Fresh Eyes On Jesus Parables—The Unmerciful Servant

Day 2 of 4 • This day’s reading


The "Difference" Excuse

The root excuse: I’m grateful my debt was forgiven, but his debt differs from mine, because …

it was his fault he got into debt. I couldn’t help my debt. It was due to a whole set of circumstances over which I had no control.

he never pays people back. I realize my debt was larger, but he keeps borrowing money and not repaying other people, not just me. Someone needs to teach him a lesson.

Can you see yourself in either of these? We self-justify like this all the time. We tend to see our circumstances as unique. When we have problems, we are quick to understand why those problems happened in a way that casts us in a positive light, or at least we think, There’s nothing I could have done. When other people have the same problems, we are quick to connect those problems to a flaw or failure on their part.

Let’s not be so quick to cast stones. And remember, this parable does not explain the unmerciful servant’s behavior, because there is no excuse. It doesn’t matter why a person racks up a debt, even though some debts occur by unwise choices and others by uncontrollable circumstances. God’s Old Testament provision for the “year for canceling debts” every seven years (Deut. 15:1) and the “year of jubilee” every fifty years (Lev. 25:10) mandates the cancellation of debts and restoration of lost property regardless of whether a person was to blame for being in debt or was simply a victim of unfortunate circumstances.

This spirit of “jubilee” applies not only to financial indebtedness. When people “owe” you more gratitude or thoughtfulness than they’ve shown or when they “owe” you an apology or a better attitude or kinder words, you have no more right to demand those “debts” be paid than the unmerciful servant had to demand payment. These offenses of sin and neglect are most likely what Jesus had in mind when He taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12).

When you hear yourself using the “difference” excuse to justify treating a person with a lack of grace and forgiveness, stop. Just stop. You have no excuse for using the “difference” excuse.