The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Parable of the Unmerciful Servant)
This parable is known by both names because the servant in the parable is both unforgiving and unmerciful in his response to his debtor.
- The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Parable of the Unmerciful Servant)
- The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Summary
- The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Meaning
- Parable of the Unmerciful Servant Moral Lesson
- The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Reflection
- 1. Our Debt to God is Huge
- 2. Pass His Mercy Along
- 3. God Judges Our Cruelty
- 4. Jesus Said to Pray About it
- Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Commentary
- More Parables!
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Summary
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant can be read in Matthew 18: 21-35.
The summary of the parable is that a servant owed his king a large sum of money (ten thousand bags of gold). When the king asked for repayment, the servant begged for patience because he didn’t have the money and the king took pity on him and canceled the debt.
The servant then asked for repayment of debt that was owed to him by another man, a fellow servant.
It was a small amount of 100 coins. When the man couldn’t pay the servant, the servant choked the man and had him sent to jail.
When the king found out how unmerciful the servant had been to the other man after the king had shown him mercy by canceling his huge debt, the king had the servant tortured by jailers until his original debt to the king was repaid.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Meaning
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant meaning might seem to be specifically about money and canceling financial debt, but it’s really about forgiveness.
Jesus told the parable in response to Peter asking him how many times he must forgive someone who sins against him. Peter wondered if he needed to forgive the offender up to seven times. Jesus tells him he must forgive that person seventy-seven times.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant reminds us that God forgives our debts (our sins) – and our debts to God are very large! In the same way, He expects us to pass along the mercy and forgiveness He shows us to our fellow people.
Parable of the Unmerciful Servant Moral Lesson
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant moral lesson is that we are called as Christians to forgive and show mercy, as God forgives and shows mercy to us.
I’d like to add a note here because this concept sometimes gets misinterpreted to mean that Christians need to forgive those who sin against them while doing nothing to protect themselves from future harm. This is a false and unhealthy interpretation.
As I like to say, Jesus never said we must allow ourselves to be punching bags. He never said we can’t change our own behavior to avoid spending time with people who would abuse or harm us physically, mentally, or psychologically.
Please do not interpret this parable as meaning a person should allow continual abuse or damaging behaviors. We can forgive and show mercy without being doormats. In other words, we can obey Jesus without letting people walk all over us.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Reflection
There are several lessons that we can learn from the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. They apply as much to us today as they did to Peter and the other disciples at the time Jesus spoke the words.
I hope the lessons below give you food for your own reflection.
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines mercy as having compassion, especially for one’s offender. Having a slightly different focus than ‘forgiveness’, mercy and forgiveness are our calls to action in the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Parable of the Unforgiving Servant).
Keep both of these terms in mind as you explore God’s requirements for your life below.
1. Our Debt to God is Huge
We are sinners. If we stacked up every sin we’ve ever committed, we would see a huge mound of dirty, ugly offenses.
These sins are our debt to God. Because of our sinful nature, we’re incapable of being good enough to “repay the debt” of our sins.
Jesus ultimately paid this debt with His life, but we should never forget the massive debt that God forgave. His mercy endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. For his mercy endures forever. Give thanks to the God of Gods. For his mercy endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of Lords. For his mercy endures forever.Psalm 136:1-3 EHV
2. Pass His Mercy Along
As Christians, we are to use Jesus’ life as our example of how to live a life pleasing to God. We are called to show mercy.
Jesus gave us countless examples of showing mercy to those who didn’t deserve it or those who had offended Him. He even forgave the people who were torturing Him as they put Him to death.
He set the standard for forgiveness and mercy at the highest level possible! Through His example, He asks the same of us in extending mercy.
He promises that those who show mercy will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.Matthew 5:7 NIV
3. God Judges Our Cruelty
As much as we don’t like to think about God’s anger and wrath, a truly loving parent holds their errant children accountable.
In the same way, our Heavenly Father holds us accountable for not treating others with mercy. He gives us the perfect example by forgiving our sins, but He will hold us accountable when we don’t extend that mercy to others.
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.James 2:12-13 NIV
4. Jesus Said to Pray About it
I think it’s worth noting that this lesson was important enough that Jesus told us to pray about it.
In the prayer that we now know as “The Lord’s Prayer”, He said in Matthew 6:11-13 that we should pray… “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. This is sometimes known as “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.
As Christians, we expect our debt to be forgiven by God. But we shouldn’t forget about the “as we forgive our debtors” part!
Our loving Father holds us accountable to forgive others as we’ve been forgiven (aka, show mercy as we’ve been shown mercy). When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are asking that God should only have mercy on us to the extent we have mercy on others.
If that were the case, how much mercy would God really show us?
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The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Parable of the Unforgiving Servant)
21 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?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.[g]
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[h] was brought to him. 25 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.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.[i] He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Commentary
Find the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Parable of the Unmerciful Servant) Commentary at Bible Study Tools.com. This link will lead you to the free Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, but you can find other Biblical commentaries HERE. They include free and paid versions. I have referred to Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary for this post.
This post may contain affiliate links. This is my full disclosure.
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