The Greater and Lesser Debts
Matthew 18:23-29 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
“But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’”
The parable of the unforgiving servant presents us with one of the great contrasts in the Scriptures. The servant owed a nearly uncountable amount—10,000 talents. According to one source, one talent alone was worth 6,000 denarii. Ten thousand times that amount is an amount that no one could pay back, certainly not a servant.
Once that debt was erased, that servant who owed so much demanded payment of a hundred denarii—the approximate equivalent of 100 days pay. Of course the obvious lesson is that we should forgive the relatively small offenses we’ve received from others in the light of the great forgiveness granted by God.
Two things here. One is that the hundred denarii was not insignificant. One hundred days of income is significant to most of us, and is a real amount to say goodbye to. The Lord isn’t saying here that what we need to forgive is inconsequential or too small to consider; He lets us know here that sins against us are real, and carry weight. It’s simply in comparing it to what we owe the Lord that the human offenses shrink in comparison. They don’t disappear, nor are they considered foolish by comparison—just much smaller.
Secondly, like many of the original hearers, many of us can’t relate to the idea of 10,000 talents. It breaks the outer limits of our comprehension. But that 100 denarii—we are well aware of the size and meaning of that. We know its pain and the damage those 100-denarii offenses have caused us.
What we are called to do here to honor the Lord in this parable is to stop and meditate on the larger amount, and push the small amount aside for a while. This 10,000-talent debt is God’s perspective on our sin, and the state we are in before His grace and forgiveness came to us. Our debt was that big, even if we can’t relate to it when we first come to Him.
We need to agree with God by faith that while we perhaps didn’t realize our dire state and our depth of sinfulness at the time we came to Him, we do now. Remember Romans 8:1—“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”—as you think on these things. But remember that before the debt was erased, there was a huge price to be paid. We will never comprehend the extent of our lost state on this side of the grave. Yet we can agree with this parable that the debt was astronomical, and His grace is amazing.
Prayer: Father, I agree with You in Your word here that my debt was practically incalculable. Thank You for mercy and forgiveness that is also incalculable. May the reality of Your grace help me to keep those 100-denarii offenses in proper perspective.