One of the most escape-proof prisons in the world was Alcatraz. From 1933 to 1963 it served as an American Federal Prison and during that time 26 prisoners tried to escape but only 5 succeeded.
Constructing Our Own Alcatraz
Surrounded by the cold waters of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz boasted high walls, double-lock doors, guards with machine guns and a staff that could not be bribed. After Alcatraz closed, it become a tourist attraction, but some tourists have admitted they did not find the Big House too attractive.
The world’s worst prison, however, is not Alcatraz nor Kingston Penitentiary, for those places can only confine the body. The prison Jesus warned us about in The Parable Of The Unmerciful Servant (Mathew 18:21-35) shackles our soul and spirit. And sad to say, many of us have put ourselves into this prison at one time or another.
What is this terrible prison? It is created by the person who will not forgive another human being. It is the dungeon of an unforgiving spirit.
In The Parable Of The Unmerciful Servant, we have a servant who owes the King 10,000 talents. According to Warren Wiersbe, 1 talent would be 20 years of wages for the average man in that era. Ten thousand talents was the equivalent of several million dollars. The total annual tax bill for Palestine was about 800 talents.
The King forgave his servant the total debt because he had mercy on him and his family (Mathew 18:27). The servant had begged for more time to repay the debt, but this would have been impossible for him to do so. In the same way, the only way we can have our slate of guilt wiped clean before God is through His mercy.
In our Parable, the servant’s release was solely on the basis of the King’s mercy. As he left the King’s presence, you would have expected the forgiven servant to go out and joyfully share this experience with others, but he did not. Instead, he had a fellow servant, who owed him a small amount of money, arrested and thrown into prison (Mathew 18:28-30). In fact, he choked the poor guy and demanded full payment, before he had him thrown into prison.
Blessed Are The Merciful
When the King heard from the other servants what this man had done, he was incensed. He had the man appear before him again and this time he was not so gracious. He said these words to his unmerciful servant: “You wicked servant, I cancelled 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 (vv.32-33)?” The King then angrily turned his servant over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed (v. 34).
Jesus sums up the main point of the whole Parable with these words: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” The person who harbors resentment and carries grudges is never free. He is living in a prison of his own feelings and frustrations. If we don’t forgive, we put ourselves into prison, and we take others with us.
No wonder Jesus asked us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive others.” Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy. This is truly good and liberating news. Let us live in light of these truths.
QOTD: Are you harboring resentment and an unforgiving heart toward another?