“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt… But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’
-Matthew 18:23-24, 27-28 (ESV)
In Matthew 18, we find Jesus telling a story often referred to as The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant. The servant has a debt to the king of 10,000 talents, which is generously pardoned. That same servant, who was just freed from his bondage of debt, immediately tracks down another servant who owed him money, specifically 100 denarii.
The true essence of this parable can be lost if you don’t understand the significance of those two amounts.
First of all, a talent wasn’t a physical coin, but was considered to be 20 years worth of wages. For example, in the United States today, the average person makes $46,000 per year, which is $920,000 over 20 years. And this servant owed 10,000 times that amount… $9.2 BILLION! As for the 100 denarii, 1 denarius was equal 1 day’s wages, so that was equivalent to about 20 weeks worth of wages. Using the same $46,000 average would come out to about $18,000.
Look at it this way: the servant was over $9 billion in debt. That’s more than the gross domestic product of Madagascar! Or let me do the math for you: $18,000 is less than 0.000002% (2 millionths) of what he owned the king.
I know, I know… $18,000 is still a lot of money. When someone does you wrong, it hurts. No doubt about it. But it’s nothing compared to $9 billion.
Like the servant to the king, we were so far in the red to God that there was no way we could ever pay it back. But he has wiped clean our insurmountable debt. Amazingly, instead of vengeance, God chose forgiveness.
So we must have that same attitude of mercy and grace toward others who are indebted to us. Because God has already done it for us on a much larger scale.
It’s the least we can do.