Parable of the Unforgiving Servant: Verse, Meaning & Lesson

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is in Matthew 18:23–35. Jesus told this parable to emphasize the importance of forgiving others as God has forgiven us.

This guide gives you a complete summary of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, including the verses in Scripture, the meaning, and lessons that can be applied to the Christian life.

Note: This parable is also referred to as the Parable of Unmerciful Servant, Unforgiving Creditor, Ungrateful Servant, and Wicked Servant.

Parable of the Unforgiving Servant In Scripture

Matthew 18:23–35 – Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

23  Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24  When he had begun to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25  But because he couldn’t pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26  The servant therefore fell down and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!’ 27  The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him and forgave him the debt.

28  “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred denarii, and he grabbed him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’

29  “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you!’ 30  He would not, but went and cast him into prison until he should pay back that which was due. 31  So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were exceedingly sorry, and came and told their lord all that was done. 32  Then his lord called him in and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33  Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?’ 34  His lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors until he should pay all that was due to him. 35  So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don’t each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds.”

Read Matthew 18

Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Meaning

This parable means that we should forgive others as God has forgiven us, emphasizing the importance of mercy, and the moral that we cannot expect to receive forgiveness if we are unwilling to extend it to others.

Jesus told this metaphor to underscore the necessity of forgiving others who have sinned against us just as we have been forgiven by God for our sins. The parable highlights the virtue of God’s mercy and the consequences of not showing mercy to others when we ourselves are recipients of divine mercy.

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Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Lessons

Forgiveness Is Not Optional

The primary lesson is that, as Christians, we are called to forgive others just as God has forgiven us, without setting limits on our forgiveness. No matter how much a person has sinned against you, God commands you to forgive them if they show repentance.

Forgiveness Is a Reflection of God’s Mercy

The parable teaches that our ability to forgive should mirror the vast forgiveness we have received from God.

Unforgiveness Has Consequences

Another key lesson is that holding onto grudges can lead to spiritual and relational consequences, as seen in the punishment of the unforgiving servant. A grudge that stems from a minor offense or a major problem with someone will continue to grow in sin as the offended person finds more at fault with the person they are frustrated with.

Leviticus 19:18 says, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” Vengeance is for the Lord, and holding a grudge would go against what God says, thus being sinful. God demands unity among His people and within His church, and He will not forgive you for holding a grudge in perpetuity.

Forgiveness Is an Act of Grace

Forgiving someone is not about whether they deserve it or not; it’s an act of grace, just as we have been graciously forgiven by God through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

Forgiveness Is a Matter of the Heart

Another important lesson is that true forgiveness comes from the heart and is not just a verbal declaration. It involves letting go of resentment and offering genuine reconciliation. This kind of forgiveness involves a deep emotional release and a decision to no longer hold the offense against the person.

In essence, forgiveness from the heart is a reflection of God’s forgiveness towards us. It’s a profound act that not only sets the offender free but also liberates the forgiver from the toxic chains of unforgiveness. It’s about embodying the grace and mercy that we have been shown and extending it to others, which is a fundamental aspect of Christian living.

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Read More Parables In the Bible

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is just one of many parables in the Bible. Use the links below to explore more of Jesus’ parables, their meanings, and life lessons.

Summary of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

We hope you enjoyed this summary of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

As you discovered, the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant appears in Matthew 18:23–35. And the primary meaning of the parable is that we should forgive others as God has forgiven us. The life lessons include forgiveness is not optional, it is a reflection of God’s mercy, unforgiveness has consequences, forgiving is an act of grace, and it is a matter of the heart.

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