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Understanding Forgiveness Through The Parable of Jesus (Matthew 18: 21-35 )

Forgiveness is a cornerstone of Christian teachings, emphasized repeatedly in the teachings of Jesus. Among the most poignant of these lessons is the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, found in Matthew 18:21-35. This story not only illuminates the nature of forgiveness but also underscores its importance in the lives of believers. Here, we delve into the parable, exploring its lessons and implications for everyday life.

The Context of the Parable

The parable is prompted by a question from Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, who asks how often he should forgive someone who sins against him. “Up to seven times?” he queries, likely thinking this generous. Jesus’ response is radical: “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” This sets the stage for the parable, which Jesus uses to illustrate the boundless nature of true forgiveness.

The Parable Itself

In the story, a king decides to settle accounts with his servants. One servant owes him an enormous sum, equivalent to several lifetimes’ worth of wages. Unable to pay, the servant begs for mercy, and the king compassionately cancels the debt, forgiving the enormous sum entirely.

However, this servant then encounters another servant who owes him a much smaller amount. Instead of extending the same forgiveness he had just received, he demands repayment and has the debtor thrown into prison when he cannot pay. When the king hears of this, he is outraged and revokes his mercy towards the unforgiving servant, condemning him until he can repay his original, massive debt.

Understanding forgiveness with the parable of jesus

Lessons on Forgiveness

1. Forgiveness is not quantitative. Jesus starts with a hyperbolic number to illustrate that forgiveness should not be limited or counted. It is not about keeping score but about continually cleansing our hearts of resentment.

2. Forgiveness must be comprehensive. The parable shows that true forgiveness must be extended to others in the same way we wish to receive it. The first servant was forgiven a great debt, symbolizing the vast forgiveness God extends to us—our sins, no matter how great, can be forgiven.

3. The consequences of unforgiveness. The unforgiving servant faces severe consequences for his inability to forgive another’s debt. This mirrors the spiritual peril we face when we choose not to forgive. Unforgiveness can imprison us spiritually, just as the second servant was literally imprisoned.

4. The reciprocity of forgiveness. The parable emphasizes that receiving forgiveness from God is linked to our willingness to forgive others. It is a reciprocal process that reflects our understanding and appreciation of God’s mercy.

Applying the Parable to Modern Life

Forgiveness can often be challenging, especially when the hurt is significant. However, the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant reminds us that:

  • Forgiveness is a choice that can lead to personal and spiritual freedom.
  • Holding onto grudges and past hurts harms us more than it affects our offenders.
  • Being forgiving can improve our mental and emotional well-being, leading to healthier relationships and communities.


The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant is a powerful reminder of the profound importance of forgiveness in Christianity. It teaches that forgiveness is not just a one-time act but a continual process of renewing our hearts and minds. By embracing this message, we open ourselves to receive the fullness of God’s mercy and are empowered to live lives marked by grace, compassion, and peace. In forgiving others, we reflect the divine forgiveness that has been so generously extended to us, embodying one of the most vital principles of our faith.

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