The Unmerciful Servant
The Gospels record dozens of Jesus’ parables—stories Jesus told to help people understand what the kingdom of heaven is like. Each parable taught a lesson and revealed secrets of God’s kingdom for those who would understand. (See Matt. 13:10-13.) Unit 22 of The Gospel Project for Kids will examine several of Jesus’ parables over six sessions. Teach these stories to help boys and girls grasp the deeper meanings behind the stories. Jesus’ parables show what it looks like to live in God’s kingdom where Jesus reigns supreme. One day, these stories will become our reality when Jesus returns and reverses the curse of sin.
In session 2, kids will hear the parable of the unmerciful servant from Matthew 18:21-35. Jesus had been teaching His disciples when Peter asked Jesus, “How many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me?” Peter suggested seven times. Jews considered it standard to show forgiveness three times (see Job 33:29-30), so Peter probably thought he was going above and beyond. Jesus answered Peter’s question by telling a story about an unmerciful servant.
In the parable, a servant owed his master ten thousand talents. A talent was equal to about 20 years of wages. Ten thousand talents represented a debt that could never be repaid. Faced with debtors’ prison, the servant begged for more time to repay the master. Instead, the master released his servant and forgave the great debt.
The same servant went out and confronted a man who owed him a hundred denarii—about 100 days of wages. The man begged for more time, but the servant refused and put the man in prison. When the master heard what happened, he was angry that the servant who had been forgiven a great debt did not show mercy to the man who owed a small debt. So the master put the man in prison until he could pay his debt. Jesus concluded the parable by explaining that God would react in the same way to anyone who does not forgive his brother.
We are like the servant, and God is like the master. Because of our sin, we owe a debt we cannot pay. We deserve to be punished for our sin, but God the Father showed His love by sending His Son, Jesus, to pay the debt we owe. Jesus lived the perfect life we fail to live and died the death we deserve to die. We come to Him with nothing to offer but empty hands of faith. Those who trust in Jesus are completely forgiven.
As you teach kids, emphasize that God shows mercy to us so that we will show mercy to others—not just three times or seven times, but many times—not keeping count. We have been forgiven a great debt, so we can forgive others when they sin against us.
Why do you think it is so hard for us to forgive other people? Leave a comment below.
Alyssa Jones has been a content editor for The Gospel Project for Kids since 2011. She lives with her husband, Nate, and their two kids in Nashville, TN. Alyssa volunteers with the kids’ ministry at Refuge Church, a church plant in Franklin, TN.