Life in the last days is getting uncomfortable. There are wars and rumors of wars, famines, plagues, pestilences, earthquakes in diverse places just as were prophesied. With that increase in trouble, comes an increase in stress and selfishness. In Joseph Smith Matthew 1:30, he tells us that the love of men shall wax cold. Are we so easily influenced that the flame of love and kindness may be snubbed by selfishness and pride? I would say, there are moments when we do choose anger and vengefulness over forgiveness. Gratefully, we can take a moment to stop and remember the Lord’s incredible sacrifice. He suffered all that we might repent and become new creatures. We do not have to give in to feelings that are beneath the sons and daughters of God. We can choose to be kind but we cannot force others to do the same. There will be times when someone acts against us and then we will choose how to respond. Forgiveness once is not too bad. Forgiveness after that first time seems to get harder with every offense.
The apostle Peter sought to understand the Lord’s doctrine of forgiveness. Matthew 18:21-22 “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”
Peter chose well when he said, “until seven times”. The number seven represents perfection or completion. Perhaps he thought seven offerings of forgiveness would constitute perfection in his duty to forgive before he could seek restitution. The Lord has a higher law, however. The Savior didn’t intend to say, “give him 490 chances at forgiveness”. The Lord’s meaning was clear, and He clarified that through the parable of the unmerciful servant. A servant owed his King a huge amount of money, which the King mercifully forgave. That same servant then sought out a man who owed him but a hundred pence and demanded the payment. There are two sums owed in this parable, one of “ten thousand talents” and the other “an hundred pence”.
Perhaps we can clarify the magnitude of the first debt. “During the first century A.D., it is estimated that 10,000 talents equaled 100,000,000 denarii. One denarius was a typical day’s wage for a common laborer. If that laborer worked three hundred days a year, it would take about 33 years for him to be able to purchase one talent. And it would take over 300,000 years to earn 10,000 talents, the sum of the servant’s debt” (Jay A. Parry and Donald W. Parry, Understanding the Parables of Jesus Christ , 95). There was no way that the first man would ever be able to pay his debt to the King. Sound familiar?
Elder Holland related the experience of a young student regarding this very topic. “[The teacher] noted that the 100-pence forgiveness, which we were all expected to give one another and acknowledged as a pretty fair amount of money, was now preciously little to ask in light of the 10,000-talent forgiveness Christ had extended to us.
“That latter debt, our debt, was an astronomical number, [the teacher] reminded us, almost incapable of comprehension. But that, he said, was exactly the Savior’s point in this teaching, an essential part of the parable. Jesus had intended that his hearers sense just a little of the eternal scope and profound gift of his mercy, his forgiveness, his Atonement. … For the first time in my life I remember feeling something of the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice for me; a gift bordering to this day on incomprehensibility, but a gift that made me for the first time seriously consider my need to forgive other people and to be unfailingly generous regarding their feelings and their needs and their circumstances.”1
We are commanded of the Lord to be generous in our honest forgiveness. We must recognize that we each owe the Savior a great sum which He has lovingly pardoned under His terms. We cannot hold our forgiveness to a number unless we expect the same for ourselves.
- “Students Need Teachers to Guide Them” [Church Educational System satellite broadcast, June 20, 1992], 3.