“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.” — Matthew 18:23
This parable presents a stark story of how not to act in the kingdom of heaven. In fact, acting like the unforgiving servant would prevent us from entering or remaining in the kingdom! This teaching is harsh indeed—but that is mainly a reflection on the actions of the servant who refuses to forgive another.
The parable starts out with the words “The kingdom of heaven is like a king,” and it ends with “this is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless...” So although this may be called the parable of the unmerciful servant, it is actually a parable about the forgiving King and Father of us all. The king is merciful in forgiving the large debt, which reminds us that the Lord, our King, has canceled our debt of sin. This parable reminds us that God is both merciful and forgiving, and Jesus is teaching that we should be like the King. We are to be merciful and forgiving—from the heart—just as God is merciful and forgives us.
God knows this is a challenging and difficult task! When we have been hurt by others, we usually want to hurt them back. But, as we are reminded in Romans 12:19, God says, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.”
So we are called to forgive. And when we forgive others, we are actually freed to love and care about them too.
God, our King, forgive us our debts, we pray, as we forgive our debtors. In Jesus’ name, Amen.