The Holy Gospel: September 11, 2011 (Year A)

Read:  Matthew 18:21-35

Meditation:  Incalculable Mercy!

From my early days as a Christian decades ago, I have been fascinated by this passage.  One of the reasons for my fascination is that nearly all the translations fail to show the extent to which Jesus is portraying forgiveness.

Let me give it a try…

In the footnote of many translations, we’re told that one talent was the equivalent of 15 years wages for a common laborer.  In today’s language, we might think of this as the salary paid to a minimum-wage worker.  Just for the simplicity of math, let’s say it’s $8 an hour, and that the person works 40 hours a week.

When we multiply 8x40x52x15, we discover that one talent is worth $249, 600

But notice—the first person owed his master 10,000 talents!   That totals up to almost 2.5 billion dollars!  And that’s how much Jesus said the first person owed his master!

By contrast, the second person only owed $6400—still a goodly amount.  But so much less by contrast.

Most translations don’t come close to showing the actual amount of each person’s debt, but the people who heard Jesus’ parable would have gotten the point, and they would have been staggered by it.

They would have heard him say, “Our forgiveness of others is miniscule in comparison to God’s forgiveness of us.  Be careful that you do not begrudge someone’s relatively small offence against you, when God has generously forgiven you to an extent you can hardly imagine.”

We are the recipients of incalculable mercy.  This week’s Gospel lesson asks, “How much of the mercy you receive from God is actually going out through you in what you offer to others?”

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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