The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Not everyone who thinks he is forgiven is actually forgiven, but that is not because of a shortage of forgiveness with Christ.

When Christ spoke this parable, He was on His way to the cross. It’s only because of His one sacrifice on the cross that there can be forgiveness for any sinner. And from the crucified Savior flows the power to manifest this forgiveness to others in the community of faith. It is the good news of the gospel that in Jesus Christ “there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Ps. 130:4, KJV).


How many times should we forgive a fellow Christian who sins against us? This question comes to our mind, as it did to Peter’s lips one day while Jesus was talking to His disciples about church life, salvation, discipline, and repentance (Matt. 18:1–35).

Peter’s suggestion of seven times seems quite generous (v. 21). But Jesus responds to him by saying not seven times, but “seventy times seven” (v. 22). Jesus uses this way of speaking to say that our forgiveness of a repenting brother or sister cannot be bounded, much like the forgiveness that God grants to sinners. In other words, we should lose count when forgiving others.

The story Jesus told is gripping. A wealthy king freely forgives a servant who owes him an exorbitant amount. Ten thousand talents—to the original hearers, this would have sounded like several billion dollars to us today. Forgiven, the servant walks through the palace gates, runs into a man who owes him a comparatively meager amount (a hundred denarii, equivalent to a few thousand dollars).

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