“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
To read today’s portion of scripture, you can purchase The One Year Bible (paid link) or find the following in your Bible:
“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!’” (Matthew 18:27, 28).
Why did the Master forgive this man’s debt? We’re not given much to paint a picture of exactly how the servant approached him. Was his demeanor properly humble when he approached the master? Did he fall to the ground with just the right amount of drama? Was his voice such a perfect blend of passion, pain and pleading that the master felt he had no choice but to reward him with a ripping up of the debt? No. It wasn’t a single thing on the part of the servant — it was the compassion of the master. Moved with compassion, the master first freed him from his bonds, and forgave him his debt. The servant was freed and forgiven because the master was good; not because he was.
Want to know how much the servant owed? Well, a talent was an enormous amount of money. One talent weighed about 75 pounds, so you weren’t likely to walk around with a pocket full of talents. But you might have a denarius or two in there. And if you saved up your denarii diligently, you could save 6,000 of them in about 16 years, since one day’s wage was about one denarius. 6,000 denarii saved over 16 years would buy you one talent.
And the servant owed 10,000 talents. That’s what’s called, “a debt you could never repay.” It would be impossible to scrimp and save, never spending one penny on anything, for 160,000 years. (I mean, first you’d have to figure out how to keep breathing that long.) That’s how long it would take to pay back 10,000 talents.
How compassionate and benevolent that master! And how light your steps would be when that impossible debt was lifted from your shoulders! Picture Scrooge waking from his dream, and realizing he can live life differently, and laughing down at the people in the street below his window. Picture Jimmy Stewart running down the street yelling, “Hello, you beautiful Bedford Falls!” because he’d had the same epiphany. New life. Brand new start. New chance to be the benevolent one.
But that’s not what happened. The servant went to a man who owned him money, and instead of passing on the grace that had just been given him, he literally took the man by the throat and demanded what was owed him. How much money? Must have a been a tremendous debt, right? Hardly. That man owed the servant 100 denarii … about 100 days wages.
100 days wages vs. 160,000 years wages.
We read the story of this ungrateful servant and we shake our heads with disapproval. How could he have missed the lesson? How could he have accepted forgiveness but denied it to others?
How do we?
That’s exactly what we’re doing when we accept the merciful forgiveness of God, who pardons us for a lifetime of sins against Him, and we then refuse to deal graciously with someone who slights us.
But then again, how dare that guy take your parking spot?