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To illustrate the need for us to forgive one another, the Lord tells the disciples the great parable of the two debtors. One owed the king 10,000 talents. It’s interesting to note that one talent of gold in New Testament times would have weighed 130 pounds. The first debtor thus owed the king the equivalent of 1.3 million pounds of gold. As I write, the New York spot price of gold is approximately $23,000 per pound, so in today’s terms the debt was for nearly $30 billion—an infinitely staggering sum which would have made Jesus’s listeners gasp.
We read that the debtor pleaded for forgiveness of his debt, and the king “was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him that debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence” (Matt. 18:27-28). He took the second debtor by the throat and demanded payment. The man pleaded for patience, but the first debtor had him thrown in prison until he could pay the debt.
In those days, a silver penny, or denarius, was worth about $20 in today’s money, so the sum owed by the second debtor could not have been more than $2000, or roughly 100 days wages for a working man. The second debtor would have been forced to labor for more than three months exclusively to pay his debt unless the first debtor relented. But he would not.
When the king heard of this, he became angry and had the first debtor brought to him. “I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: shouldest thou not also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, as I had pity on thee?” And the debtor went to prison “till he should pay all that was due” (Matt. 15:32-34).
The meaning of the parable is obvious. The first debtor stands for each one of us. When we approach the Lord for forgiveness for ourselves, our debt of sin is virtually infinite. We know that sin brings eternal spiritual death, and that only through the Atonement of Christ can this debt be paid. Our Father can thus forgive us our crushing burden of sin.
Then how foolish, petty, and hypocritical we are when we refuse to forgive our brothers and sisters for the comparatively minuscule offenses they might commit against us. Clearly, the Lord is teaching us that the unforgiving cannot enter His kingdom and must pay their own crushing debt. “Of you it is required to forgive all men,” the Lord has commanded in certain terms (D&C 64:10).