THE Lord told this parable, "The Kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him, and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered the servant to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees before the king, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And with compassion for him, the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
But that servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused. Then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt.
When his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.
So My heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
We tend to construct many images of who God is and what He does and how good He will be to us if we do certain things. Very often our own constructions of God are wrong, and when we encounter the real God, we become disappointed and fall away from His Church. It's similar to how we construct an image of the boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse we wish to have, but in reality our imaginary construct will never live up to what we hope to have. And what have happens next? Do we patiently get to know (and grow together, in case of a spouse) the real person or become disappointed that the person is not living up to our "standards"?
Thankfully, our Lord Jesus Christ has provided us more than enough of examples of Who God is, what His Kingdom is all about, and what we are to do about it. Very often He did it by giving a parable - a story that described what the Kingdom of heaven is like. Christ used parables because people always like a good story, especially in those days.
In the reading that we have for the upcoming Sunday Jesus compares the Kingdom of heaven to a king who has servants, who owe him money. The king is God, and servants are us, and the debt can be any gift that God grants us. It could be, for example, our life, which God gave to us and expects us to use it properly and return to Him.
In the parable, a servant is brought before the king. The servant owes more than he is able to repay - ten thousand talents. A talent was a name for the monetary currency, with one talent being equivalent to more than fifteen years' of wages of a laborer. And this servant owed ten thousand talents, imagine that! What did he do to get himself into this whole? Gamble? Obviously, there was no way to repay his master.
The king being the king "ordered the servant to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made." It may sound harsh, but the king was basically a totalitarian ruler, there was only one will in the kingdom. When the servant heard king's command, he fell on his knees and asked for patience from the king. Surprisingly, the king not only gave the servant more time to come with money (again, there was no way that he could muster up such an amount), but he completely forgave him the debt.
God, the Creator of the whole universe and ruler of every living thing, is like a totalitarian ruler - there is only one will, and that's His. We are utterly unable to repay Him for what He has given us. But, as Christ says in this parable, God is also a loving and merciful King. He forgives, even though He doesn't have to. He is patient, even though we constantly abuse this patience. He is loving, even though we are ungrateful.
But this is not the end of the parable. Upon being released and literally given a new lease on life, the first servant stumbled into a fellow servant, who owed him one hundred denarii. Denarius was also a monetary currency, with one denarius equalling a day's wage for a laborer. The first servant demanded, even choked his fellow servant, that he repay him. The second servant also pleaded for patience. After all, one hundred denarii was a reasonable debt to repay. The first servant refused to give more time and threw the other into the prison until he repay his debt. How was he supposed to repay if he was in prison?
When the king found out what had happened, he summoned the first servant and scolded him, "Should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?" A fair question, no? Then the servant was handed over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.
At the end of the parable, Christ gives the moral of the story, "So My heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart." Which basically means that God is more patient with us and shows more mercy to us than we deserve or imagine; therefore, we have no right to be offended at others, hold any grudges, hate, or be unmerciful. No matter what our imaginary construct of God is, Christ is very clear that, while being loving, He does punish. Yet, while being a totalitarian ruler of the whole universe, He is patient and merciful.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest