How much is ten thousand talents and a hundred denarii in the parable of Matthew 18 worth according to today’s monetary standards?
The danarius and talent were units of currency in the New Testament times. A denarius was a Roman silver coin weighing about 4 grams, a day’s wages for a common laborer or soldier (Mt 20:1–2). A talent, a unit of weight for gold or silver, typically weighed about 33 ㎏ [73 lb] varying from 20 to 40 ㎏.
When we compare the value of a hundred denarii with that of ten thousand talents, we can realize how tremendous the grace of God given to us is and how small the faults of our brothers and sisters are. Now, let’s take a look at the parable written in Matthew 18.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 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 talents 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. 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.”Mt 18:21–27
One talent is equal to 6,000 denarii, which would take an ordinary laborer 6,000 days (16 years) to earn. Let’s convert that into US dollars; if an average day’s wages is assumed to be 100 dollars, it is around 600,000 dollars. Since one talent is such a large amount of money, how much is ten thousand talents, equivalent to about 60,000,000 denarii, worth?
It is a tremendous amount of money, which is worth about 160,000 years’ wages!
Through the above parable, we can come to know the fact that we were sinners who committed grave sins against God, like the servant who owed the king a debt of ten thousand talents, which he could never repay by his own strength or ability. Taking pity on us, God forgave our tremendous sins without any conditions.
God wants us to forgive the faults of our brothers and sisters with love, just as He has forgiven our sins. The faults of our brothers and sisters are nothing compared to our sins which are as great as a debt of ten thousand talents. The Bible describes the person who does not forgive his brother’s faults as a wicked servant who mistreated his fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii, even though he himself was forgiven of the tremendous debt of ten thousand talents.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.”Mt 18:28–30
He was forgiven of his debt of ten thousand talents, a huge amount of money that would have taken him 160,000 years to earn, during which time he could not even spend a single penny to repay the debt. Nevertheless, he did not forgive the person who owed him only a hundred denarii, equal to about 100 days’ wages. He was so ungrateful and unmerciful.
“When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.”Mt 18:31–34
The servant who did not forgive his fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii was finally thrown into prison. This parable teaches us about how we, who have received such tremendous grace from God, should treat our brothers and sisters.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”Mt 18:35
We are all sinners who are lacking in many ways, and are being made perfect together.
In the process, we may experience discord with our brothers and sisters or become jealous of them, because of the dregs of our sins committed in heaven and our impurities from the world. However, if we realize the forgiveness of sins we have received from God, the mistakes or faults of our brothers and sisters are really nothing. All the mistakes and faults of the brothers and sisters, who have received God’s promises through the new covenant, are always forgivable. When we cover up the faults of our brothers and sisters with a broad mind, we can ask God to forgive us as well.
“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘ … Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors … .’ ”Mt 6:9–13
The beautiful unity among brothers and sisters living in Zion is required to be achieved in this age when the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Pe 5:8). Where there is discord, the devil watches for a chance to attack, but where there is harmony, he has no chance to attack.
When complaint and hatred arise in our hearts, let us remind ourselves of the Teachings of Mother, which awaken our souls. When we cover up the faults of our brothers and sisters with a broad mind like the sea, we will achieve true unity which pleases God.
“As the sea receives all the dirt and purifies it, we should have a broad and beautiful heart to embrace the faults of our brothers and sisters.” From the Teachings of Mother