Matthew 18:21-35, Revelation 7:09-17
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The love of money is the root of all evil. ‘Talent’ as a monetary amount is an ambiguous term. We’ll be conservative and say it was a month’s wages. The unmerciful servant came before his master and asked for mercy – with a lie. He said, “Be patient and I will repay you.” But as much as he may have wanted to, he couldn’t repay him. 10,000 talents was 10,000 months, 833 years worth, of wages. That is an impossible debt. How does one become that indebted? Only by hugely wasteful spending, frivolous, selfish, and inexcusable stupidity.
A denarius was a day’s wages. If someone owed you 100 denari, he would owe you 100 days’ worth of pay or 3 months’ salary. That is significant percentage of a person’s income. It’d be hard to pay back. But we pretty regularly borrow twice or more of our yearly income in a 30 year mortgage. It takes half a lifetime to pay back but it is not impossible. The fellow servant owed one eighth of that amount. So he could have probably paid it back in 4 years. The debtor owing this amount responded the same way as the other had to his master: “Be patient and I will pay you back.” But the unmerciful servant not only will not cancel his debt as his had been, but neither will he show any mercy. He will not give him the chance to pay it back. He throws him into prison hoping his family will cough up the debt as bail.
He had been forgiven 833 years worth of debt! Paid back at the rate that we pay off our homes it would have taken him 49,980 years to pay back. The earth is only 9,000 or so years old. It is a unbelievable amount. But it was forgiven, canceled. He was free. Who could respond to such mercy in such a harsh and unforgiving way to someone who owed him so little? Only the one who was still afraid that hadn’t actually been forgiven. Only the one who thought he still had debts to pay and needed the money.
The love of money is root of all evil. The poor everywhere know it takes money to make money. They don’t have it and that fact keeps them from getting it. Money is power and influence. It may not buy happiness, but it buys beauty, prestige, and honor. It buys opportunities. The poorest among us are caught in the cycle. Having been given all things, being the most prosperous and affluent people on earth (and in history) we have an obligation to share, to break the cycle. We also have a duty to remember from whence we came. We were not always so rich! Think how your parents and grandparents lived, what they ate, how they dressed, how cold they were in the winter. We are greatly blessed to live in America – no matter if we came fleeing persecution, smuggled in as slaves through violence, or seeking opportunities. We rightly say, “Thanks be to God. He has been merciful and kind to me without measure. He has given me things I did nor earn nor deserve.” And in what way then do we respond? We share.
This is not a call to communism. Nor do we condemn all luxuries. The poor will always be with you. Our Lord Himself enjoyed expensive, luxurious perfume – a seemingly frivolous thing, especially when poured on His feet. He also enjoyed the free and simple pleasure of singing hymns and of prayer, of companionship. Still there is a moral obligation to reflect and embody the forgiveness and generosity we have received from God in Jesus Christ. We are not unaware of it – but we would sometimes like to be. Repent. The frozen deserts of our hearts have shown few signs of life and plenty of vanity. We have given grudgingly and sparingly. We have spent more on a night at the movies then we put in the offering plate. We have taken care of ourselves first, padded our nest eggs, planned our vacations, pampered and spoiled ourselves, while searching for leftover change in the bottom of our purses for others as a obligatory afterthought. The Bible calls us to first-fruits, sacrificial giving. If you have two tunics, give one to your brother in need. Do not store up your treasures on earth.
It is not that God needs your money. He has plenty of resources. But you need to give it. In that way, giving is like prayer. God doesn’t need you to inform Him as to what is going on in your life or the world, but you need to pray. You need to let go and trust in Him to take care of it and of you. He has prepared good works, including acts of charity, mercy, and prayer for you to perform. Why’ For your own good and for the good of your neighbor. He shares His Kingdom with His children and that includes the privilege of serving others.
So Peter, as chief steward of God’s mysteries, wants to know how to dole out the gifts, how many times to forgive his sinful brother. The answer is not 490 times and no more. The answer is forever, without measure or cost or strings or demands. The debt was impossible and ridiculous. It could not be repaid. Eternity in Hell’s prison was our fate. But then, with a Word, God cancelled the debt. He forgave our guilt. He sacrificed His Son and raised Him again from the dead so that we would live not as slaves but as sons. 7 times 70 times He will forgive us, but everytime it is the first time again. Our cups overflow. There is no end to this forgiving salvation.
Next to His holiness, the unexpected mercy of the Holy Trinity is the main thing. He is good. He is gracious. Despite the fact that our debts were frivilous, wasteful, degenerate, and sick, selfish, insulting, and rebelling; despite the fact that we went into debt pursuing other gods, chasing strange lovers, He lets us off the hook. He cancels it. We couldn’t pay it back in 49,000 years. It’d take an eternity in Hell. But He wants us with Him. So He pays it Himself. And He never regrets it. He never rethinks it. He never changes His mind about it. He holds no grudges. He just loves. In fact, He is glad He did it. He would do it again. As long as you live this living death, He continues to extend what He has won for you on the cross. Paid for once and for all, but given again and again and again, as long as you need it, as long as you want it and believe it, as long as He Word endures, which is to say, forever. He forgives and loves: then, now, and into eternity, even to the point of inviting you this very day to partake of His Body and Blood. He has forgotten you debt, your obligations, your sins and your trespasses. Now you forget them too. Forget them. They are gone. Rejoice in Christ, your Savior, your Champion, your Brother and your God! You are free.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.