Parable Of the Unmerciful Debtor
It is all about imitation.

We will pay the debt. We cannot know Him if we are still sinners.

11th Sunday of Pentecost
Matthew 18:23-35


In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“So likewise shall My Heavenly Father do also unto you,” the Lord says after the parable about the unmerciful debtor. And He begins the parable by saying: “The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto.”

We see this many times in Scripture. Pay attention because constantly the Scripture is telling you what to imitate and what will happen if you do not imitate. The Scripture is full of examples of how we should live. All of the Kingdom of Heaven parables are of this format:

“The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto.”


And the things that are being described are meant to tell us how we should live, how we should think, what we should feel, what is important, how we should be. The Kingdom of Heaven is what we become - if we do not become good in this life, in the eternal, when we are in the presence of goodness, we will be afraid, we will be terrified.


You saw in the Transfiguration that the three Apostles were not prepared to see the light of Christ because they were still impure. So they had to have seasoning, as it were, and become ready to know God in an intimate way, just as we must.

This parable is about how we should live, and it contains obviously a deep moral essence. Everyone knows the basics of it. If someone forgives you, then you should forgive others. God has forgiven us so we should forgive others. But that’s just really a cursory interpretation of the parable.

We must understand what these talents are - we owe God something because He has forgiven us. God is offended with our sins. We should be offended with them, too. Sin causes pain in us and in others – to those we love and those that perhaps we do not love as we should, we cause pain with our sins, with our passions.

These are the talents that were owed to the Lord. We must respond to the Lord’s forgiveness. And we owe - we, I say, because the man in the parable is you and me - we owe ten thousand talents, we have so many sins, so many passions, so many ways we offend God that they cannot even be counted. Ten thousand is an arbitrarily large number. Actually, what would it be? Ten million, ten billion? So many sins.

And what does the Lord say? In this parable He says what is going to happen at the end, in the beginning. The person who has these talents that are owed and does not repent, he will be sold, meaning he will go to hell with his wife and his children. And the “wife” is desire, and the “children” are the results of that desire, meaning our sins. So passions lead to sins, and all of it is going to burn if we do not change.

And so what does the man do? What do we do? Well, haven’t we come to God? Haven’t we been baptized? Don’t we profess ourselves to be Christians? So in essence we are saying what this man said, forgive me, be patient with me and I will pay thee off. And it seems perhaps that we cannot pay this debt.


And yet we will pay the debt.


Because the debt is not something that we owe to God or else we will be punished. The debt is that we must change and become holy. God wants us to become holy. He came to earth to enable us to become holy. Not just for the forgiveness of our sins. I’ve told you many times: A forgiven sinner is still a sinner and still has all the pain and the incompleteness of being a sinner. God came so that we would not be sinners.


We cannot know Him if we are sinners.

When the man is forgiven by the Lord of his ten thousand talents there is an implicit command that the Lord gives him. He doesn’t say it. But at the end, it’s clear that He intended this command to be understood. And that is: Since I’ve forgiven you, you forgive others. Because we love God, we should desire to follow His Commandments. And because God loves His creatures, we should express the highest aspect of love, and that is to forgive others. It’s the hardest and the highest and the greatest aspect of love.

Now, if we love God’s creatures, there are really two ways that we can interact with them that are pleasing to God. The first leads to the second.

The first is that we forgive people their trespasses against us, the things that we don’t like that they’ve done to us, said to us, that they’ve hurt us in some way, that they’ve lied to us. Each one of us has hundreds of occurrences, thousands of occurrences in our lives when these things have happened when people have hurt us, either purposely or accidentally, with thought or without any thought.


As we are learning to forgive those who have hurt us, we are empowered to love and reach out to those who have need.


It is a false calculus to reach out to strangers when we do not forgive those we know. Nothing good will come out of this for us. You cannot have it in this order. First love those around you, your family, friends, co-workers, enemies. And then out of this love, you will be empowered to do great things for people that perhaps you barely know, to reach out to people that have needs.

We are about to do that in a small way today. I sent you a letter recently, that was sent by Metropolitan Hilarion concerning the difficult circumstances of Father Christopher in Uganda. Sometimes doesn’t even have enough money to buy wine to serve liturgy, and his Matushka is very sick and he can’t afford to help her. So we are taking up a collection for them, as many churches all over the country and all over the world are doing or have done already, to send to them.


We do not know much about Fr Christopher. We don’t know him personally. He is an easy guy to like because we don’t know any of his faults. It’s a lot harder to like people when you know their faults. But we must be like the Lord showed us: We have faults, He’s forgiven them. Others have faults, and He has enabled us to become great, to forgive others.

We should not be like this man who goes out and as St James describes in another place looks in the glass and then he walks away and then he doesn’t know who he is [1].


All he needed do is one thing.


Was he told to say his prayers every day faithfully, fast well, be free of passions of the flesh? No.


Forgive. That is the highest of all things. He was told to forgive his brother.


And yet the Scripture says that he found someone who owed him money. It sounds like he sought him out.


If you notice, the words that the debtor of the small debt says, are identical to the one who was just forgiven by God. It’s not accidental.

And so the man has forgotten who he is, forgotten what the purpose of God’s forgiveness is. The purpose of His forgiveness is to help us to become good.


Having forgotten all that he throws his fellow servant into prison for a small paltry sum because his fellow servant gets him angry about things, or his fellow servant has hurt him in some way, or his fellow servant has lied to him or taken a job that he wanted or whatever else.

And we are guilty of these same things -  not throwing people in prison but, remember, parables are meant to show things metaphorically. The servant who has been forgiven who does not forgive his fellow servant is the one who remembers wrongs, who’s angry towards others, who does not love others as God loves him.

All we need do is forgive others and we will be saved.

Remember the story about this monk that I told you? He was lazy; he didn’t get up for matins; he ate too much; he didn’t always fast. He wasn’t a good monk. And he was coming to the point of death. And so all the brothers were gathered around him and were praying for him and were concerned that when the time of death would come he would be terrified because, after all, he had not lived as a good monk. And they saw him with this incredibly beautiful, peaceful smile. And they said: Brother, why aren’t you upset, why aren’t you afraid? You did not lead a good life. He says: ‘Yes, brothers that’s true, but I can tell you that ever since I have come into the monastery, I have never, ever judged anyone.’

That’s the only way we have to make it to Heaven, is to be free of judging others. And then when you learn to be free of judging others, then you can truly act out with love towards others, even those that you don’t know, as well as those that you do know.

This Gospel is all about imitation. The whole Gospel is about imitation. Our life, the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, is about imitation. The saints, we should imitate them. Apostle Paul explicitly says, be imitators of me. Christianity is about imitation.

So what our Lord did to us, we must do to others. It’s as simple and as plain as that.


So measure yourself by whether or not you forgive others. It’s a very tall order. It’s not just what you do to others. It’s how you think about them.

In the Old Testament sins were what you did. But the Lord showed us that really sins are what are in the heart. It’s how you feel, what you think. Those things lead to what we do. Sometimes we don’t even do anything, but we’re still guilty of not loving our brother and not forgiving him because of the things we harbor in our hearts.

So, brothers and sisters, it is simple, real simple. I wouldn’t say it is easy, but it’s simple. Imitate the Lord. He’s forgiven, so we should forgive.

And as far as I can see, the only way to be able to put this in practice is to feel deeply what the Lord has done for us. The only way one can feel deeply what the Lord has done is by struggling to follow the Commandments, and then there is enlightenment from the Holy Spirit that teaches us the kind of person we are, the kind of person we were and we are becoming. Then we can have true empathy and compassion for our fellow man who is in the same fix that we’re in. The compassionate man is the person who knows himself.


This man who was forgiven his sins didn’t know himself, and he fell headlong into hell. Let us not be as he was. Instead, let us be as the King was. Let us forgive those, all of those who have wronged us in any way, and then we will be with the King in Heaven. Amen.


Transcribed by the hand of the handmaiden of God Helen.



Priest Seraphim Holland 3010.    


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[1] James 1:23-24 KJV  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:  (24)  For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.