Christ but choose to withhold forgiveness from those who have wronged us.