“Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?”
Jesus compares God’s great forgiveness with human reluctance to forgive much smaller offenses. God’s mercy is the basis for all other forms of mercy. What God gives abundantly and unconditionally, we should share freely with one another.
By presenting this message in a story about debts, Jesus quantifies the issue. Owing money in student loans, car or mortgage payments or family borrowing is a common experience. To carry debt casts a shadow over our lives. To be debt free is a cause for celebration. Why total debt forgiveness does not fill the first servant with joy and inspire him to imitate his master is the heart of Jesus’ story.
The deeper challenge of mercy is not quantifiable. It is a quality of the heart that opens us to the mystery of God’s love in our lives, an inexhaustible gift of new life that never ceases as along as we allow it to flow through us. But if we limit its outflow we also slow it at the source. To stop loving is to block our ability to know love, to be loved. The divine economy of mercy must circulate.
The forgiven servant could not forgive because he still had a calculating heart, one familiar with keeping accounts, measuring debt and remembering what was owed him, but unable to let go of all that to enter God’s heart of mercy. Instead of joy and freedom, he went quickly back into debtor’s prison because his heart had not been transformed. It is this transformation we are to pray for and learn to practice.