The Irony of Bitterness


Funny how we think we’re so high and mighty that people owe us something. We act like super humans going around demanding others to reach perfection, as if we’ve reached it ourselves.

Jesus has a lot to say about this. Lets have a look at Matthew 18:23-35,

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

1. Our Debt to God

The first thing we need to learn from this parable is that our debt to God is huge. This guy owed ten thousand talents, which is estimated to be the equivalent to £1,875,000 in today’s money. A servant would never be able to repay this debt. Likewise, our sin is so great that we will never be able to repay God with good works. God is just, and justice demands satisfaction. This is why Jesus had to come and die for us.

We are a lot more optimistic about the state of humanity than the Bible is. We are dirty. Sin is so disgusting that God cannot even look at it. When Jesus bore our sins on the cross heaven had to look away. Our separation from God is so vast that we cannot even look at his holy face without dying.

Now to the servant in the parable. The concept of being thrown into prison for his debt was not foreign to him. This was completely normal in his culture, and to be frank he should not have taken such a huge loan. Interestingly, the servant only started pleading with the King for forgiveness when he came to collect his debt. Prior to this point he was careless and negligent. He focussed on the “here and now”, without worrying about the consequences – even though it would cause suffering to himself and his family. Sound like anyone you know?

Now I’m not the most gracious person in the world (God is still working on me). If I was the King I would have given this servant what he deserved. Thankfully, God’s ways are different to mine! The Lord says in Isaiah 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

2. Our Reconciliation with God

Our reconciliation with God is something I will never be able to fathom. Grace is initiated by God and is driven by his intense love for us. He loves us even when we are unloveable.

Romans 3:22-25 says, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

Ephesians 1:7-8 says, In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us, with all wisdom and understanding.”

Looking back at the servant in Matthew 18, note that he tells the king that he will pay him back everything if the king is patient with him. This is completely foolish. He would never ever ever be able to reconcile this kind of debt. The King knew this and had compassion for him. In the same way, it is completely ridiculous to think that we can pay back God. There is absolutely nothing we can do to satisfy his wrath. We cannot earn his grace with works. It is based on faith alone, as stated in Romans 11:6, “And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”

Any person who thinks that they can earn God’s forgiveness clearly has no understanding of the severity of their sins, and the power of the cross. Colossians 2:13-14 says, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” Our sins are gone, once and for all. 

3. Called to Forgive

If our eternal debt has been cancelled forever, how can we then continue to hold other people’s sins against them?

Despite being imperfect ourselves, we demand perfection from everyone around us! This leaves us with a great irony: God has every right to condemn us, but he doesn’t. We have no right to condemn others, yet we do.

We are commanded to forgive each other throughout the Bible. This is just a small sample of scriptures that mention forgiveness:

Matthew 6:14-15, For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Colossians 3:13, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” 

Ephesians 4:31-32, Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” 

Romans 2:1, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

When we truly experience the grace of God we are moved by love and passion to express this towards others. Take a look at what Paul says in Philemon 1:18, regarding a runaway servant, “If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.”

We can even look at Jesus Christ himself, who said “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” while soldiers were nailing him to the cross in Luke 23:34.

When the word of God repeats itself, I think it means we should be paying attention! 

Let. It. Go.

Published by sarahcoppin

I write about theology, philosophy and everyday life. You can check out my blog at

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