What does Matthew 18:23 mean?
ESV: “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.
NIV: Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
NASB: For this reason the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves.
CSB: "For this reason, the kingdom of heaven can be compared to a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
NLT: Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.
KJV: Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
Verse Commentary:
Peter has asked Jesus if he should forgive someone who sins against him up to seven times. Jesus has said no. Instead, Peter should forgive 77 times—or, possibly, 490 times—meaning Peter should plan to always forgive, with no plan to stop forgiving. Holding on to unforgiveness toward others should never be an option (Matthew 18:21–22).

To illustrate why this is true, Jesus begins a parable. As with other parables, Jesus starts by saying that the "kingdom of heaven may be compared to…" In this case, the point of comparison is also a kingdom with a powerful king. The time had come for that king to settle accounts with his servants or slaves.

In a large and prosperous country, the king would have high-ranking slaves who lived very well, better even than the free citizens of the nation. In the case of this story, those servants were able to borrow or hold money owed to the king in some way for a limited time. The time to pay up had arrived.
Verse Context:
Matthew 18:21–35 answers Peter's question about how many times he should forgive a brother who sins against him. Jesus tells a parable about the servant of a king. The king forgives the man's enormous, unpayable debt. In turn, the servant refuses to forgive the much smaller debt owed him by another and has that man thrown in prison. The king is furious and asks the servant why he did not show the same mercy he had been given. The king has the man jailed until he pays everything. Jesus says that God the Father will do the same to those who do not forgive their brothers.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus uses two questions from the disciples to teach important lessons. The "greatest" in the kingdom is the one who humbles himself like a child. Temptation is unavoidable in earthly life, but it's worth going to extremes to avoid falling for it. Even so, those who fall should not be hated and despised. God the Father values them highly and wants none of them to perish. In fact, Jesus lays out a clear, careful process to confront sin in others before removing them from the community. Christ also replies to Peter's question about forgiveness with a parable. This story represents both God's amazing forgiveness, and the way we ought to respond as Christians.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 18 follows the action of the previous chapter with teaching from Jesus on several issues. These include humility, using the example of a child. Jesus also teaches about avoiding sin and offering forgiveness to others. Interestingly, the following chapter will also feature references to children and to wealth, as Christ continues to explain the will of God to His disciples.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
Accessed 4/18/2024 7:03:37 PM
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Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.