Reflections: Sunday the Sixteenth Week of Pentecost

September 17, 2023

Today’s Reading: Matthew 18:21-35

Daily Lectionary: 1 Kings 12:20-13:5, 33-34, 2 Corinthians 8:1-24

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.” (Matthew 18:23)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. Many of our readers are students, so the next thing I write may not be as applicable to you as the rest of the devotion–I hope it startles you a bit. In the year 2023, American citizens owe a total of $986 billion to credit card companies (for perspective, that looks like $986,000,000,000 when you write it out!) That is an unfathomable amount of money that has been borrowed and is now owed to banks…with interest. 

In Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving servant, we see a figure that is just as shocking. Ten thousand talents is equal to about 60 million denarii (a denarius was the daily wage for a day laborer)…in other words, the servant owed his master a little over 164,000 YEARS’ worth of work. How could he have possibly wound up in that kind of debt?! Well, you and I both know that’s not the point of Jesus’ parable. The master graciously canceled his debt! I can’t imagine how the servant must have walked away from that encounter–his burden removed, he was FREE from that crushing weight of debt…until he saw a fellow servant who owed him  a couple months’ worth of income. That’s not the astronomical amount he had owed the master, but it’s also not nothing. Suddenly, the shoe was on the other foot. The man whose balance had swung from about as negative as is possible to breaking even found himself in control; he had a little power–and he completely missed the point of the master’s forgiveness. That’s what this parable is really about, after all. The master forgave sins beyond number with the desire that his servant, who had now become his friend, would go and do likewise! Instead, he took the master’s forgiveness for granted and held his neighbor’s debt against him. How often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? The answer’s not seven. It’s also not five-hundred-thirty-nine (seven times seventy-seven.) It’s more like a calculus problem where “the limit does not exist.” 

Dear reader, you’re forgiven for the sake of Jesus’ innocent blood, spilled on the cross where He died to pay the debt your sins incurred. He died for your neighbors’ sins, too! If we ever think that someone has outsinned our forgiveness, God grant that we remember, in that very hour, the countless sins God has forgiven us when He called us friends–and we would likewise befriend our neighbor. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

O God, our refuge and strength, the author of all godliness, hear the devout prayers of Your Church, especially in times of persecution, and grant that what we ask in faith we may obtain; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

-Pastor Dustin Beck is pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Corpus Christi, Texas.

Audio Reflections Speaker: Pastor Jonathan Lackey is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, Vine Grove, Ky.

Study Christ’s words on the cross to see how you can show more Christlike grace in your life. Perfect for group or individual study, each chapter has a Q&A at the end, and the back of the book includes a leader guide. Available now from Concordia Publishing House.