Matthew 18:33 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 18:33, NIV: "Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?'"

Matthew 18:33, ESV: "And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’"

Matthew 18:33, KJV: "Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?"

Matthew 18:33, NASB: "'Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?'"

Matthew 18:33, NLT: "Shouldn't you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?'"

Matthew 18:33, CSB: "Shouldn't you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?'"

What does Matthew 18:33 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The king has heard that the man he recently forgave of an absurdly huge debt had another servant thrown into prison over a much smaller obligation (Matthew 18:23–32). He now asks a question that should pierce the guilty man's heart. It should also pierce the heart of every believer in Jesus who struggles to forgive others. The king asks, "shouldn't you show the same mercy to others I showed to you?"

This makes Jesus' parable very personal. God is the king who has forgiven our sin. How much does that add up to? Romans 6:23 is clear that the wages of sin is death. In other words, we owe God death, eternal and painful, as the payment for our sin. The debt we accrued for sin is so outrageously large we have no hope of ever paying it back. And yet, God not only is patient with us while we accumulate those sins (2 Peter 3:9; Romans 2:4), He offers complete and total forgiveness (Romans 5:8; John 3:16–18) Those who believe in Jesus, though, are forgiven. Romans 6:23 goes on to say that the gift of God is eternal life, rather than death, for those who are in Jesus Christ.

Jesus, the one telling this story, will soon die on the cross to pay the death we owed to God for our sin (John 12:32–33). God will soon offer eternal life to all who come to Him through faith in Jesus. Eternal life begins with the forgiveness of sin through the death of Jesus. This is a gift of mercy.

It's helpful to realize that both parts of Jesus' parable involve debt—meaning both instances of forgiveness imply something real. Jesus is not saying that when others sin against us, or harm us, or hurt us, that we should act as if it's nothing. The second servant's debt was significant. The point is that even those large, painful "sins" others commit against us don't compare to the level of forgiveness we've been offered through faith in Christ (Colossians 2:13–14).

Those who follow Christ should have mercy on each other, even for the painful wrongs done to us, as God has had mercy on us for our debt of sin against Him.