In the beatitudes, Jesus taught that the merciful are blessed. Jesus had a lot to teach us about mercy. Some of it He taught by example, while other lessons He taught directly through what He said. Today, let’s look at an interesting story Jesus told in Matthew 18, and note two important lessons from it.
Lesson 1: Mercy feels so good to receive.
Jesus told a touching story of a servant who owed his master a lot of money. The master had been away for a while, but had returned to settle accounts. The servant, however, couldn’t pay his debt. He owed ten thousand talents.
A talent was a measurement of weight. Therefore, the value of a talent depends upon what you are weighing. If these were ten thousand talents of gold, then this servant owed his master $11.9 billion by today’s standards (according to Wolfram Alpha). If the talents were of silver, then ten thousand talents would convert to around $161 million today.
The master commanded that the servant be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, so that payment might be made. But the servant fell to his knees and begged his master to have mercy. The master was “moved with compassion” (Mat. 18:27), and forgave him of his debt.
Stop for a minute and think about how good that must have felt for this servant. One minute he owes millions or billions of dollars, and the next minute he’s forgiven of that debt. Imagine the weight that was lifted from his shoulders! Imagine the stress that was suddenly relieved!
I wish the story ended there, but it doesn’t. There’s another lesson we need to learn.
Lesson 2: Mercy is so hard to give.
The forgiven servant goes and finds one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. A denarius was one day’s wages (Mat. 20:2). If you take today’s minimum wage – $7.25 per hour – and multiply that by twelve hours, you come to $87 per day. One hundred denarii would equal $8700 by today’s standards. Is that a lot of money? Absolutely! But is it possible that this servant could have paid what he owed? It is.
The servant who had just been forgiven demands his fellow servant to cough up the hundred denarii. The servant begged him to be patient, but this guy wouldn’t hear it. He threw him into prison until he could pay.
The other servants had seen everything. They went back to the master and told him what happened. The master called the first servant to him. He was angry. He delivered him to the torturers until he could pay all that was due to him.
Then Jesus says these chilling words: “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses” (Mat. 18:35).
Let’s wrap it up: Mercy is great to receive, but it can be really difficult to give. However, Jesus says that the merciful are blessed. They are the ones who will obtain mercy from God. Everyone needs mercy. Including you and me. But you can’t give it if you don’t have it. And if you have it, but withhold it, you aren’t going to be shown mercy anymore. Let’s be merciful.
This is a partial transcript from my weekday podcast, The New You, where we focus on maintaining and accentuating the new that Christ created in each of us as Christians. A new episode is available each Monday through Friday on The Light Network. Click here to see all of the episodes.