On Forgiveness Sunday, I thought it appropriate to relate something from a lesson this week. My Year 8s are learning about some of the parables of Jesus. This week we were looking at the parable of the unforgiving servant.
With my first couple of groups I decided to translate the 10,000 talents owed by the first servant with the 100 denarii owed to him by the second. I didn’t it on the fly without any regard for accuracy, so I just used a pound of gold for a talent and an ounce of silver for a denarius. I guessed the price of gold at about £600/ounce and silver at £10 an ounce.
Since that yields a result of £72,000,000 for the first debt and £1000 for the second, I thought that made the point well enough. The kids got the idea.
With my last group on Friday, I decided to be a bit more accurate. I found that gold was trading at £482 per ounce. That’s £5784 per troy pound. Only a talent is a lot more than a pound. I didn’t realise that estimations vary greatly, so I just went with the first conversion I found online. This is happening live in a classroom after all. By this conversion, a talent is equal to 91 troy pounds (rounding down the decimal places). That’s £526,344 per talent or a debt of £5,263,440,000. This is based on a talent being roughly equal to 34kg. Some estimates for the equivalent range as high as 60kg.
A denarius did not contain an ounce of silver. Because it was an actual coin of which there are existing examples, rather than a variable weight, it is much easier to calculate. A denarius contained 1/10 of a troy ounce of silver. The price of silver is current soaring at about $20 an ounce (my £10 an ounce guess was pretty good!), so a denarius contains about $2 or £1 of silver. Thus, 100 denarii is the equivalent of about £100.
Or if we calculate it based on the denarius as the daily wage of an unskilled labourer, we can compare it to the minimum wage. This is currently £5.52/hour in the UK. Multiply this by 8 hours and you get £44.16 a day. Multiply this by 100 and the second man’s debt is the equivalent of £4,416. The difference between £100 and £4,416 is insignificant when compared to £5.26 billion. (Or as much as £9.29 billion [$18.58 billion] for 60kg talents!)
How inconsequential and trivial are the offenses against us? Do we make them seem like they matter? Do we hold a grudge? If we do, we have not compared them to the forgiveness of God.
Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.
Is unforgiveness really worth it?