The Gospel according to Matthew

18:1Shortly thereafter Jesus’ disciples came to him and asked, “So who is greater in the kingdom of the heavens?”

18:2Jesus had a child stand in front of them18:3and said, “I can assure you that unless you change your attitude and become like one of these little ones, there is no way you will even enter into the kingdom of the heavens!18:4So those who humble themselves to the level of this child are greater in the kingdom of the heavens.18:5And those who accept such a child on my account are really accepting me.

18:6“If anyone sets a trap for the least significant of those who trust me, it would be better if that person had a large millstone hung around their neck and were drowned the sea!18:7And woe to this world full of such traps. Such things must be, but woe to the person who sets them up!

18:8“If your hand or foot becomes a trap for you, cut it off and throw it away! Better to enter life crippled or lame than to have both hands or feet but be thrown into the eternal fire.18:9And if your eye becomes a trap for you, pluck it out and throw it away! Better to enter life with one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into fiery Gehenna.18:10So see to it that you don’t scorn these lowly ones. For I tell you that their Messengers in the heavens are always in the presence of my Father in the heavens.18:11

18:12“What do you think? If someone has a hundred sheep and one wanders off, won’t they leave the other ninety-nine on the hills and go out looking for it?18:13And once they find it, I can assure you that they are happier about that one than the other ninety-nine that didn’t wander off!18:14And so it is with your Father in the heavens; he does not want even one of these lowly ones to be lost.

18:15“If your brother or sister errs, go and confront them privately. If they listen to you, you have won them back.18:16But if they don’t listen, take one or two others with you, so that ‘every charge is confirmed by two or three witnesses’.18:17If they still don’t listen, tell it to the congregation, and if they don’t even listen to the congregation, consider them to be like a non-Judean or a tax contractor.

18:18“I can assure you that whatever you restrict on earth will be restricted in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will be released in heaven.18:19I will say it again: If just two or three of you agree on anything in the world you may ask about, it will be granted by my Father in the heavens.18:20For where two or three have gathered on my account, there I am with them.”

18:21Then Peter came up to him and asked, “Master, how many times can a sister or brother fail me, and I still have to forgive them? Up to seven times?”

18:22“Not only up to seven times, but seventy times seven!” Jesus replied.1

18:23“It’s like this in the kingdom of the heavens: A certain king wanted to settle accounts with his servants.18:24And as he began, someone who owed him an enormous sum of money was brought before him.18:25But he couldn’t pay it, so the master ordered that he, his wife and children, and all his possessions were to be sold in order to pay the debt.

18:26“The slave fell down before him and begged, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full!’18:27The master was moved with compassion and forgave the debt. But after he was let go,18:28the slave went out from there to go after a fellow slave who owed him about a year’s wages. Grabbing him by the throat he demanded, ‘Pay back what you owe me!’18:29So that slave begged him, ‘Be patient with me and I will pay you back!’18:30But he refused and had him thrown into prison until he paid back every bit of his debt.

18:31“But the other slaves saw what he did and were very upset. So they went to the master and informed him of what had happened.18:32Then the master called that slave in and said to him, ‘You evil slave! I forgave all that debt you owed me, just because you asked.18:33So why didn’t you have the same pity on your fellow slave?’18:34Then in his rage his master handed him over to the torturers until he had paid every last bit of his debt.18:35And so it will be with my Father in the heavens, if you won’t forgive your sisters and brothers from the heart.”

  1. 1Jesus is clearly not giving a literal forgiveness limit here, but using exaggeration to make the point that there is no certain number.