God Forgives an Unpayable Debt
The Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition is not the version we see here gives figures for the debts—ten thousand talents for the first debt and one hundred denarii for the second. With those understandings I can figure out in today’s dollars how much the debts actually were.
In today’s money the first debt was just above four million six hundred thousand dollars. The second debt was sixty-thousand dollars. As you can see they are substantial and substantially different.
This gives us a deeper understanding of Jesus’ teaching.
The first man could not pay off such a huge amount and remember, this does not include accruing interest. This is an unpayable debt.
How did the man get a debt that high? He had a lifestyle to feed and his debts fed his lifestyle. His spending got out of control and he ended up with a debt no one could pay. The day he was called to the king’s chamber he was hoping would never come. However, in fact the Bible warns against this exact scenario often. See For example Habbakuk 2.
So, his debt is forgiven, a completely unpayable debt, and then he goes and throttles this other servant. Remember, if the debt were never forgiven, and he used the smaller debt paid to him to help pay off the larger debt, it would have been basically a waste of time. Sixty thousand dollars paid against a four and half million dollar debt that grows even at three percent interest per year compounded daily is like throwing a water balloon at a Sherman tank. Its useless.
So why did he throttle the servant? Because he had no intention of changing his lifestyle that caused the debt in the first place. His debt was forgiven but he had no intention to repent of his actions.
That is Jesus’ message.
Every sin we commit against God causes an unpayable debt. Every infraction against the law of God is as serious as every serious crime against the law of God. You can go to Hell for missing Mass on Sunday (outside of the COVID Era) as much as you can for robbing your next door neighbor of his life savings. Who is the one who keeps that account? God? Actually no, it is the devil. He is the accuser who lists all your sins and cites why you deserve condemnation according to the law of God.
God accepts his accusations but the sentence is forgiveness. That is how we are forgiven, but forgiveness requires repentance just as you need to change your life to get out of debt. If you work out a way to settle or pay off your credit card debt, but do not change your spending habits you will be in the same or worse condition shortly. So, the first way to get out of credit card debt is to throw away your credit card or you will never get out of debt.
This is the point of Jesus’ message. The person who is forgiven recognizes his sin, and gratefully changes his life so he does not end up in that position again. We do that by accepting God’s forgiveness on His terms, not on our terms.
Therefore, the person who refuses to forgive the neighbor has not repented of his own obstinate refusal of appreciating what God has done for him. There is no change of heart.
God won’t forgive you because there is nothing to forgive, there is no change of heart. The evidence is lack of appreciation for what God has done for you. We accept God’s forgiveness on His terms, not on our terms.
Now understanding that, we need to ask what forgiveness is or is not.
Forgiveness is a choice not to take vengeance out against a person who has hurt you. Forgiveness is not giving up on a just solution.
If someone steals twenty dollars from you, he still owes you twenty dollars, but you do not want him to spend a year in prison on top of what he owes you in justice. We leave vengeance up to God.
If you refuse to forgive then you are bringing your vengeance on the person and if you call yourself Catholic you do not have that option. Vengeance is God’s not yours.
If a person hurt you, there is a natural process of healing, forgiveness does not undermine that, the hurt is still here. Let’s imagine Joe Jones who gets angry at you because you scratched his car with your shopping cart. He hits you knocks you down and breaks your arm. Later, he has a change of heart and begs your forgiveness and you forgive him. Your arm is not going to heal instantly at that moment. It will follow the normal process of healing. The same with our emotions when we are hurt.
It takes time for emotional wounds to heal and sometimes the pain can be so severe that we cannot forgive immediately. We always need God’s grace to do His will and that includes for the ability to forgive.
Further, we seek forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation. Why, Well I am sure you are familiar with the saying To Err is Human and to forgive divine. Forgiveness is something that we need God’s grace to do so that we can accept God’s forgiveness on His terms, not on our terms and forgive others who ask for it.
So forgiveness is central to our faith both our receiving it and changing our life for the better and for helping others do the same.