Matthew 18:21-35 Unforgiving

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.”


It sometimes feels righteous and just to hold unforgiveness over a person.  If we can hold onto our anger, we tell ourselves, we can bring justice to a situation.  We can create an illusion in our powerlessness that we have power and control over the person we do not forgive.  The reality that we hold no such control or power is something that we will not accept sometimes.  It is hard to feel rejected, betrayed, afraid, or maligned.  It is harder not to seek some kind of justice.  Couples often degenerate into competitive rivals.  Giving up ‘winning’ or ‘being right’ is just too hard.  Being wrong about an issue is not the same as being wrong as a person.  The truth is we are all ‘wrong’ as people because of sin.  If we can accept that, we will not have a high position of self-righteousness from which to judge people.  Also we will see that others are fallen and that they have no position of righteousness really from which to condemn us.

The parable points out that when we hold a grudge or do not forgive someone we are being ridiculous.  The truth is that we have lost the big picture.  It is essential for harmony that we do not look at how we have been sinned against, but remember what a HUGE debt God has forgiven.  No debt that is owed to us is even close to the debt that we owe God.  The truth is that we sometimes feel so deeply the injustice and devaluing of ourselves that we don’t look to God.  To obsess on unforgiveness can be crippling.


  1. How many times was Peter prepared to forgive?
  2. How much does God forgive?
  3. How does God’s forgiveness aid us in forgiving?
  4. Why don’t people forgive?
  5. How does forgiveness maintain healthy community?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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1 Response to Matthew 18:21-35 Unforgiving

  1. hannawarren says:

    Thank you for sharing this wise teaching from God. I needed to reflect on forgiveness.

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