March 13, 2023 - 11:19am

Lenten Meditation: Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Lenten Meditation: Tuesday, March 14, 2023

“Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” - Matthew 18:21-21

It seems like Jesus loved hyperbole. When Peter suggests forgiving someone seven times, Jesus says, why not seventy-seven? Other translations say “seventy times seven”. You might already have realized that, for Jesus, this isn’t hyperbole at all. 7, 77, 490–Jesus isn’t telling us to start keeping track. What he’s really saying is, always. Always forgive.

This morning’s parable deals in outrageous numbers, too. Talents were the largest units of currency by weight, a single talent of gold or silver weighed about 130 lbs. and were worth at least 15 years of work for a laborer. The first debtor, the so-called “wicked slave,” owed the king ten thousand talents–150,000 years’ wages! It’s an amount that is simply impossible to repay; the man knows it, the king knows it, and Jesus’ listeners knew it too. When the man begs the king to forgive the debt, he does–and does it without chastising him, or asking him how he possibly came to owe so much money. The king simply shows him mercy.

Meanwhile, in case you’re not up on your denarii-to-dollars exchange rate, one denarius was roughly a day’s wage, and one hundred denarii was about a month’s pay. It’s not an insignificant sum, but nowhere near the astronomical amount the other man owed. After the first slave is forgiven his immense debt, how could he turn around and punish the slave who owes him?

With that question, we shift from the realm of the hyperbolic and the astronomical to the familiar–the habit of keeping track and keeping score, of tallying and measuring and thinking about what is “fair”. Even while he is being forgiven, the first slave cannot forgive. He can’t let go of what he feels he is owed, what he deserves. It doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch to see his harsh punishment at the parable’s end not as something new, but the king recognizing the way this man already lives–tortured by his inability to forgive and let go, imprisoned by his own hardness of heart.

Today: When Peter offers to forgive 7 times, he is trying to be generous. Do something generous today–tip your cashier, make a donation, or pick up a treat for a colleague–but first, double it.

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