For what “reason” (Mat 18:23) does Jesus tell this parable about the kingdom of heaven? See Mat 18:21-22 and the previous context of Mat 18:1-20. Who does the king represent in this parable? Observe that the KJV “certain” king is literally a “man”, a king, i.e., a human king; what does this teach us about Him who rules in the kingdom of heaven? Is He just a man? Who do the slaves represent in this parable? What does the term “servant” (KJV) or “slave” (NAS) indicate about our relationship to God? Observe that the Greek doulos does not refer to a free individual serving another as we often think of a servant, but a bond-servant who has sold himself into the service of another and is no longer free to do as he pleases but is bound to the will of his master. Although the KJV translates this word almost always as servant, it clearly refers to a slave; cf. 1Co 7:21-22 and 9:19. What does this teach us about what our relationship to God is to be, and how does this contrast with the common notion many people have today not of God as their Master whom they serve and to whose will they submit, but of God as their divine butler who serves them and their desires? See 1Co 6:19-20; Jam 5:13-17.
What does Jesus mean that the king wanted to “settle accounts” with his slaves? Cf. Mat 12:36-37, 16:27, Act 17:31, Rom 2:16, 14:12, 2Co 5:10, 1Pe 4:5. What do His words indicate about the “line of credit” we have with God in this life, the reality of our increasing indebtedness to Him, and the certainty of a day of reckoning when our debt will come due? How is this similar to the present indebtedness of the United States and other nations, especially as they continue to accrue debt beyond their ability to repay, as if the debt will never come due and there will be no settling of accounts? What is the nature of the debt that is charged to our account in this life? Does it consist only of our doing what we have been commanded not to do, i.e., sins of commission, or does it also consist of our failure to do what He has commanded us to do, i.e., sins of omission? See Mat 25:14-19, Luk 16:1-2, 19:12-15, 1Co 4:1-2, Heb 13:17, 1Pe 4:10.
In what way is the gospel message of salvation an invaluable treasure that has been entrusted to us? See Mat 13:44-46, 1Ti 6:20, 2Ti 1:14, Pro 3:13-15, Col 2:3. Are we good stewards of that treasure, or are we guilty of squandering it? Do we use that treasure to do the Master’s business while He is away, or have we for the most part kept that treasure for our own use or perhaps just put it away in a handkerchief or buried it in the ground? God gives us life; He has given us resources: time, talents, education, money; and we are his slaves: He has redeemed us, purchased us with His own blood, we belong to Him. He has gone on a journey and entrusted to us a priceless treasure and commanded us to “do business” with it while He is away. Have we? What are we doing with it? When He returns to settle accounts, what will He find? That we have been good and faithful slaves who put that treasure to work to provide a gospel return? Or that we have foolishly squandered so great an eternal treasure in exchange for a few temporal worldly trinkets so that we are in debt beyond our ability to repay?
How much was the slave in debt to his master? What is the significance of there being ten thousand talents? See 1Co 4:15 in both the NAS and KJV. Is it significant that a talent was the largest denomination or measure used in the accounting of weight or money? How much was a talent worth? Cf. 2Ch 25:6 and cf. 2 Maccabees 8:10-11; according to the NET version, a talent was equal to 6000 denarii, where one denarius was the usual day’s wage for a worker. If a day’s wage for a worker today is $100 ($26,000 / year), that would be the equivalent of 10000 x 6000 x $100 = 6 billion dollars. See also Est 3:9, where the vast sum of money Haman offered to pay into the king’s treasuries would come from plundering the property of the entire population of the Jews he hoped to destroy. What does this help us to understand about the heinous nature of our sins—whether doing what He has commanded us not to do, or failing to do as He has commanded—and how much they indebt us to the Lord? Cf. Gen 6:5, 8:21, Is 64:6, Ro 3:10-18.
1. The Greek word for “ten thousand” is murioi, from which we get our English word myriad.↩
2. A talent was originally a measure of weight (1Ch 29:7), but by NT times had also become a denomination of money.↩
3. NRS 2 Maccabees 8:10-11 Nicanor determined to make up for the king the tribute due to the Romans, two thousand talents, by selling the captured Jews into slavery. So he immediately sent to the towns on the seacoast, inviting them to buy Jewish slaves and promising to hand over ninety slaves for a talent, not expecting the judgment from the Almighty that was about to overtake him. (1 talent/90 slaves ~ 66 2/3 denarii each, or at $100/denarii $6666/slave).↩