Homily 321 – 11th after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
August 12, 2018
Epistle – (141) 1 Corinthians 9:2-12
Gospel – (77) Matthew 18:23-35
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
Most historians recognize that a talent was a lot of money. A talent was typically 75 pounds of gold. Based on today’s value, each talent is worth about $1.4 million dollars.
Ten thousand talents would be about $14 billion.
There are other ways of characterizing a talent. A denarius was approximately a day’s wage – and a talent was 6,000 denarii. One talent was a bit over 19 years’ worth of labor.
At our minimum wage, $7.25, a denarius is worth about $87. A talent, using this calculation, is worth 6,000 times that, or $522,000.
The value of a denarius just isn’t what it used to be.
So, ten thousand talents would be worth $5.2 billion.
This is important to understand the sense of perspective that Christ speaks of. The slave owed between $5.2 and $14 billion.
The fellow slave, on the other hand, owed 100 denarii, or about $8,700. 600,000 times less than what the original slave owed.
The king – who is obviously God in the parable – the king forgave the debt of the slave in his compassion. Probably goes without saying, but this compassion is truly abundant. Overflowing compassion.
To be clear – this debt that the slave owed was of his own volition. He had what we today would call “agency” – the capacity of an actor to act in a given environment.
In other words – no force, no compulsion. This was not some inherited debt that he was being asked to account for and pay back.
Critically, his Lord – our God – didn’t just accept the offer of the slave for repayment over time. The slave had said, “have patience with me, and I will repay you all.”
The likelihood of that was probably near zero. But God could have said, OK, fine. I will be patient.
But you still owe me.
That isn’t what God said – he forgave the debt outright. God said to the slave, “Your debt to me is canceled. You no longer owe anything. Go in peace.”
Let that sink in. Canceled. Forgiven. No longer owed.
And that is what God has done for us. He has taken an unpayable debt, and in his compassion, forgiven us.
We can’t imagine anyone forgiving this large of a debt. And yet God does. Because to God, in his infinite magnificent wealth – after all, everything that exists is His – in that vast unknowable wealth, $5.2 billion is nothing. Literally.
But to us – His creation – it is everything. More than everything.
Brothers and sisters, we are forgiven. Not just for everything we have done, but for everything we will do. We are forgiven – and we are set free!
How can we NOT spend the rest of our time giving thanks and praise to our Lord! Every waking moment, every step, every breath.
We have been set free for that very purpose. We are free to pursue the praise and glorification of our God and King and Creator for all eternity.
We can use the forgiveness and freedom given to us by God to ensure that we treat others poorly, harshly, without compassion – thereby rejecting everything that God has given to us.
We can go to our brother and demand repayment for the debt that they owe us. The debt which is less than nothing. A literal drop in the ocean.
This debt of money – and also of gratitude we feel entitled to, or respect we are entitled to, or privilege we are entitled to. We demand it of our brothers and sisters.
Because we forget the utter magnificence of the goodness extended to us, who while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
How equally magnificently horrible of us to not forgive our brothers and sisters, after all, we have been forgiven.
Some tell me, Father, this is hard. This is a difficult thing that God asks of us.
But we are made in God’s image. We have this capacity within us.
The Fathers and Elders tell us that we have the strength of decision. We also have our agency which allows us to decide.
The only reason it is hard is that of fear. We are afraid. And we are afraid because we don’t trust God to meet our needs – to have our back.
How quickly we forget our forgiveness.
To forgive, to love, to thank – these are decisions we can make. We can act on them. The trick is to not let our emotions rule us, to not be bound by emotions like fear or anger.
We don’t have to feel it to make it so. We can forgive in the midst of our anger. We can love in the midst of our hurt.
We can, and must, focus on how much God has forgiven, so that we too may forgive.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!