Debt and Forgiveness

From Matthew 18:

On approaching [Jesus], Peter said to him, “Lord, how many times shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus says to him, “I don’t tell you, up to seven times—rather, up to seventy times seven times!

“Because of this [the demand for limitless forgiveness] the kingdom of heaven was like a man, a king, who wanted to settled accounts with his slaves. And when he’d begun to settle accounts, there was brought to him one debtor of ten thousand talents [= who own that many talents, each talent worth the wages for around six thousand days of work by a manual laborer]. And because he didn’t have the money to pay off [his debt], the master commanded him to be sold, also [his] wife and children and all things that he has, so many as they are, and [his debt] to be paid off. So the slave, on falling down, was doing obeisance to him, saying, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll repay you all [those talents].’ And feeling sorry [for him], the master of that slave dismissed him and forgave him the loan.

“But on going out, that slave found one of his fellow slaves who was owing him a hundred denariuses [each denarius worth the wage for one day of work by a manual laborer]. And on seizing him, he started choking [him], saying, ‘Pay [me] back if you owe anything.’ So his fellow slave, on falling down, was imploring him, saying, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll repay you.’ But he wasn’t willing. Going off, rather, he threw him into prison till he would back back what was owed.

“So his fellow slaves, on seeing the things that had happened, were exceedingly saddened and, on coming, related to their own master all the things that had happened. Then on summoning him, his master says to him, ‘Evil slave, I forgave you all that debt, since you implored me. It was necessary, wasn’t it, that you too have mercy on your fellow slave as I too had mercy on you?’ And angered, his master gave him over to the torturers till he would pay back what was owed. In this way will my heavenly Father, too, treat you if you each don’t forgive from your hearts his brother.”

Translation by Robert H. Gundry, Commentary on the New Testament  (Hendrickson Publishers, 2010)

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