The parables that Jesus told to His followers were not true stories, but were in fact stories. He told these stories to illustrate a truth, to bring about a response from the listener, or correct a common misunderstanding or partial truth about Jehovah. Sometimes all three are addressed. Kenneth Bailey says in his book, “Poet and Peasant,” “the parables are artistically told stories that break the boundaries of all rationalistic systems. …they challenge the reader to respond in terms of repentance, faith, and discipleship.”
Todays reading in Matthew is in response to Peter’s question of, “ how often should I forgive my brother?” Jesus response is,” not just 7, but 70 times 7.” For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.” In short, one of his slaves owed the king fifteen years of wages. When the slave begged for more time the king was moved with compassion, and forgave his debt. Now this slave, just forgiven, finds a fellow slave that owes him 15 days wages, starts demanding he be paid, and when the second slave begs for more time, the first one refuses his request and has him thrown into debtors prison, until all was to be paid back. When the king hears of this he is moved with anger, and finds the first slave and has him handed over to the torturers until all is paid back.
The picture we see here is that an unbelievable amount of money is owed by the first slave, and not just the money when forgiveness is figured in, but also devotion to the king, and aspects of love, along with the view of mercy shown. All in all, much more than just finances are in view, issues of the heart and soul of the man are at stake. How shocking it is when this forgiven man responds so callously, and irreverently, as to demand what is due him that is in fact only .022% of the debt he was just forgiven.
In another story in the gospels about the woman of Nain, Luke 7. 36-50, who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and hair, Jesus responds with the truth, that to whom much is forgiven, much love will flow. In this parable that is the polar opposite of the first slaves response.
This is a story that elicits anger as a response to the unforgiving slave, compassion for the unforgiven slave and great cheering for justice eventually coming to that unrighteous slave from the king. But in light of the question being asked by Peter at the beginning the story, it takes a turn for all who are really hearing. What about you? Is your economy like that of the kingdom, where mercy, love and compassion are valued more than finances. Do relationships carry a greater weight of value than money? If you are forgiven much, do you love all the more? “What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” Mark 8.36
We are seldom told the response to Jesus parables by those who were in His hearing, but the challenge still remains to we who are hearing now. How do you respond to the forgiveness shown to you by our Savior? In each of these parables there are multiple layers to respond to, concerning faith, love and discipleship.