More than Half a Million Times!

In the parable in Matthew 18:21-35, there were probably 6,000 denarii to each of the 10,000 talents the servant owed. That's 600,000 times more than the 100 denarii his fellow servant owed.

R. T. France (The Gospel According to Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1985) points out that a talent was the highest unit of currency and 10,000 was the highest Greek number. Jesus chose the largest easily-describable sum of money to portray an almost unimaginably large debt. Telling the story today, we would probably say one billion dollars.

Jesus is not unmindful, however, of how much we can be hurt. The smaller debt was not insignificant. A laborer would work a full 12 hour day to gross just 1% of it. Since people have to live off their wage, it could take years for someone to pay off this smaller, more manageable debt. If he could save a full third of his income and he worked 72 hours a week, and no interest were charged, it would take him almost exactly a year to pay it off.