The Journal of Biblical Accuracy
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The parable of the debtor of the ten thousand talents

We find this parable in Matthew 18:23-35. There we read:

"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 since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' 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.' So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

Ten thousand talents is a huge amount. Nobody could ever earn this amount of money. And yet this huge debt is what this servant owed. And do you know what happened? His Lord forgave him this debt. This is grace! Grace means unmerited favor. And this is exactly what this Master, who is a type of God, did: upon the pleading of his servant, he forgave him and removed this huge debt. This servant was now free! He was forgiven! Also note that he did not do anything to earn forgiveness of the debt other than pleading with the master. Up to here I believe all of us would agree that this is a perfect picture of me and you. What happened to this servant, the grace and compassion that was shown to him, is the same grace and compassion that was shown to us by God. As Ephesians 2:1-9 says, speaking about us:

Ephesians 2:1-9
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

Our debt was huge. We were dead in trespasses and sins. We were enemies of God and sons of disobedience. And what happened? We repented and believed. We bowed down like that servant and asked the King to forgive us. And He did! This is called grace. By grace we were saved. And so was that servant: by grace he was saved from his huge debt. There were no works, nothing me, you or that servant could do to pay that debt. Only grace could do this. So salvation is by faith through grace and cannot be earned in exchange for our works as no works could ever repay our huge debt. I think up to here, so far so good. But the Lord does not stop here!

He looks at what the servant did: in spite of the huge debt of which he was forgiven, he denied to forgive his fellow servant the tiny debt he owed him. The servant was forgiven but he did not walk as forgiven. Now would the King be just if He did not make any judgment here? No he would not. In contrast he would be completely unjust. And yet this is what many expect God to do with them: they expect Him to forgive them, but not to judge them when they insist in not walking as forgiven. When the Lord judged the servant and reinstated the huge dead that was originally forgiven, was He graceless? No. His grace was manifested when He originally forgave the servant of his huge debt. But seeing that this servant was not at all walking as forgiven but had taken advantage of his freedom pressuring his co-servants and asking "justice" to be done about their negligible debt to him, justice had to be applied to him too! So do not misunderstand grace and justice. God is both: He is both full of grace and full of justice. If we repent from the heart we receive grace. However, if we are unforgiving, essentially requesting judgment against those who supposedly wronged us, then judgment will be applied but it will start from us! Our Lord leaves no space for misunderstanding:

"'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

And again in the Lord’s prayer:

Matthew 6:12
"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."

This He explained further in verses 14-15:

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

That God is not just full of kindness and goodness but also full of righteousness with the respective severity that goes along, is summarized in an excellent way by Paul in Romans 11:22, when he says:

"Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off."

There is the kindness of God and that is what we will have if we continue walking the narrow path of faith, abiding in Christ, in the One who paid the price for us. But if we do not do this and we do not continue in His kindness, if in other words we choose, like that servant, to walk like we were not forgiven from the sins and the trespasses in which we were dead, then there is no kindness to be expected but severity. God is both and it is obvious that we choose what we get.

Next section: To the one who overcomes

 

Author: Anastasios Kioulachoglou