The Parables of Jesus: The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
by Emily Hechler
As believers, we are called to forgive those who have sinned against us. But this can be challenging, even for children. Maybe a friend lied to them or said hurtful things. Maybe someone at school stole one of their valuable possessions. How can you teach the importance of forgiveness to the kids in your Sunday school class?
The parable of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:21-35 teaches us about God’s forgiveness. In the parable, a servant owed a king ten thousand talents. This was equal to the amount of money someone would make in 20 years! Since the servant couldn’t pay the money, his master ordered for the servant and his entire family to be sold. The servant begged for patience so he could pay his master back. Feeling sorry for the servant, the master forgave all of his servant’s debt.
A little while later, the servant who had been forgiven found another servant who owed him 100 denarii. This was equal to just 100 days’ worth of pay. The forgiven servant angrily demanded his money back. When the man asked him for more time, he refused and had him thrown in prison. The king heard about this and was very angry with the servant. He had the servant put in jail because he didn’t forgive his brother from his heart.
The children in your Sunday school can be forgiven of the sin debt they owe through faith in Jesus.
This parable tells us a lot about God’s character and our character. Let’s first look at God’s character.
The king represents God. The king was going to punish the servant because he owed the king a lot of money. It would have been fair for the king to do this, even though it was an impossible debt. But when the servant asked for mercy, the king had pity on the servant and forgave the debt! The servant didn’t deserve forgiveness, but the king forgave him anyway.
All people have disobeyed God. Disobeying God is called “sin.” Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death.” We owe God an impossible debt, but there’s good news! The rest of the verse says, “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The children in your Sunday school can be forgiven of the sin debt they owe through faith in Jesus. All they have to do is ask God for forgiveness of their sins, trusting that only Jesus can pay for them.
If someone finds it hard or even impossible to forgive someone else, they may want to think about whether they really have accepted God’s forgiveness.
CEF® offers many tracts that you can use to reinforce the Gospel message, such as “God Loves You” and “Good News!” You can find these on the CEF Press® website.
Let’s look at what this parable tells us about our character. In the parable, the unforgiving servant represents those who thought they put their faith in Jesus, but never actually did. When the master found out what the unforgiving servant did, he threw him in prison to pay off the debt. Explain to the children that, since we have been forgiven, we are supposed to forgive those who sin against us. If someone finds it hard or even impossible to forgive someone else, they may want to think about whether they really have accepted God’s forgiveness.
We should forgive others continually, in the same way God forgives us. He doesn’t limit His forgiveness toward us. Have the children in your Sunday school think about how many times they have sinned against God and how many times He has forgiven them. With that in mind, why would we ever hold a grudge against someone?
You can find tips and a craft to help teach this parable on our blog page. Join us next time as we study one more parable of Jesus – the friend at midnight.
Now you’re ready to SING!
If you need song ideas, you can find visual aids, CDs, and music downloads at CEF Press.