Sunday, December 10, 2023

Who is the Greatest? (Part 10)

By Clifton Angel
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21–22).
    McGarvey and Pendleton indicate, “Peter was striving to be liberal, for the Talmud [oral traditions/debates of Jewish teachers] limits forgiveness to three times” (The Four-fold Gospel). Peter’s supposed “liberality” did not match the mercy and grace in the mind of God. It is apparent that Jesus’ use of “seventy times seven” (490) was a hyperbole to imply that our grace and mercy toward our brethren should be limitless. Our carnal inclination is to want to draw lines and excuse ourselves from forgiving someone who has sinned against us multiple times. The world teaches us that once someone is out of our “good graces,” they will no longer be welcomed by us. Then, there’s that false forgiveness where we place qualifications on our mercy: “I’ll forgive you, but no longer will I (fill in the blank).” “Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”
    After setting this precedent, Jesus proclaimed a powerful parable that is heart-wrenching and humbling to everyone who recognizes his position in relation to God.
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants (Matthew 18:23; NOW READ, 18:24–35).
    In this parable, the king’s servant owed him 10,000 talents. The Fourfold Gospel, published in 1905, notes: “Assuming that the silver talent is meant ($1,600), the debt was $16,000,000, which would render the debtor hopeless enough. If it was a gold talent, it would be nearly twenty times as much.” A quick web search and calculation yields a modern number of $559,680,000 for the silver talent. I recall reading one source that indicated one talent as the average yearly wage in Jesus’ day. Thus, it would take 10,000 years for the servant to repay it; in other words, he could never repay the debt. Yet, in his plea for more time, the king was merciful to wipe the debt clean. As the parable goes, the same servant who was forgiven this great, un-payable debt did not extend "even an ounce" of the same mercy to his fellow servant. His co-worker owed him “an hundred pence” which equates to about 100 days wages according to one source, or $100 in 1905 ($3,498 today, CA), according to The Fourfold Gospel. This recipient of the king’s grace and mercy was harsh, unmerciful, and impatient with his fellow-servant. As result, the king delivered this unmerciful servant the death penalty by torture.
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses (Matthew 18:35).
    Who is the greatest? “Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:

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