Verse: Matthew 18:21-35
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Anyone else feel like this parable hits them hard? God knew what He was doing when He chose to use parables as a teaching method. This parable is a little different than some of the others, though. Many parables are meant to be a little unclear and thought provoking, leading to larger audiences in order to challenge their thinking. This parable is not confusing and is not meant to require extra explanation to understand. Jesus tells this parable to His closest disciples, to His inner circle. Peter asks Jesus about forgiveness, and this parable is His answer.
One tidbit of information that I think helps us understand the magnitude of this situation is understanding the weight of the debts owed. Explained in a commentary by Karl Jacobson “A “talent” is a measure of weight, close to about 130 lbs, which could be used for gold and silver (and presumably other precious metals). In monetary terms then the talent has to do with a weight of (most likely) silver, and was roughly equal to about 15 years worth of wages for the typical worker. The king in our parable is owed 10,000 talents, or about 150,000 years worth of income, which works out to more than 3,000 financial life sentences. A denarius (plural = denarii) is a small silver coin that was roughly the daily wage for the typical worker. The slave in our parable is owed 100 denarii.” … the second slave owed 100 days worth of wages. 3 and a half months. We’re comparing 3 and a half months of wages to 150,000 YEARS of income.
I had NO idea how much money we were talking about in these verses and it just highlights the lesson in the parable so much more for me. The debt that the first master forgave was a huge, undeserving, precious gift. It was a gift that the servant never could have fulfilled on his own.
In this parable, it is the masters’ right to hold the debt over the slave. The first master does not owe forgiveness of the slave’s debts, but gives it because he values the life of the slave more than the money. The second master does not give out the same grace and does not forgive the slave’s debt because he values money more than human life.
In the same commentary by Karl Jacobson he states “in the eyes of God 54,750,000 coins (the equivalent value of 10,000 talents in denarii) are nothing to be considered next to the fate of the sinner. Forgiveness, as laid out in this parable, is extravagant in the extreme, and more precious by far than the wages of sin.”
We could work for a thousand lifetimes and still be undeserving of the forgiveness God offers us. We bring nothing of value to the table, yet God looks at us, sees all of our debt in sin, and offers us forgiveness anyway. It doesn’t matter how large our debt is, it doesn’t matter what sins we’ve fallen into, it doesn’t matter how long we stray from His path. He is good and gracious and wipes our debt clean. The wages of sin is eternal death (Romans 6:23), but God offers us eternal life instead of the death we deserve, through the blood of Jesus.
However, this isn’t the end of the parable. Do we want to be like the second master, who was given much, then hardens his heart and offers no grace to others? In light of the extreme, undeserving forgiveness of God, who are we to withhold this same grace from others? Now listen, I’m not talking about forgoing all boundaries and complacently allowing sin and wrong doing to run rampant. I’m not talking about allowing someone to have free access to committing wrongdoings against you repeatedly, That’s a whole different discussion for another day. I’m talking about the days where we’re quick to anger, quick to hold a grudge but slow to forgive. Days we chose to be passive aggressive or just straight up aggressive rather than get to the heart of the issue with people around us. I know I have a million little (and big) examples of this that come up every day. It’s so hard to forgive someone when they have genuinely hurt you, and sometimes they’re not even sorry. Sometimes it takes waking up every single day, and praying for God to give you the strength to choose forgiveness again, even when you want to choose bitterness and anger. In light of Jesus forgiving us of the ultimate debt, everything else pales in comparison. We are not meant to look like the world (Romans 12:2), but rather be transformed by the Word of God. Accepting the payment of the cross for your sins is the biggest transformation of all. Our unearthly forgiveness is a beautiful testament of all we have been forgiven.