These small group study notes on the parables of Jesus contain in depth analysis, spiritual truths, outlines, cross-references, discussion questions, and lessons to learn. Feel free to print them, copy them, or share them. I only ask that you remember these are are personal study notes and are only meant as a supplement to your own study, not a replacement. I hope they help you to gain a deeper understanding into Jesus' parables in the Bible and that this insight can change your life to be more like Christ's. Visit our inductive Bible study main page for more topical or book by book studies. See the bottom of the page for more inductive Bible studies on the parables of Jesus

The Parable of The Unforgiving Servant - Matthew 18:23-35 - Inductive Bible Study


Matt 18:23 "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.  24 "When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.  25 "But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.  26 "So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.'  27 "And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.  28 "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.'  29 "So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.'  30 "But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.  31 "So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.  32 "Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  33' Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?'  34 "And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.  35 " My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

  1. What title do you give to this parable?

The Unmerciful Servant

Obligations Accompanying Forgiveness

  1. What other parables have similar characteristics or theme?
  1. Who was Jesus speaking to when He gave this parable?

Peter and the rest of the other disciples

  1. What was the context for this parable?

Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive someone who wronged him, seven times? Jesus replied seven times seventy and then told the parable.

  1. What are the main elements of the parable?
    • The King
    • The Settling of Accounts
    • The Servants
    • The One Servant
    • Ten Thousand Talent Debt
    • Commandment to Sell the Servant and All that He Had
    • Servant Prostrates Himself
    • Begs for Patience Until He Repays All
    • Compassion of the King
    • Released the Servant
    • Forgave the Debt
    • The Servant Searches for His Fellow Servant
    • Hundred Denarii Debt
    • Seized Him
    • Choked Him
    • Fellow Servant Prostrates Himself
    • Begs for Patience Until He Repays All
    • Unwillingness to Show Mercy to Fellow Servant
    • Throws Him in Prison Till All is Repaid
    • Fellow Servants Observe His Behavior
    • His Unforgiving Spirit Grieves Them
    • They Report His Conduct to the King (their Master)
    • The King Summons the Unforgiving Servant
    • He States that the Unforgiving Servant is Wicked
    • Recounts the Mercy the Servant Received
    • States that He Should Have Extended Mercy in the Same Manner
    • The King is Very Angry at His Behavior
    • The Unforgiving Servant is Turned Over to the Torturers Till He Repays Everything
  1. What does each of these elements represent?
    • The King – God
    • The Settling of Accounts – Judgment
    • The Servants – Professing Believers
    • The One Servant – A Professing Believer
    • Ten Thousand Talent Debt – Incredibly Huge Debt of My Sin Towards God
    • Commandment to Sell the Servant and All that He Had – Paying the Penalty for Sin
    • Servant Prostrates Himself – Approaches God
    • Begs for Patience Until He Repays All – Asks for Reprieve For Longer to Pay the Debt
    • Compassion of the King – God is Merciful
    • Released the Servant – God Alone Pardons or Condemns
    • Forgave the Debt – God Alone Forgives Sins
    • The Servant Searches for His Fellow Servant – His Immediate Response was to Seek Out His Fellow Slave to Require Full Payment From Him
    • Hundred Denarii Debt – The Relatively Small Sins that Others Sin Against Me
    • Seized Him – Dealt with Him According to the Law
    • Choked Him –  Vengeful

                                                              i.      Shows no  expression of gratitude to the King

                                                            ii.      Shows no mercy to fellow servant

                                                          iii.      Shows no fruit of the Spirit.

                                                          iv.      Shows malice, greed, selfishness

                                                            v.      No evidence whatsoever of regeneration

    • Fellow Servant Prostrates Himself – Humbled Himself
    • Begs for Patience Until He Repays All – Asks for Reprieve For Longer to Pay the Debt
    • Unwillingness to Show Mercy to Fellow Servant – Unmerciful
    • Throws Him in Prison Till All is Repaid – All Law, No Mercy
    • Fellow Servants Observe His Behavior – Christians Observe Ungodly Behavior From a So-Called Brother
    • His Unforgiving Spirit Grieves Them – Grief Over His Unmerciful Behavior
    • They Report His Conduct to the King (their Master) – Prayer
    • The King Summons the Unforgiving Servant – Judgment
    • He States that the Unforgiving Servant is Wicked – Clear Indication that This Servant is not a Believer
    • Recounts the Mercy the Servant Received – Explanation
    • States that He Should Have Extended Mercy in the Same Manner – Should Have Demonstrated Fruit of the Spirit
    • The King is Very Angry at His Behavior – The Wrath of God
    • The Unforgiving Servant is Turned Over to the Torturers Till He Repays Everything – He is sent to Hell
  1. What spiritual principle(s) does this parable teach?
    • Jesus is teaching me to be merciful and forgive others because God has forgiven me
    • People's sins against me are tiny compared to my enormous sins against the Lord
    • If I don't forgive people who sin against me, God won't forgive me
  1. Cross references to this parable?

Matt 5:7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy

Matt 6:14 " For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  15 "But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

Mark 11:25 "Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.  26[" But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions."]

Luke 17:4 "And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."

Eph 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Col 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

James 2:13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

Luke 23:34 But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."

Acts 7:60 Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" Having said this, he fell asleep.

Matt 9:2 And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, " Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven ."

Luke 5:21 The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, " Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?"

Isa 55:7 Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts;

And let him return to the LORD,And He will have compassion on him,

And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. 8 "ForMy thoughts are not your thoughts,

Nor are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.

Example of Shimei

2 Sam 16:5 When King David came to Bahurim, behold, there came out from there a man of the family of the house of Saul whose name was Shimei , the son of Gera; he came out cursing continually as he came. 6 He threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were at his right hand and at his left. 7 Thus Shimei said when he cursed, "Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed, and worthless fellow! 8 " The LORD has returned upon you all the bloodshed of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. And behold, you are taken in your own evil, for you are a man of bloodshed!"

2 Sam 16:13 So David and his men went on the way; and Shimei went along on the hillside parallel with him and as he went he cursed and cast stones and threw dust at him.

2 Sam 19:18 Then they kept crossing the ford to bring over the king's household, and to do what was good in his sight. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king as he was about to cross the Jordan. 19 So he said to the king, " Let not my lord consider me guilty, nor remember what your servant did wrong on the day when my lord the king came out from Jerusalem, so that the king would take it to heart. 20 "For your servant knows that I have sinned; therefore behold, I have come today, the first of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king." 21 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah said, " Should not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the LORD'S anointed?" 22 David then said, " What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be an adversary to me? Should any man be put to death in Israel today? For do I not know that I am king over Israel today?" 23 The king said to Shimei , " You shall not die." Thus the king swore to him.

1 Kings 2:36 Now the king sent and called for Shimei and said to him, "Build for yourself a house in Jerusalem and live there, and do not go out from there to any place. 37 "For on the day you go out and cross over the brook Kidron, you will know for certain that you shall surely die; your blood shall be on your own head." 38 Shimei then said to the king, "The word is good. As my lord the king has said, so your servant will do." So Shimei lived in Jerusalem many days. 39 But it came about at the end of three years, that two of the servants of Shimei ran away to Achish son of Maacah, king of Gath. And they told Shimei , saying, "Behold, your servants are in Gath." 40 Then Shimei arose and saddled his donkey, and went to Gath to Achish to look for his servants. And Shimei went and brought his servants from Gath. 41 It was told Solomon that Shimei had gone from Jerusalem to Gath, and had returned. 42 So the king sent and called for Shimei and said to him, "Did I not make you swear by the LORD and solemnly warn you, saying, 'You will know for certain that on the day you depart and go anywhere, you shall surely die'? And you said to me, 'The word which I have heard is good.' 43 "Why then have you not kept the oath of the LORD, and the command which I have laid on you?" 44 The king also said to Shimei , " You know all the evil which you acknowledge in your heart, which you did to my father David; therefore the LORD shall return your evil on your own head. 45 "But King Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the LORD forever." 46 So the king commanded Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he went out and fell upon him so that he died.

  1. Questions or problems with the interpretation of this parable.

Is this servant a true believer?

Evidence for:

l       The Lord felt compassion

l       The Lord released him

l       The Lord forgave the debt

Evidence against:

l       He is self reliant and says, “I will repay everything.”

l       He expresses no gratitude

l       His immediate response is to seek a fellow servant so as to demand repayment

l       Total lack of mercy

l       His Lord addresses him as, “you wicked slave”.

l       His Lord is greatly angered

l       He is turned over to the torturers

l       The debt in fact remains

l       He is required to repay all of the debt in full. This would be impossible from prison and is a clear reference to eternal punishment in hell.

l       Scripture declares that God will not forgive those who are unforgiving. Matt 6:15, James 2:13

  1. Based on this parable, what changes in my life does Jesus want me to make?


Click Links Below For More In Depth Inductive Bible Studies on the Parables of Jesus in the Gospels:

Absent Master of the House Barren Fig Tree Cost of Discipleship Creditor and Two Debtors Fig Tree Good Samaritan
Great Banquet The Sower Persistent Friend Persistent Widow Pharisee and Tax Collector Rich Fool
Rich Man and Lazarus The Lost Coin The Minas The Talents Unforgiving Servant Unrighteous Steward
Watchful Servants Wedding Feast Wicked Vine Growers Unworthy Slaves Ten Virgins Expectant Steward


If you found these study notes helpful feel free to check out my library of inductive Bible studies, topical Bible studies, and character studies chapter by chapter.

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