Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Imagine owing millions of dollars to someone and not being able to pay it back. What would you do when the person to whom you owe the money decides to collect on his loan? What if you were a servant, and the only way to repay the loan was to be sold into slavery, along with your wife and children and all of your possessions? Most likely, you would resort to the only alternative you have left: humble yourself and plead for mercy. That is what happened to the servant in Matthew 18:23-35, who owed his master ten thousand talents, the equivalent of millions of dollars.

When I was reading this parable a few weeks ago, I couldn't help but see the parallelism between this indebted servant and myself. God is my Creator; He longs to have a relationship with me. But He is perfectly righteous, and cannot be near sin. And I am definitely a sinner! I have broken God's holy laws time and again. The Bible says that "the wages of sin is death." Like the debtor, I cannot pay these wages. I am utterly dependent on God's mercy. Thank you, Jesus, for coming to earth and paying my sin-debt for me with your death on the cross!

Like God, the master in the parable showed mercy to his servant and forgave him his debt. But did the servant mirror this forgiveness to those around him? No! Instead, he turned around and began to choke another servant who owed him a mere 100 talents (one talent is equal to about sixteen cents). The other servant begged for mercy: "Have patience with me and I will repay you." Did the forgiven servant have mercy now? Again, no! He threw the man into prison to force him to pay back what was owed. I can't help but think about how impossibly frustrating this situation must have felt to the imprisoned debtor--after all, how can you make money in prison?

When word of this injustice reached the master's ears, he, "moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him." 

This parable is about forgiveness. Jesus concludes his story by telling his disciples, "So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." As always, He wanted His disciples to understand that His requirements for them superseded the law of Moses. He wanted them to see their deep need for His strength to be able to forgive each other in this manner.

So how does this apply to parenting? We Christian mommies and daddies have been forgiven everything by our master. He suffered and died in our place, taking the punishment for our sins upon himself. How dare we, then, turn around and deal harshly with our children when they sin!

Our job is to gently correct, admonish, guide, and teach them as we point them to the cross. This is discipline! While we are teaching our children right from wrong, it is not our job to make them suffer for their sins, so that they will see just how bad they really are. In an attitude of humility and empathy, we can teach them that sin has intrinsic consequences. But, praise be to God, that while we are doing this, we can be pointing them to the cross, where Jesus took their punishment!

As we parent, we must continually walk by the Spirit. We must be in prayer for our children, that God will work on their hearts. The job of the Spirit is to woo, illuminate, and convict our children. And as we walk by the Spirit, his fruit, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" will be evident.

If we have an attitude of reliance on God while we parent, if we are walking in His grace, as debtors who have been forgiven much, our parenting will serve as a model for our children of relationship. It will prepare them to someday have a relationship with a Father who loves them dearly and wants to know them. It will keep them from having the baggage that shame naturally brings because, rather than learning hopelessness by having to continuously "pay" for their own sins over and over again, they will have formed a habit of looking to Jesus' payment for their sins from a young age.

It is my desire in this blog to share with others that parenting in grace is a wonderfully freeing experience. I want to share my ups and downs. I am not a perfect mother, and I am so happy I'm not, because then I would never rely on God's wisdom to reach my child's heart. My goal as a momma is not to have a perfect child. I want my child to grow into a grace-relationship with God that is honest, deep, and real.


  1. Hey Carissa,
    I really love your blog! (I know, this is your first post!) But I love that you will be writing out your heart ponderings about motherhood, which of course, is so relevant to me. Thanks for sharing this; I was just thinking about how much grace our children need. They are only children, afterall.

  2. Monica,

    I love what you said about our children only being children after true! I was so encouraged watching you love on your two daughters last Saturday!

  3. Carissa, you write with such grace! I get really heated when I talk about spanking and how I do not believe it's a "tool" to use on our children. I've pointed many people to your blog as I've had talks with others. I am praying that the Lord will help me to humble myself and speak with grace and mercy as he has done for me. I am richly forgiven as well - praise the Lord for that! :)