In Matthew 18:23, Jesus tells Peter the parable of the unforgiving servant. This debtor owed his king 10,000 talents. The king forgives the slave’s debt, but the debtor then finds a man who owes him 100 day’s wages. He chokes the man and then throws him in prison until he fully pays the debt. When the king finds out, he reinstates the 10,000-talent debt and requires full payment of it from the man. Jesus then says to Peter and all the disciples, “Thus also will my heavenly father do to you all unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart” (Matthew 18:35).
So how much money is 10,000 talents?
Well, a denarius is a day’s wage for a common workingman. In today’s world, at $7.25 minimum wage, it would be $58. In antiquity, a denarius could buy 15 pounds of wheat. A talent is 6,000 denarii, or 20 years of daily wages for a six-day workweek. Today, one talent would be $348,000.
Jesus likens Peter and the disciples to unforgiving servants. They each owe God 10,000 talents. God has forgiven that debt to each one. However, Jesus points out that if one forgiven such a debt then goes out and demands the debts owed them, it would greatly offend God.
Now 100 denarii is a significant sum. It’s four months wages. In modern money, it is $5,800. This is a real debt. And the debtor rightfully should repay it. Thus, Jesus acknowledges that people really will sin against Peter; he would have the right to claim repayment. But the magnitude of God’s forgiveness means that Peter must forgive even significant debt owed him by others.
Now realize that 10,000 talents is 200,000 years of labor! It is 60,000,000 working days. In modern money, it is $3.48 billion.
If you tried to service four percent interest on that amount, it would basically take $5 a second, every second until you paid off 200,000 years of work! At four percent, if you did not pay $5 a second interest, then the debt would begin to double at the rate of once every 18 years.
Here’s a visual of 10,000 talents. Picture a Chevrolet one-ton pickup truck. Now fill it with one ton of pure gold. If you parked trucks bumper to bumper, the line would stretch 1.3 miles before you reached 10,000 talents. It is 375 tons of gold.
Could it be that our love for God is small because we don’t understand just how much God has forgiven? Could it be that we judge others because we think our sin small and theirs great?
What do you think?