[Jesus said] “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt, and let him go.”
Matthew 18:23-27

Matthew, the apostle and evangelist, knew all about debts. Before he became a disciple of Jesus, he had been a tax collector—responsible for collecting money from people in Israel on behalf of the occupying Roman government. He would have kept track of income and debts for people from all levels of society and would have been aware of how people got into trouble with difficulty paying off their debts.

Matthew must have been fascinated by Jesus telling the story of the servant of a king who had a huge debt. The debt was millions of days’ worth of wages, an impossible sum. Matthew knew what happened to people who accumulated such massive debts. Everything they had,everything dear to them, even their families, would have been sold or enlisted to pay off the debt. Matthew may even have seen such scenarios play out in real life.

Imagine Matthew’s surprise when someone in the story with ultimate authority, a king and master, takes pity on the man with the debt and simply cancels it. A king could do that, but it was probably a rare event.

As Matthew got to know Jesus, he would have realized that the story was about him and about each one of us. Our debt to God is unpayable because of the things we have done wrong, and the good things we have neglected to do. He should send us to hell. Instead, because of the payment that Jesus made for us on the cross, God takes pity on us, cancels our debt, and promises us heaven.


Lord God, thank you for taking pity on us, canceling our debt to you, and setting us free in Jesus. Amen.