The Unmerciful Servant (Matt. 18.21-35)

Forgiveness plays a huge role in our relationship with God, and our relationship with others. The way we treat those around us is a reflection of our relationship with our King. This parable shines a light on the huge disconnect that exists when we fail to acknowledge how God has extended his great mercy toward us. We want the children to see that part of kingdom living is having the freedom in Christ to let go of grudges and forgive those who sin against us.

Lesson Focus

  • God forgives those who come to him and ask for mercy.
  • It’s foolish to refuse to forgive someone when God has forgiven us.


Key Verse

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Eph. 4.32 (NIV)


Lesson

If you’re doing this lesson as part of a series, then explain to the kids that each week you’re looking at a different parable that Jesus told. Explain that a parable is a story told to help people understand something about God’s kingdom. It’s often helpful to briefly review the previous week’s lesson.

Lesson Intro

Here’s a lesson script, but feel free to adapt it to your own teaching style or personalize it:

What do you guys think it means to forgive someone? [Allow for responses]. So, in some ways forgiveness is letting go of something that somebody owes you. Do you all know what debt is? [Explain debt].

I heard a story recently about a family who were on holiday in another country. They were waiting at the airport and the girl in the family wanted to watch her favorite movie on her dad’s phone. The problem was that the movie would be streaming from the ‘cloud’ and that his phone was on international data roaming. He explained that it was a very expensive way to watch the movie because they were in another country. She nagged him and he said that if she really wanted to she could watch her movie if she paid the bill herself from her allowance. She agreed, but neither of them realized quite how expensive it would be. When the father got his phone bill it cost over $200 for the time that she sat there watching the movie! She owed her father a lot of money and it would take her ages to pay her father back from her allowance. She cried and asked him to have mercy on her. After thinking about it the father felt sorry for her. He sat her down and told her that he would cancel her debt. She was overjoyed!

That’s what it means to have a debt cancelled. Did you guys know that all of us have had debt cancelled by God? That’s what it means to have our sins forgiven. When we come to God with repentant hearts he forgives our sins. We’ll talk more about that but let’s quickly look at a similar story that Jesus told about a guy having his debt cancelled.

Bible story.

Read the first part of the story: Matt. 18.21-27

Wow, that is pretty awesome! That sounds a lot like our story of the girl who’s father said she didn’t have to pay back the $200, except that 10,000 talents is way more than $200! There’s a second part to this story though. It doesn’t end here. Let’s see how this servant responds.

Read the second part of the story: Matt. 18.28-34

Whoa! That’s crazy… The servant had so much debt cancelled and then he couldn’t even have a bit of mercy toward his fellow servant who owed him a few dollars. Imagine that the girl in our story had a little sister and the sister owed her a quarter. How do you think the girl’s father would want his daughter to treat her sister? Would he want her to start strangling her sister and demand the quarter from her or do you think he would want her to say “Hey sis, don’t worry about it!”?

I think he would want her to forgive her sister’s debt. Did you know though that Jesus wasn’t just talking about money when he told this story? Remember I told you that we can come to God for forgiveness? When Jesus died he took our sins with him to the grave. That means that our debt has been cancelled! This is what Jesus says after he told this story:

Read the last verse: Matt. 18.35

In the same way that a quarter dollar wouldn’t really matter to us if we just had a huge debt cancelled, Jesus says that we shouldn’t hold things against people who hurt us. That doesn’t mean that we should allow people to to hurt us, but if we hold onto the hurt that people cause us then those things will start to make our hearts sick.

Object Lesson (dissolving paper)

Explain forgiveness using dissolving paper. Cut a sheet of dissolving paper into pieces and write down sins on them like ‘bitterness’, ‘selfishness’, ‘lying’, ‘disobedience’, ‘cheating’, stealing’. Have a jar with a lid handy. You could draw a heart on the jar to explain that it represents our hearts. Explain to the kids that any time we sin it’s like our hearts get contaminated (crumple the ‘sins’ up one at a time and put them into the jar). Explain that when we come to God he fills us and takes away our sins (pour water in the jar, put the lid on and shake it). The ‘sins’ will dissolve. Share the key verse with the children.

Prayer: Thank God for his great mercy towards us and that he has made a way for us to be forgiven and to live for him. Pray that we would understand how much we’ve been forgiven so that we can live with clean hearts and have the freedom to love and forgive others.


Discussion Questions

  • What happened to the servant who owed the king money?
  • What did the king do when the servant asked for forgiveness?
  • What did the servant do when he saw another servant who owed him money?
  • What did the king do when he heard how the servant treated the other servant?
  • Who does the king represent?
  • What did God do when you believed in Jesus?

Craft (Cancelled debt)

Supplies: TBA.

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