Below is a lesson script you can use to teach your elementary Sunday School class about the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. While this lesson script can be read verbatim, I’d encourage you to look it over and make it your own!!
Objects needed: a crown of some sort, a bag of lollipops
Who wants to volunteer to be a servant? (pick two children, then put the crown on your head.
Okay, servants, do twenty jumping jacks. Okay, servant, go fetch me a coke. Just kidding…. But I bet it made you rethink volunteering to be my servant, didn’t it?
Anyway, today’s story has to do with servants. But it doesn’t start with servants. It starts with one of Jesus’s friends, Peter, asking Jesus a question. Let’s see what it is. It’s in Matthew 18.
”Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me. Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy- seven times.”
When I read this verse, I like to think of Peter sitting in the backseat of the car with his siblings, and Jesus is up front driving. Peter’s brother, let’s call him Jeter, is driving him crazy. He keeps taking his pens and kicking his seat and Peter is doing his very best to not kill him. Finally, he’s so fed up, he does what we all do when we’re annoyed, and he whines, “Moooooooooom.”
…and he whines, “Moooooooooom.”
Okay, but really, he says, “Jeeeeeesussssss,” and then Jesus turns around and says, probably a bit exasperated, “Yes, Peter?”
And Peter launches in wondering how many times he has to forgive this other backseat dweller. He wants to know at one point he can just be mean back, and when he can snap. Jeter is driving him nuts!!! It’s a lot like when we go to our parents and we say, “Moooom, Jeter has kicked my seat like a thousand times and I have forgiven him and I am so sick of it!”
Then Mom says, “just keep forgiving him. You can stop when you’ve hit a million and five times, and I don’t want to hear it again.”
That’s kind of like what this exchange was like. Peter wants to know how many times he has to forgive someone, and Jesus is like, “Peter, really? Just always do it.”
But, just like my parents didn’t just answer the question at hand, Jesus doesn’t either. He goes into a full-fledged story to try and explain why he is saying what he’s saying.
This is where I need my servants. The rest of the story is from Matthew 18:23-35.
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 bags of gold 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.
(Give one of the servants the bag of lollipops, minus one. Have the servant come to the front and speak to him in a Kingly voice).
Hey, give me my lollipops.
Hey, give me my lollipops. You owe me like a thousand bags of lollipops. Pay up, or I’m going to take your dog and your kids and your iPod.
(Now, speak to the class).
Uh oh. This guy doesn’t have a thousand bags of lollipops. But the King just told him to pay up. What would you do in this situation?
Let’s see what the guy did.
The servant fell to his knees before him. Be patient with me, he begged, and I will pay back everything!
(Let the servant act this part out)
And do you know what the King did? He not only was patient with him, he totally cancelled all of the debts. He looked at the servant, shrugged, and said, “Okay, cool. Keep the lollipops, you don’t need to pay me back.”
Now, if you were the servant, how would you react to that?
(Let kids answer)
Let’s see how he reacts. Let’s read on.
When the servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. Pay back what you owe me! His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘be patient with me and I will pay you back!
(Let the kids act it out)
What do you think the servant will do? Why?
He refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt
What do you think of that response?
Not great, huh? Well, the other servants didn’t think so either. They went straight up to the King to tell him about it.
The master called the servant in. You wicked servant! He said. I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to, shouldn’t you have had the same mercy on your fellow servants? In anger, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
This is how the heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.
So, the master, who had forgiven the first servant’s debt, was so angry that the servant hadn’t extended the same mercy to the other servant, that he threw the servant in jail. This servant’s unforgiveness was literally a jail for him.
Jesus says that’s what it’s like for us, too. We are all that first servant, who is forgiven a huge debt by the Lord. When Jesus died on the cross, he forgave that debt for us. But we all have a choice to make.
Now that we have been shown forgiveness, we have to choose what we want to do with others. None of us will make it out of this world without being sinned against. We will all have painful things happen to us, and there will be people who hurt us, whether intentionally or not. We have to decide how we want to react.
Do we want to show the same forgiveness and mercy to those who hurt us as the King showed to the first servant? Or do we want to treat others the way the servant treated the servant below him?
Jesus forgave us, and he wants us to extend that same forgiveness to others, too.