Matthew 18

Instructions to the Disciples: The Charter of the Community[a]

Chapter 18

Become Like Little Children.[b] 1 At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 Then Jesus beckoned a child to come to him, placed it in their midst, 3 and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself and becomes like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Woe to the World because of Scandals.[c] 5 “And whoever receives one such child in my name receives me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of scandals. Such things are bound to occur, but woe to the one through whom they come.

8 [d]“If your hand or your foot is an occasion of sin for you, cut it off and throw it away. It is preferable for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is preferable for you to enter into life with one eye than to have two eyes and be cast into the fires of Gehenna.

10 “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven gaze continually on the face of my heavenly Father. [ 11 For the Son of Man has come to save what was lost.][e]

12 The Parable of the Lost Sheep.[f]“Tell me your opinion. If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the other ninety-nine on the hillside and go off in search of the one who went astray? 13 And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he is more filled with joy over it than over the ninety-nine who did not wander off. 14 In the same way, it is not the will of your Father in heaven that a single one of these little ones should be lost.

15 The Church: Community of Love, Prayer, and Pardon.[g]“If your brother wrongs you, go and take up the matter with him when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that every detail may be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, report it to the Church. And if he refuses to listen to the Church, treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

18 “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 [Amen,] I say to you, further, if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in their midst.”

21 Then Peter came up to him and asked, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy times seven.[h]

23 The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.[i]“For this reason, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began the accounting, a man was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.[j] 25 Since he had no possible way to repay what he owed, his master ordered him to be sold, together with his wife, his children, and all his property, to satisfy the debt. 26 At this, the servant fell to his knees, saying, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you in full.’ 27 Moved with compassion, the master of that servant let him go and canceled the debt.

28 “However, when that servant left, he encountered one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred denarii,[k] and, choking him, he demanded, ‘Pay me back what you owe.’ 29 His fellow servant fell to his knees and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Be patient with me and I will repay you.’ 30 But he turned a deaf ear and had him thrown into prison until he had repaid the debt.

31 “When his fellow servants observed what had happened, they were greatly upset, and, going to their master, they reported everything that had taken place. 32 Then his master sent for the man and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you for your complete debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in his anger his master handed him over to be tortured until he repaid the entire debt. 35 In the same way, my heavenly Father will also deal with you unless each of you forgives his brother from the heart.”


  1. Matthew 18:1 In this fourth collection of the sayings of Jesus, there are a good number that we have already met, and we recognize here, at times, the tone of the “Sermon on the Mount” (chs. 5–7). Everything is focused on the coming of the kingdom, but the words of Jesus now apply to the community life of the disciples. Chapter 18 is known as the “ecclesiastical discourse” because it describes the demands made by brotherhood in the Church of Jesus, which is a community of love, prayer, and forgiveness.
  2. Matthew 18:1 The true disciple of Jesus must renounce all ambition and become as simple and humble as a child.
  3. Matthew 18:5 Woe to those who give scandal to the little ones, i.e., the disciples of the Gospel, so as to make them fall. The Lord identifies himself with them and issues severe threats for those who wish to pervert them. Indeed, they have angels who always see the face of the Father in heaven—the guardian angels—thus showing their great worth in God’s eyes.
  4. Matthew 18:8 These verses are already to be found substantially in Mt 5:29-30; the evangelist repeats them because they have to do with “scandal.” The point is that no one can be saved who does not break completely with evil.
  5. Matthew 18:11 This verse is missing from the most important manuscripts and seems to have been transferred to this point from Lk 19:10.
  6. Matthew 18:12 In this parable, Jesus suggests what price the Father attaches to the salvation of sinners. The evangelist uses it as an appeal to the community that it may never become inhospitable to the least of believers, no matter how lost they may appear.
  7. Matthew 18:15 When believers live with trust in God and in communion with one another, Christ is in their midst. Doubtless, judgment is to be passed upon those who “sin,” i.e., who gravely and publicly injure the unity; but all must remain ready to forgive without measure.
  8. Matthew 18:22 Seventy times seven: the Greek word may also be translated “seventy-seven times.”
  9. Matthew 18:23 The law of pardon must ceaselessly renew the fraternal relationships in the Church. It is founded on the goodness of God who gratuitously forgives the immense sin of human beings.
  10. Matthew 18:24 Ten thousand talents: an enormous sum, equivalent to about 250,000 kg of silver. The Attic talent in circulation at that time was worth 6000 drachmas, and a drachma weighed about 4 gr.
  11. Matthew 18:28 One hundred denarii: the denarius was a Roman silver coin with the image and name of the emperor on it; it weighed about 4 gr and was the salary for a day’s work. A hundred denarii were therefore a sum 600,000 times less than the ten thousand talents.

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