Understanding God’s Forgiveness - The Warrior's Journey®

Understanding God’s Forgiveness

Author: Chaplain, COL Scott McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

. Photo by is licensed under CC By 2.0

“At this 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.” (Matthew 18:26-27)

This slave owed the king ten thousand talents. Since one talent was the equivalent of 100 pounds of gold, the slave owed his master one million pounds or 500 tons of gold. At today’s prices this equates to about $21 billion. Obviously, Jesus’ point is that this slave is hopelessly in debt and can never repay it.

Yet, it’s important to note that, when he is condemned the slave does not ask for forgiveness from the king. He only asks for more time to pay it back. He fails to understand how deeply in debt he is and how utterly powerless he is to pay the debt back. Yet the king forgives the slave and cancels the debt.

The slave, however, leaves the king’s presence still thinking he’s only had his request for more time granted. He still feels under pressure to repay his debt to the king. He doesn’t understand that there’s no longer any debt to repay. It’s been canceled and he’s been forgiven.

So, feeling under such pressure to repay, the slave cannot tolerate anyone who owes him money. For they are holding him back from repaying his own debt. In his mind, his debtors are dragging him down. That’s why, when he finds a fellow slave who owes 100 denarii (about $21), he is merciless. News of this harsh treatment of a fellow slave gets back to the king, who condemns the unforgiving slave for his lack of mercy. The story ends with Jesus’ stern warning that unless we forgive others, we will not be forgiven (Matthew 18:35).

This parable reveals why so many people struggle forgiving others who offend them. First, they (like the slave) fail to grasp their own serious condition – that they are hopelessly indebted to God. Second, they (like the slave) do not understand that God has canceled their monstrous debt through Jesus Christ’s atonement and has completely and forever forgiven them for all their sins – past, present, and future. Therefore, they live their lives feeling under pressure to “measure up.” They believe their standing with God is performance-based. If they’re good, they believe God will accept them. But if they’re dragged down by the sins of others so they cannot perform well, then God frowns on them. Not knowing God’s forgiveness, they cannot forgive.


Have you come to grips with the monstrous debt that you once owed to God?

Do you now understand that your debt is cancelled through Jesus Christ and your sins are forgiven – past, present, and future?

Go forth a free soul, forgiven and loved by God, and freely forgive others.

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