Monday, September 5, 2016

Matthew 18:23-35 Debts and Forgiveness

Regarding Matthew 18:23-35, I have heard many monetary conversion rates to help us appreciate the debt the unforgiving slave had in comparison to his peer. But probably the absolute best reasoning point I’ve ever heard that not only drives home the point in a timeless way, but is easy to grasp is the following.

Quoting from the Insight on Scriptures, vol.1, starting on page 1179, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, under the heading “Illustrations,” we read: “A denarius equaled a day’s wages; so 100 denarii, the smaller debt, equaled approximately one third of a year’s wages. Ten thousand silver talents, the larger debt, equaled 60 million denarii, or wages that would require thousands of lifetimes to accumulate.”

To expand on the above, according to Matthew 20:10, a denarius (singular for denarii) was equal to a single day’s wage in the times when Jesus walked the earth. A drachma is also equal to one day’s wage. (We need this information to continue with equation.) A single mina is worth 100 drachmas. And a single talent is worth 60 minas. We need to break that back down now to determine the difference between a denarius and a talent. 100 (drachmas) times 60 minas is 6,000 denarii. But the unforgiving slave did not owe his ruler merely 1 talent. He owed 10,000. That is 60 million denarii. If a denarius is one day’s wages, then the slave owed 60 million days. If an average working life is about 60 years, that equates to 21,900 days. So that slave would have to live and die 2,739 lifetimes before being able to pay his debt and that doesn’t even count the debt he would incur during each subsequent life.

But how in world could any man amass such debt? Again, this was an illustration that Jesus made. In the book of Psalms we discover a point that makes Jesus illustration very plain. In Psalm 49:7-9 we discover that we are incapable of redeeming our sinful lives. If it weren’t for God’s willingness to forgive us through the value of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, we would indeed be as hopeless as the unforgiving slave. Yes, God forgave us all what he considers to be a huge debt. Since that is so, would any of dare to anger God by not being forgiving to our fellow man, even if what they owed us was a mere single lifetime!?


  1. We do tend to think of ourselves as pretty good people, and I suppose, that if we are talking in relative terms, say, person to person, or compared to what the average person is like, this is fine. But the case of Isaiah before God with the angels singing, "Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of armies, the earth is filled with his glory," is quite enlightening. Isaiah, while a righteous man, became quickly aware of his pitiable state before our perfectly holy God, and said, "Woe is me, for I, a sinful man, have seen the great King himself, Jehovah of armies."

    If that is how we felt all of the time, that before the one to whom we will have to make an accounting we have nothing of our own on which we can rely upon, we will be quite ashamed and terrified. Yet we have God's love, who desires to draw near us sinful and impure beings, and who has bought us with the price of his Son. That should move us to display the same generous and reconciliatory spirit that he shows. Knowing that compared to us, they are not as pitiable as we are all to Jehovah who alone is holy.

  2. @Sean Killackey: Good points my dear brother. Again, it is always admirable to find a young man that takes his spirituality seriously. To me, it seems the point you make (in your comment above) and the one I made in my article, are slightly different. I was trying to drive home, not how unrighteous we are in comparison to God's holiness (as if there could even be a comparison), but how indebted to our God we are. The absurdity of having to live over 2,000 lifetimes just to pay the debt of our sinfulness and imperfections in this lifetime is humbling.