The Parable of The Unforgiving Servant


(Matthew 18:21-35) This beautiful parable was occasioned by Peter asking the question, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Peter had been thinking about the Lord's teaching concerning church discipline Jesus had just given (Matthew 18:15-17).  Jesus knew that conflict between brethren can cause untold harm if it is not forgiven.  So intense is the fellowship of the church that a sin against a brother or sister is treated with the utmost seriousness.  Jesus clearly taught that a citizen of the kingdom who refuses to forgive must be disciplined.  This is why Jesus answered Peter's question by saying, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."  The Lord tells Peter we should forgive an infinite number of times. Then the Lord told the parable to illustrate the answer He had given to Peter.

"Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants." The kingdom represents the church, so God deals with His people as this king dealt with this servant.  The debt owed by this servant was an enormous amount. It was so great that there was no way the servant could ever pay the debt and that is why the king forgave him the entire amount.  This represents God forgiving us our sins and transgressions through the tremendous sacrifice on the cross.  This was an act of mercy and compassion demonstrated by the Lord and we are taught to emulate this same mercy and compassion in forgiving one another. Paul said, "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32).


"But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, 'Pay me what you owe!'" This indebted servant owed pocket money compared to the previous servant who had owed millions.  The second servant begged for mercy just like the first servant.  But the forgiven servant refused to release the debt and demanded payment, but ironically, he put him in a situation where he would never be able to repay the small debt. The king said, "You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?'"


The principle here is, "the one forgiven much should forgive much."  Unlimited forgiveness is the reflection of God's forgiveness of us and this in turn should motivate us to forgive others all of the sins they commit against us.  As one writer expressed it, "Every Christian should repeat these words over and over again: 'When I think of the amount for which the Lord God has forgiven me, it is a mighty simple matter to forgive the people around me for the relatively small things they have done against me."


An unforgiving spirit causes several very important but terrible consequences:


1.    God will withhold His forgiveness from us (Matthew 6:14-15)


2.    the Lord will reject our worship if we have not forgiven others (Matthew 5:23-24)



3.    Satan will win a victory (2 Corinthians 2:10-11


4.    We will be lost (Matthew 34-35).  


Are you holding any grudges? Pray for God's strength and guidance.


"Daily Devotions by Guy Roberson"
Walnut Street Church of Christ





Angry words! O let them never,

From the tongue unbridled slip,

May the heart's best impulse ever,

Check them ere they soil the lip.




Love one another thus saith the Savior,

Children obey the Father's blest command,

Love each other, love each other,

'Tis the Father's blest command.


Love is much too pure and holy,

Friendship is too sacred far,

For a moment's reckless folly,

Thus to desolate and mar.




Angry words are lightly spoken,

Bitterest thoughts are rashly stirred,

Brightest links of life are broken,

By a single angry word.






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