The Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-34), a Narrative Sermon

You know, never in my whole life did I think I would ever see the things I that saw today.  Boy and how, it’s been quite a day, I can tell you!  What did you think?

Oh, that’s right: you were out in the vineyard since early this morning, picking grapes for the master.  So, I guess I’d better tell you the whole thing from the beginning.

You remember the steward telling us that today was the day when the master was going to come out from the city to settle accounts?  That’s right, I guess he was going to do you after you guys came back from the vineyard.  Yeah, I know, it’s been a long time.

Well, this one fellow – you know, the guy with a swelled head, always thinking he’s some hoity toity bigshot?  Parading around showing off his nice clothes?  Yeah, him!  Well, now we know where he got the money for all that nice stuff!

You shoulda seen his face when he was brought in to the master!  He was the first one!   Hee hee hee!  It was just too good!  I don’t think he ever imagined the master would actually make him settle up.  Maybe he thought the master had forgotten about him.

Anyway, my jaw just about hit the floor when I heard the steward tell the master how much this bozo’s debt was: 10,000 talents.  10,000 talents!  Can you believe it?  The master couldn’t!  He was angry, I can tell you.  And you know, I think the guy spent all of it.  I have no idea where, you could buy a whole kingdom with that kind of money.  Remember how he’s been calling in the debts us other slaves owe him for the last few months?

So, like I said, the master was already really angry, I think because the steward never told him about the debt.  Then this guy said he didn’t have the money to pay it back.  So the master, he stands up, turns red and starts shouting at the guy.  Then he tells the steward to sell him, his wife, his kids and everything he owns to repay the debt, not that the few thousand denarii you’d get for the sale would do any good against a debt like that!

What’s amazing is this guy is as cheeky as ever.  He falls down on his knees and starts worshipping the master – worshipping him!  I mean, I never saw a bigger suck up in my life.  He grovels, pleads for mercy, tears running down his cheeks, grabs the master’s knees, said he’d name his oldest son after the master, kisses his feet, the whole bit.  Yeah, can you believe it?  I wanted to poke a stick in the guy, the whole thing was absolutely nauseating.

What’s worse, the master buys this guys act. He eats it up!  Really!!  We all knew the master wasn’t the brightest lamp on the block, but come on!

Then comes the part you just won’t believe: the master goes ahead (and I think probably went soft in the head) and forgives the guy’s debt.  The whole thing!  Every last bit of it, down to the last mite!  … And the guy just gets up and walks out of there without a word, and what does our master do?  Nothing!  He just smiles, lets him go, and starts reviewing the accounts of the next guy in line.

Ah, but then the good part.  A little later, after my turn, I went to have lunch in the shade, you know, where everybody hangs out under the fig tree over by the far wall of the barnyard?  And here comes that guy, the one who’d had his debt forgiven.  You should have seen him! …And we thought he was bad before!  The guy was acting like he was the master!  Kicking the old woman and making her give him the best spot; then taking the best piece of meat away from her, too.  I could hardly stand being in the same province with the guy!

Yeah, I know –hold on, I’m coming to it!

Then the guy who just had a baby comes up.  You know, he had a rough time the last few months, his wife was sick while she was pregnant, and he had a real hard time scraping together enough money to pay the physician.  Now he’s trying to do both his job and his wife’s because she’s not up to working yet, and the steward isn’t giving him or his family any slack.

Well, the new father gets his lunch and sits down.  Then this other guy, the one with the swelled head, goes over, grabs the new father with both hands and hauls him to his feet.  He starts yelling at him, cursing, choking him, and demands that the new father pay him back what he owes him – 100 denarii – right now.  I was like, be real!  It may not be as big as that stuck up guy’s debt was, but nobody carries that much money around with them!  It’d take any one of us years to pay back a debt that big!  What was Mr. Fat Head thinking, that he was the master?  Unbelievable!

The new father didn’t have that much money either, of course.  So, this guy, he throws him in prison until he can pay the debt.  Now, how’s that going to help?  Not to mention that when the steward finds out he’s in prison and that neither he nor his wife are working in the field, then the stuff is really going to hit the wall, if you take my meaning.

That guy’s fun didn’t last long though.  We all ran up to the house – really! We ran into main hall where the master was, and told him what had happened – yeah, me too.  I don’t know what we were thinking, the master could have whipped or tortured us for coming to the house, let alone interrupting his meal like that.  But, when he heard the story, he got mad like we were afraid he might, but (praise the Lord) not at us!  He had the steward go out and drag that guy into the hall.

Then the master said “You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?”

He didn’t say a thing.  I mean, really, what could the guy say?  Then the master handed him over to the torturers until he could pay back everything he owed him.

Good riddance, but I wonder: I mean, we all knew this guy was a real nut job.  Yet, the whole thing is just too bizarre.  Running up a 10,000 talent debt, and the master didn’t even know, then forgiving the guy?  Then the idiot goes ahead and acts like he’s the master!  I mean, what did he think was going to happen when the master found out about that? And so, when we tell the master about it, he tortures the guy – no surprise there!

But, the master doesn’t even try to reclaim the debt.  Torturing him until he can pay it back? … Never going to happen: that guy’s gonna be in a world of hurt for a long, long time!

You know, the master would’ve done better if he’d just sold the guy and his family, like he said he’d do at first.  I just don’t get it.


Copyright (c) 2010, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved.  I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as you are not seeking (or getting) financial benefit for doing so, and as long as proper credit for my authorship is given (via mention of my name on your site, or a link back to this site).

Author: Allen

A would-be historian turned IT Professional who responded to the call to the Ministry, and is now focused on social justice and community service. He is the proud father of a daughter and son, and enjoys life with his wife near Boston. You can follow Pastor Allen on Facebook at

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