These small group studies of Matthew contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Matthew 18:21-35 Inductive Bible Study – Discussion Questions and Verse by Verse Commentary

Matthew 18:21-35 – Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Discussion Questions

Would a Jew at the time of Peter thought 7 times was a lot or not many times to forgive someone?
Does Jesus’ answer mean you should count seventy sevens (or 490) times? What does His answer mean?
Spend a few minutes and write out the main point of the parable in one sentence in your own words.
In this parable, who is the king?
Who are the servants?
How much is ten thousand talents?
What does this debt represent?
Could this debt be paid? So what was to happen to the servant?
What character does the king shows when he forgives the debt?
What character does the servant shows when he doesn’t forgive?
How much is one hundred denari?
Does the final result of this parable indicate that a person can lose his salvation? Why or why not?
What conclusion can we make from this parable’s ending?
How important is forgiveness?
How might a lack of forgiveness manifest itself in our lives? How might we act toward someone if we do not forgive them? Does forgiving mean forgetting? Does forgiving mean you will not bring it up again? Does forgiving mean the wound is completely healed? Is there anyone you need to forgive?


Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind, forgiving one another.

Mark 11:25 – Whenever you pray forgive, so that you will be forgiven.

Matthew 6:15 – If you do not forgive others, God will not forgive you.

Colossians 3:13 – Forgive one another as God forgives you.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 – There is no one who does good and never sins.

Psalm 102:12 – He removes our sins as far as the east is from the west.

Verse by Verse Commentary

  • Peter thought he was already being very spiritual. Seven times of forgiving a brother is already many more times than their culture. Rabbis taught that 2-3 times was forgiveness was enough.
  • God’s standard is far above the world’s standard. God’s standard is even far above the standard of the religious. Jesus said that one should forgive seventy-seven times (the Greek likely means seventy times seven.) Application: If we compare ourselves to others, we may think that we are pretty good and quite spiritual. This is likely what Peter thought. However, we should not compare ourselves to people or to worldly standards. Instead we should strive to reach God’s standard.
  • The main point of the parable is very clear. God wants us to forgive others. And if we harbor unforgiveness and hatred in our hearts toward others, then it demonstrates we have not truly repented of our sins and therefore God will not forgive us either.
  • The king represents God. We see in this parable that He is both just and merciful. He is willing to forgive sins and show mercy. At the same time, He wants us to show true repentance. And He will punish unrepentant sin. God is the final judge. He is the decision maker. He sits on His throne. Our responsibility is first and foremost to please God above everything else. Application: The servant in the story does not act like the king did. He did not learn the lesson of mercy that the king showed him. Our God is good and we are to try to emulate His character in our own lives.
  • Verse 26 – It appears that this servant is repentant. He does ask for the debt to be forgiven. But this does not mean he is saved. Matthew 7:21. In this case his actions will speak louder than words.
  • Verses 28-30 – The servant is unwilling to forgive a far smaller debt. One hundred denarii is one hundred days wages, a fairly large amount of money (thus we see that people can commit quite serious sins against us.) However, the amount of money owed is far less than the ten thousand talents (One talent is equal to about 33 KG of gold). Yet this man is unwilling to forgive his fellow servant. Many times we act with the same unforgiveness. What are some examples of things people do to us that we struggle to forgive them for?
  • Here are some potential ways that unforgiveness could be shown through our actions:
    • Avoiding the person.
    • Slow or unwilling to answer their phone calls or messages.
    • Cold emotionally.
    • Tight lipped and unwilling to open up.
    • Saying hurtful things about the person behind their back.
    • Non-verbal communication like rolling of eyes or sighing when the person we are annoyed with speaks.
  • Some think that this parable means a person can lose his salvation. Others say that the servant wasn’t saved to begin with. However, we should understand that parables like this are generally not teaching such deep theology. Instead, it is teaching a simple and easy to understand point. God wants us to forgive others like He forgives us.That is this parable in a nutshell. We don’t need to make it overly complicated. Then the questions is “are you obeying this?” Are you forgiving others? How can we improve in forgiveness? When we say “I forgive you” do we really forgive the person or do we harbor grudges? Do we need to wait until they ask us to forgive them? These are some of the questions we need to discuss and meditate on. We need to pray that God will help us to become truly forgiving to our brothers and sisters and family around us.