The parable of the unforgiving servant gives a glimpse of God’s heart of forgiveness and His desire that we mirror His heart. In this parable we will outline the summary and meaning of the parable of the unforgiving servant.

parable of the unforgiving servant Matthew 18:21-35

 

Matthew 18:21-35

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.

“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 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.

“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 silver coins. 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.”

Matthew 18:21-35

What does forgive 77 times mean?

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.

Matthew 18:21-22

At this time, teachers of the law taught forgiveness was to be offered up to three times. Totally reflects the flesh, right?! That means Peter’s offer of up to seven times would’ve been very generous, more than twice the required by teachers of that day. But Jesus’ answer, no doubt, blew everyone out of the water when he said 77 times. Some manuscripts even say 7×70. 

The intention of such a big number is not to set a limit on forgiveness. Rather, it indicates that there should be no limit to forgiveness. God does not put a limit on how much He forgives His children, demonstrating His heart of forgiveness.

Summary of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Jesus then shares the parable of the unmerciful servant to demonstrate what he was trying to convey about forgiveness. He points to a king settling accounts with his servants. The first servant owed 10,000 bags of gold. An outrageous amount of money. An amount so high he could never repay it. It would have required 187,000 years of work at his wage. Impossible. So, he and his family were to be sold to repay the debt. But he begged for more time, for mercy and because of the master’s pity the debt was forgiven. Canceled. Gone. 

Unmoved by the forgiveness he and his family were freely granted, he goes out and demands a fellow servant repay 100 silver coins. About four months wages at that time. Rather than grant mercy, he had his fellow servant thrown in jail.

Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Meaning

Just like the first servant, we have been granted ridiculous grace…over the top, nothing like it, unfathomable grace. We are forgiven a lifetime of offenses. Every day we sin, every day we fall short, every day we desperately need forgiveness through Christ. 

It’s through that abundance that we are to offer forgiveness to others. Our calling is to model the Father’s heart of forgiveness. How well do you model the fathers heart of forgiveness?

Forgiving Big and Small Offenses

Forgiveness is hard. It’s complicated. There’s small offenses and then there’s “change the course of your life” offenses. When someone pulls out in front of you or cuts in front of you in line, that’s simple forgiveness. But what about those life-changing offenses. 

We’ve seen in Genesis, Joseph’s brothers orchestrate his fake death and sell him into slavery for about 13 years. He was ripped from his family and lost his freedom. He will never get those years back. In our lives we’ve likely faced deep betrayal or abuse that seems to make forgiveness so much more complex. So much harder to extend. The depth of unforgiveness can usually be measured by the depth of pain we’ve experienced. There is no pain like a broken heart.

Forgiveness is Not…

Sometimes misunderstanding forgiveness keeps us from extending it. Forgiveness is not excusing or condoning what happened. Rather, it’s releasing and entrusting the outcome or consequences to God. Putting the consequences of someone’s offense in the hands of God demonstrates obedience and trust in Him. 

Forgiveness is also not tolerating. Jesus made that clear in the last passage when he outlined the formula for confronting sin.

If you have had your heart broken and are struggling to forgive I want to encourage you to consider truths from God‘s Word. He sees you, He knows your sorrows. He is near to the brokenhearted and He is your healer. He promises to use everything for our good and even restore lost years. And He will hold each one accountable for their deeds.

Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Meaning

Forgiveness is less about your relationship with the person who hurt you and more about your relationship with God. Unforgiveness damages our relationship with God.

“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.”

Matthew 18:32-35

Unforgiveness is torture. I was reflecting on times in my own life when I refused to extend the forgiveness God extended to me. And this is what it looks like. I kept a record of wrongs and remembered and reminded others of the hurt. As a result, I dwelled on the past. I punished. My heart grew harder and harder until it was completely bound with bitterness and resentment.

God’s Heart of Forgiveness

Praise God that He doesn’t do that with me or you. Instead He keeps no record of wrongs. He forgets as far as the east is to the west. He cancels the debt releasing us from the punishment sin deserves and His heart always remains tender toward us. That is the forgiveness He desires we extend to others.

I never want unforgiveness to get in the way of His lavish grace again. 

We are freed through receiving God’s forgiveness and we are freed through extending forgiveness.

If you are struggling to forgive you are not alone. Fix your eyes on Jesus and ask Him to cultivate a heart of forgiveness in and through you. He is faithful to complete a good work in us.

More Resources on Forgiveness

Benefits of Forgiveness

Can You Forgive Someone and Still Be Hurt?

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Trust and Forgiveness

2 Comments

  1. Jeff on February 17, 2022 at 6:22 am

    Excellent lesson! I too struggle sometimes with forgiveness. I realize to torcher I’ve put my self through and also(more importantly) my relationship with the Lord. I’ve repented of the sin of unforgivingness and asked for the help of the Holy Spirit in this area ,as well as in other areas. I now see it this way: if I don’t forgive, I can’t have forgiveness. There’s no offense against me that’s worth spending eternity in he’ll over.

  2. Sunshyne on February 17, 2022 at 7:04 pm

    Thank you, Jeff for sharing! I love how you bring forgiveness down to a choice. Such a complex topic, but you nailed it on the head- asking for the help of the Holy Spirit- He is faithful to empower us to all He calls us to do. Blessings, Sunshyne

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