A Debt I Could Not Pay

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I don’t like borrowing money from people.  There’s something about owing money to someone that makes me feel like I’m in bondage.  If for some reason I do owe someone money, I try to pay it back as quickly as possible. 

Having said that, “The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant” from Matthew 18:21-35 has been on my mind recently. 

In response to Peter’s question about how many times he should forgive a person who sins against him, Jesus tells a story about a man who had a huge debt cancelled.  His compassionate master realized his servant would never be able to pay back ten thousand talents (equivalent to millions of dollars), so he just dropped the debt and let his servant go.

I emphasized the debt was millions of dollars for a reason.  Sometimes I breeze over the “ten thousand talents” part because I don’t really get it.  But it’s only when I understand the enormity of his debt that I can understand Jesus’ point.

This man leaves with the debt of a lifetime behind him, and finds one of his servants who owed him one hundred denarii (get this – a few dollars).  Refusing to give him time to pay it back, the man threw his servant in prison over a small debt.

The man’s actions are outrageous in light of the forgiveness he’s just experienced.  In fact, it’s almost hard to believe.  My guess is that Jesus intentionally made the difference in size of the debts laughable.  No one would actually do that, right?

As I mentioned above, Jesus’ point cannot be fully grasped until we realize the extent of the first debt – it would have been impossible to repay.  I, too, know the burden of debt, and like the man in the story, I had no chance to pay it back.  But Jesus, the compassionate Master that He is, has forgiven me all my sins by cancelling the record of debt that stood against me with its legal demands.  He set it aside by nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).

By the grace of God alone, I have been freed from the bondage of a debt I could never pay.  But until I realize the size of my debt, I will never fully appreciate the extent of His forgiveness. 

Only when we come to terms with how much we have been forgiven are we able to respond appropriately to Jesus (Luke 7:47) and to those who offend us.

Written by: Abbey Le Roy, MA in Theological Studies from CIU's Seminary and School of Ministry

"Give us this day our daily bread." Matthew 6:11