Posts Tagged ‘Original Sin’

10,000 talents

I was preaching on Matthew 18 v23-35 the other day and had some very useful feedback afterwards that I hadn’t spent enough time explaining and bringing home the reality and nature of our vast debt. It was a fair criticism. And it got me thinking. Why is the debt so huge?

Kerviel10,000 talents = 200,000 years wages. In other words you would have to work for two hundred thousand years to pay off that debt! The closest example I could find was that of Jerome Kerviel – a trader in the bank Societe Generale who managed to lose the bank 4.9bn Euros (about 570 bn KES in today’s money – half the entire national budget of Kenya). It was the biggest banking loss of its kind in history. On 5 October 2010 Kerviel was convicted by a Paris court and found guilty of forgery, unauthorised computer use and breach of trust, sentenced to five years in prison and – amazingly – told he must also repay the full damages of 4.9bn Euros which the bank lost through his risky trades. It was reported that on the basis of his current earnings Kerviel would need about 180,000 years to reimburse Societe Generale in full. (The following day Societe Generale released a statement saying that it would not pursue full repayment.)

Why the massive individual debt in Matthew 18? In the past I have thought it signifies some combination of a) my debt of giving God what is God’s (cf. Matt. 22:21; 21:34-35), all the millions of times I’ve failed to give him the praise and glory and honour he’s due (Rev. 4:11), failed to live for him and bear fruit for him; and b) the debt of the unpaid penalty for all my sins and guilt reckoned in monetary terms (cf. Exodus 22; Lev. 5:14-6:7). So basically sins of omission plus sins of commission.

Maybe that is it. But now I’m wondering whether something deeper is going on in Matthew 18. Three things to note in the parable:

  1. The king is settling accounts with his servants (v23). Not simply his subjects. His servants. It’s a similar set up to Matt. 24:45ff; 25:14ff; Luke 16ff. The servant has been entrusted with at least part of the king’s fortune and estate and now there is an accounting. It is actually very like the Kerviel situation. How can you run up a debt of 4.9bn Euros? Because it’s not your money you’re playing with.
  2. “When he began to settle… one was brought” (v24). The accounting has only just started and straight away, the very first guy the king has to deal with has this astronomical debt. The first one. The first man. Could this be Adam? The servant of God, entrusted with the whole world, entrusted with the infinitely precious blessing of bearing the image of God.
  3. He and his wife and children and all that he has are ordered to be sold into slavery (v25). In other words, when he goes down he takes his wife, his descendants and all over which he has dominion down with him.

If this parable has at least an echo of Adam in it then maybe when it comes to looking at my own debt it’s not just reminding me of the extent of my sins (plural) but of original sin. Even if I live as righteously as Job, even if I am a newborn baby, I still carry this enormous debt as a son of Adam.

The eighteenth century preacher George Whitfield was convinced that knowing this debt was vital and often preached on it. In his great sermon on “Peace, Peace where there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14) (well worth reading in full here):

…when conviction comes, all carnal reasonings are battered down immediately and the poor soul begins to feel and see the fountain from which all the polluted streams do flow… and to acknowledge that God would be just to damn him, just to cut him off, though he never had committed one actual sin in his life…  I am verily persuaded original sin is the greatest burden of a true convert; this ever grieves the regenerate soul, the sanctified soul. The indwelling of sin in the heart is the burden of a converted person; it is the burden of a true Christian. He continually cries out, “O! who will deliver me from this body of death,” this indwelling corruption in my heart? This is that which disturbs a poor soul most. And, therefore, if you never felt this inward corruption, if you never saw that God might justly curse you for it, indeed, my dear friends, you may speak peace to your hearts, but I fear, nay, I know, there is no true peace.

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