The Unmerciful Servant

by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut

Then Peter came up to Jesus and asked him a question. It was this:

"Master, how often should I forgive my brother when he has done me wrong? Shall it be as many as seven times?"

"Seven times?" said Jesus. "No, I say, seventy times seven! For the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to have his servants pay him the debts which they owed him. When he had begun to make up their accounts, one servant was brought before him who owed him more than a million dollars. He could not pay his debt, and his master ordered that he should be sold, and his wife and children with him, and everything that he had, toward the payment of his debt. The servant fell down upon his face before him, and said, 'Only have patience with me, my lord, and I will pay it all.' His master knew that he could never pay so great a debt; he felt a pity for him, and let him go free, forgiving him all that he owed.

"But as he was going away, that servant met one of his fellow-servants who owed him a small debt, only about fifteen dollars. He took him by the throat, and said, 'Pay me what you owe me!' The man threw himself on the ground and begged for mercy, crying out, 'Have patience with me, wait a little while, and I will pay all that I owe you.' But he refused to have mercy; he took him into the court and had him put into prison until he should pay the debt.

"When the other servants saw him sending this man to prison, they felt troubled and told the king what he had done. At this the king became very angry. He sent for that cruel servant and said to him, 'You wicked servant! When you asked me for mercy, I gave to you all your great debt and let you go free! Should not you, also, have shown the same kindness to your fellow-servant that I showed to you?' Then his master, being very angry, handed him over to the jailor, to be kept in a dungeon until he should pay the whole of his debt. So also will my Father in heaven do to you, unless you forgive your brother with all your heart."