The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:23-25)

The Gospel of Saint Matthew reports the parable of the unmerciful servant. Jesus uses this parable to emphasize the Father’s mercy and teach man to be merciful in turn by forgiving our neighbors.

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in the Gospel of Matthew

 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.

 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

 18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

 19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.

 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

 The Parable of the Unmerciful 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.

 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 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. 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.”

(Matthew 19:23- 35) 

Be merciful like the Father

The master feels compassion for his begging servant, as the parable tells us. This compassion is intended for all men, whatever their faults, as long as they are repentant. The Father awaits only this humility of the heart to show His infinite mercy. Therefore, the master cancells all his servant’s debt. He does not just give him more time, he erases everything, on the spot. Thus acts the Father with his repenting children, prostrated at his feet. He keeps no memory of their faults but welcomes them with open arms, pouring all his love as shown by the parable of the prodigal son.

However, it turns out that this servant shows no mercy toward his fellow servant. On the contrary, he is unfairly severe and the master does not delay in pronouncing his sentence. Closing the doors of his mercy, he sends the servant to serve his sentence. Thus the Lord will also act with those who do not show mercy toward their neighbor. This is what the evangelist Luke points out: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)

With Hozana, discover the infinite mercy of God


This passage of the gospel of Saint Matthew invites us to rediscover God’s mercy and to live it. With Hozana, enter into Divine Mercy and be as merciful as the Father.