Thoughts for the Day

Tuesday, 5th March 2024: The enormous debt

Debt Matthew 18 Parable Sin Jesus

Reading : Verses from Matthew, Chapter 18

30 pieces of silver

Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another person sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow-servant fell down and pleaded with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.” But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-servant, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’

(Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)


What is the largest debt many of us owe? It's likely to be our house, or perhaps our car. Or maybe we owe a huge debt in another way, for instance to those who brought us up from our birth. Whatever that debt is, it pales into complete insignificance in comparison to the amount owed by the first servant in the parable above. At this point we should remember that a parable - a story with a 'heavenly meaning' - is usually told to make one major point which is often exaggerated.

John Kennedy, a Congregational Theologian and Philanthropist in the 19th century gave a wonderful illustration of how much the two servants owed their master, by describing the quantity in old sixpenny coins (there were 40 in £1). He said, the 100 denarii debt of the second servant could be carried in one pocket. But the ten thousand talent debt of the first servant would take an army of about 8,600 people, each carrying a sack of sixpenny coins weighing 60 lbs in weight (over 27 kilograms) who would form a queue about five miles long (over 8 kilometres)! This last is the debt his master wrote off!

The difference between the two debts is shocking. Most Jewish teaching taught that someone should forgive someone three times, since it was thought that God would forgive us four times. So Peter's suggestion was generous. But Jesus points out that what we owe to God cannot compare to any other debt, yet He shows us mercy and forgives us our sin again and again. We can never repay Him for all He has done, and for which His Son gave His life. Since God has forgiven us so much, we must always show mercy and forgive others.


Almighty God and Heavenly Father,
we ask Your forgiveness for our sin -
for those we barely notice
and for those we know we commit.
May we learn to reflect on Your goodness
and on Your mercy,
and remember that Your Son
gave up His life that we might be forgiven.
Help us to be as generous to others
as You are to us.

Follow Up Thoughts

In realisation of the debt we owe to Jesus, you might like to listen to this lovely Christian song by Robin Mark:

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