Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.” …
It’s hard to imagine how anyone could accrue a debt of 10,000 bags of gold. Just so we understand the enormous burden of the debt Jesus described, let me share a few Biblical calculations. The actual word used here is “talent,” which was the largest unit of weight measurement in Jesus’ day. Scholars believe a talent was roughly equivalent to 50 pounds, so 10,000 talents would be 250 tons of gold. Earlier this year, gold was valued at a record high of more than $1,900 per ounce. So, in modern financial terms, the servant owed the king in the neighborhood of $15.2 billion! Ouch. Jesus used such an outrageous sum to catch the attention of his listeners, but also to make a theological point that we may struggle to grasp or that we may choose to ignore. Jesus was comparing the servant’s financial debt to the spiritual debt we owe God because of our sin.
The servant’s debt teaches us two things. First, sin is really, really bad. The Holy God who created us can’t just overlook our sin or wish it away, because sin covers us with a filthy grime so sticky and vile that God, who loves us, could never allow us to be near him. Our only hope is to be washed clean, but we don’t have enough soap. In financial terms, we could never pay off what we owe. Second, God’s grace to forgive our sin is truly amazing. He didn’t just write-off our sin like some accounting trick to erase a debt. Our spiritual debt still had to be paid, so Jesus paid that enormous, unfathomable debt on our behalf.
Jesus told this parable in response to Peter’s question about how often we need to forgive someone who wrongs us. Peter thought he was being generous by suggesting seven times. It’s hard to forgive, to cancel a debt someone owes us. Seven times sounds pretty magnanimous until we realize just how much grace God has shown us.
Gracious Father, in my sinfulness, I owe You more than I can imagine or could ever repay. But what joy I have knowing that You canceled my debt because Jesus died for me. Thank You for Your grace and love. Teach me to forgive others, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian