Then came Peter
unto him and said: Lord, how often shall my brother offend against me,
and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith to him: I say not to
thee, till seven times; but till seventy times seven times. Therefore
is the kingdom of heaven likened to a king, who would take an account
of his servants. And when he had begun to take the account, one was
brought to him, that owed him ten thousand talents. And as he had not
wherewith to pay it, his lord commanded that he should be sold, and his
wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. But that
servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and
I will pay thee all. And the lord of that servant being moved with
pity, let him go and forgave him the debt.
But when that servant was gone out, he found one of his fellow servants
that owed him an hundred pence: and laying hold of him, throttled him,
saying: Pay what thou owest. And his fellow servant falling down,
besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he paid the
Now his fellow servants seeing what was done, were very much grieved,
and they came and told their lord all that was done. Then his lord
called him; and said to him: Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all
the debt, because thou besoughtest me: Shouldst not thou then have had
compassion also on thy fellow servant, even as I had compassion on
thee? And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers until he
paid all the debt. So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you
forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.
By St. John Chryostom
"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
Peter supposed he was saying something great, wherefore also as aiming
at greatness he added, "Until seven times?" For this thing, saith he,
which Thou hast commanded to do, how often shall I do? For if he
forever sins, but forever when reproved repents, how often dost thou
command us to bear with this man? For with regard to that other who
repents not, neither acknowledges his own faults, Thou hast set a
limit, by saying, "Let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican;"
but to this no longer so, but Thou hast commanded to accept him.
How often then ought I to bear with him, being told his faults, and
repenting? Is it enough for seven times?
What then saith Christ, the good God, who is loving towards man? "I say
not unto thee, until seven times, but, until seventy times seven," not
setting a number here, but what is infinite and perpetual and forever.
For even as ten thousand times signifies often, so here too. For by
saying, "The barren hath borne seven," the Scripture means many. So
that He hath not limited the forgiveness by a number, but hath declared
that it is to be perpetual and forever.
This at least He indicated by the parable that is put after. For that
He might not seem to any to enjoin great things and hard to bear, by
saying, "Seventy times seven," He added this parable, at once both
leading them on to what He had said, and putting down him who was
priding himself upon this, and showing the act was not grievous, but
rather very easy. Therefore let me add, He brought forward His own love
to man, that by the comparison, as He saith, thou mightest learn, that
though thou forgive seventy times seven, though thou continually pardon
thy neighbor for absolutely all his sins, as a drop of water to an
endless sea, so much, or rather much more, doth thy love to man come
short in comparison of the boundless goodness of God, of which thou
standest in need, for that thou art to be judged, and to give an
Wherefore also He went on to say, "The Kingdom of Heaven is likened
unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when
he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten
thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, he commanded him
to be sold, and his wife, and his children, and all that he had."
Then after this man had enjoyed the benefit of mercy, he went out, and
"took by the throat his fellow-servant, which owed him an hundred
pence;" and having by these doings l moved his lord, he caused him to
cast him again into prison, until he should pay off the whole.
Seest thou how great the difference between sins against man and
against God? As great as between ten thousand talents, and a hundred
pence, or rather even much more. And this arises both from the
difference of the persons, and the constant succession of our sins. For
when a man looks at us, we stand off and shrink from sinning: but when
God sees us every day, we do not forbear, but do and speak all things
But not hereby alone, but also from the benefit and from the honor of
which we have partaken, our sins become more grievous.
And if ye are desirous to learn how our sins against Him are ten
thousand talents, or rather even much more, I will try to show it
briefly. But I fear test to them that are inclined to wickedness, and
love continually to sin, I should furnish still greater security, or
should drive the meeker sort to despair, and they should repeat that
saying of the disciples, "who can be saved?"
Nevertheless for all that I will speak, that I may make those that
attend more safe, and more meek. For they that are incurably diseased,
and past feeling, even without these words of mine, do not depart from
their own carelessness, and wickedness; and if even from hence they
derive greater occasion for contempt, the fault is not in what is said,
but in their insensibility; since what is said surely is enough both to
restrain those that attend to it, and to prick their hearts; and the
meeker sort, when they see on the one hand the greatness of their sins,
and learn also on the other hand the power of repentance, will cleave
to it the more, wherefore it is needful to speak.
I will speak then, and will set forth our sins, both wherein we offend
against God, and wherein against men, and I will set forth not each
person's own, but what are common; but his own let each one join to
them after that from his conscience.
And I will do this, having first set forth the good deeds of God to us.
What then are His good deeds? He created us when we were not, and made
all things for our sakes that are seen, Heaven, sea, air, all that in
them is, living creatures, plants, seeds; for we must needs speak
briefly for the boundless ocean of the works. Into us alone of all that
are on earth He breathed a living soul such as we have, He planted a
garden, He gave a help-meet, He set us over all the brutes, He crowned
us with glory and honor.
After that, when man had been unthankful towards his benefactor, He
vouchsafed unto him a greater gift.
2. For look not to this only, that He cast him out of paradise, but
mark also the gain that arose from thence. For after having cast him
out of paradise, and having wrought those countless good works, and
having accomplished His various dispensations, He sent even His own Son
for the sake of them that had been benefited by Him and were hating
Him, and opened Heaven to us, and unfolded paradise itself, and made us
sons, the enemies, the unthankful.
Wherefore it were even seasonable now to say, "O the depth of the
riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!" And He gave us also a
baptism of the remission of sins, and a deliverance from vengeance, and
an inheritance of a kingdom, and He promised numberless good things on
our doing what is right, and stretched forth His hand, and shed abroad
His Spirit into our hearts.
What then? After so many and such great blessings, what ought to be our
disposition; should we indeed, even if each day we died for Him who so
loves us, make due recompense, or rather should we repay the smallest
portion of the debt? By no means, for moreover even this again is
turned to our advantage.
How then are we disposed, whose disposition ought to be like this? Each
day we insult His law. But be ye not angry, if I let loose my tongue
against them that sin, for not you only will I accuse, but myself also.
Where then would ye that I should begin? With the slaves, or with the
free? with them that serve in the army, or with private persons? with
the rulers, or with the subjects? with the women, or with the men? with
the aged men, or with the young? with what age? with what race? with
what rank? with what pursuit?
Would ye then that I should make the beginning with them that serve as
soldiers? What sin then do not these commit every day, insulting,
reviling, frantic, making a gain of other men's calamities, being like
wolves, never clear from offenses, unless one might say the sea too was
without waves. What passion doth not trouble them? what disease cloth
not lay siege to their soul?
For to their equals they show a jealous disposition, and they envy, and
seek after vainglory; and to those that are subject to them, their
disposition is covetous; but to them that have suits, and run unto them
as to a harbor, their conduct is that of enemies and perjured persons.
How many robberies are there with them! How many frauds! How many false
accusations, and meannesses! how many servile flatteries!
Come then, let us apply in each case the law of Christ. "He that saith
to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. He that
hath looked on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed
adultery with her. Unless one humble himself as the little child, he
shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."
But these even study haughtiness, becoming towards them that are
subject to them, and are delivered into their hands, and who tremble at
them, and are afraid of them, more fierce than a wild beast; for
Christ's sake doing nothing, but all things for the belly, for money,
Can one indeed reckon up in words the trespass of their actions? What
should one say of their decisions, their laughter, their unseasonable
discourses, their filthy language? But about covetousness one cannot so
much as speak. For like as the monks on the mountains know not even
what covetousness is, so neither do these; but in an opposite way to
them, For they indeed, because of being far removed from the disease,
know not the passion, but these, by reason of being exceedingly
intoxicated with it, have not so much as a perception how great the
evil is. For this vice hath so thrust aside virtue and tyrannises, that
it is not accounted so much as a heavy charge with those madmen.
But will ye, that we leave these, and go to others of a gentler kind?
Come then, let us examine the race of workmen and artisans. For these
above all seem to live by honest labors, and the sweat of their own
brow. But these too, when they do not take heed to themselves, gather
to themselves many evils from hence. For the dishonesty that arises
from buying and selling they bring into the work of honest labor, and
add oaths, and perjuries, and falsehoods to their covetousness often,
and are taken up with worldly things only, and continue riveted to the
earth; and while they do all things that they may get money, they do
not take much heed that they may impart to the needy, being always
desirous to increase their goods. What should one say of the revilings
that are uttered touching such matters, the insults, the loans, the
usurious gains, the bargains full of much mean trafficking, the
shameless buyings and sellings.
3. But will ye that we leave these too, and go to others who seem to be
more just? Who then are they? They that are possessed of lands, and
reap the wealth that springs from the earth. And what can be more
unjust than these? For if any one were to examine how they treat their
wretched and toil-worn laborers, he will see them to be more cruel than
savages. For upon them that are pining with hunger, and toiling
throughout all their life, they both impose constant and intolerable
payments, and lay on them laborious burdens, and like asses or mules,
or rather like stones, do they treat their bodies, allowing them not so
much as to draw breath a little, and when the earth yields, and when it
doth not yield, they alike wear them out, and grant them no indulgence.
And what can be more pitiable than this, when after having labored
throughout the whole winter, and being consumed with frost and rain,
and watchings, they go away with their hands empty, yea moreover in
debt, and fearing and dreading more that this famine and shipwreck, the
torments of the overlookers,and their dragging them about, and their
demands, and their imprisonments, and the services from which no
entreaty can deliver them!
Why should one speak of the merchandise which they make of them, the
sordid gains which they gain by them, by their labors and their sweat
filling winepresses, and wine vats, but not suffering them to take home
so much as a small measure, but draining off the entire fruits into the
casks of their wickedness, and flinging to them for this a little
And new kinds of usuries also do they devise, and not lawful even
according to the laws of the heathens, and they frame contracts for
loans full of many a curse. For not the hundredth part of the sum, but
the half of the sum they press for and exact; and this when he of whom
it is exacted has a wife, is bringing up children, is a human being,
and is filling their threshing floor, and their wine-press by his own
But none of these things do they consider. Wherefore now it were
seasonable to bring forward the prophet and say, "Be astonished, O
Heaven, and be horribly afraid, O earth,"to what great brutality hath
the race of man been madly carried away!
But these things I say, not blaming crafts, nor husbandry, nor military
service, but ourselves. Since Cornelius also was a centurion, and Paul
a worker in leather, and after his preaching practised his craft, and
David was a king, and Job enjoyed the possession of land and of large
revenues, and there was no hindrance hereby to any of these in the way
Bearing in mind all these things, and considering the ten thousand
talents, let us at least hence hasten to remit to our neighbors their
few and trifling debts. For we too have an account to give of the
commandments wherewith we have been trusted, and we are not able to pay
all, no not whatever we may do. Therefore God hath given us a way to
repayment both ready and easy, and which is able to cancel all these
things, I mean, not to be revengeful.
In order then that we may learn this well, let us hear the whole
parable, going on regularly through it. "For there was brought unto
Him," it saith, "one which owed ten thousand talents, and when he had
not to pay, He commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and his
children." Wherefore, I pray thee? Not of cruelty, nor of inhumanity
(for the loss came back again upon himself, for she too was a slave),
but of unspeakable tenderness.
For it is His purpose to alarm him by this threat, that He might bring
him to supplication, not that he should be sold. For if He had done it
for this intent, He would not have consented to his request, neither
would He have granted the favor.
Wherefore then did He not do this, nor forgive the debt before the
account? Desiring to teach him, from how many obligations He is
delivering him, that in this way at least he might become more mild
towards his fellow servant. For even if when he had learnt the weight
of his debt, and the greatness of the forgiveness, he continued taking
his fellow-servant by the throat; if He had not disciplined him
beforehand with such medicines, to what length of cruelty might he not
What then saith the other? "Have patience with me, and I will pay thee
all. And his Lord was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and
forgave him the debt."
Seest thou again surpassing benevolence? The servant asked only for
delay and putting off the time, but He gave more than he asked,
remission and forgiveness of the entire debt. For it had been his will
to give it even from the first, but he did not desire the gift to be
his only, but also to come of this man's entreaty, that he might not go
away uncrowned. For that the whole was of him, although this other fell
down to him and prayed, the motive of the forgiveness showed, for
"moved with compassion" he forgave him. But still even so he willed
that other also to seem to contribute something, that he might not be
exceedingly covered with shame, and that he being schooled in his own
calamities, might be indulgent to his fellow-servant.
4. Up to this point then this man was good and acceptable; for he
confessed, and promised to pay the debt, and fell down before him, and
entreated, and condemned his own sins, and knew the greatness of the
debt. But the sequel is unworthy of his former deeds. For going out
straightway, not after a long time but straightway, having the benefit
fresh upon him, he abused to wickedness the gift, even the freedom
bestowed on him by his master.
For, "he found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred
pence, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me what thou owest."
Seest thou the master's benevolence? Seest thou the servant's cruelty?
Hear, ye who do these things for money. For if for sins we must not do
so, much more not for money.
What then saith the other? "Have patience with me, and I will pay thee
all." But he did not regard even the words by which he had been saved
(for he himself on saying this was delivered from the ten thousand
talents), and did not recognize so much as the harbor by which he
escaped shipwreck; the gesture of supplication did not remind him of
his master's kindness, but he put away from him all these things, from
covetousness and cruelty and revenge, and was more fierce than any wild
beast, seizing his fellow-servant by the throat.
What doest thou, O man? perceivest thou not, thou art making the demand
upon thyself, thou an thrusting the sword into thyself, and revoking
the sentence and the gift? But none of these things did he consider,
neither did he remember his own state, neither did he yield; although
the entreaty was not for equal objects.
For the one besought for ten thousand talents, the other for a hundred
pence; the one his fellow servant, the other his lord; the one received
entire forgiveness, the other asked for delay, and not so much as this
did he give him, for "he cast him into prison."
"But when his fellow servants saw it, they accused him to their lord."
Not even to men is this well-pleasing, much less to God. They therefore
who did not owe, partook of the grief.
What then saith their lord? "O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all
that debt, because thou desiredstme; shouldest not thou also have had
compassion, even as I had pity on thee?"
See again the lord's gentleness. He pleads with him, and excuses
himself, being on the point of revoking his gift; or rather, it was not
he that revoked it, but the one who had received it. Wherefore He
saith, "I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me;
shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant?" For
even if the thing cloth seem to thee hard; yet shouldest thou have
looked to the gain, which hath been, which is to be. Even if the
injunction be galling, thou oughtest to consider the reward; neither
that he hath grieved thee, but that thou hast provoked God, whom by
mere prayer thou hast reconciled. But if even so it be a galling thing
to thee to become friends with him who hath grieved thee, to fall into
hell is far more grievous; and if thou hadst set this against that,
then thou wouldest have known that to forgive is a much lighter thing.
And whereas, when he owed ten thousand talents, he called him not
wicked, neither reproached him, but showed mercy on him; when he had
become harsh to his fellow servant, then he saith, "O thou wicked
Let us hearken, the covetous, for even to us is the word spoken. Let us
hearken also, the merciless, and the cruel, for not to others are we
cruel, but to ourselves. When then thou art minded to be revengeful,
consider that against thyself art thou revengeful, not against another;
that thou art binding up thine own sins, not thy neighbors. For as to
thee, whatsoever thou mayest do to this man, thou doest as a man and in
the present life, but God not so, but more mightily will He take
vengeance on thee, and with the vengeance hereafter.
"For He delivered him over till he should pay that which was due," that
is, for ever; for he will never repay. For since thou art not become
better by the kindness shown thee, it remains that by vengeance thou be
And yet, "The graces and the gifts are without repentance," but
wickedness has had such power as to set aside even this law. What then
can be a more grievous thing than to be revengeful, when it appears to
overthrow such and so great a gift of God.
And he did not merely "deliver" him, but "was wroth." For when he
commanded him to be sold, his were not the words of wrath (therefore
neither did he do it), but a very great occasion for benevolence; but
now the sentence is of much indignation, and vengeance, and punishment.
What then means the parable? "So likewise shall my Father do also unto
you," He saith, "if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his
brother their trespasses." He saith not "your Father," but "my Father."
For it is not meet for God to be called the Father of such a one, who
is so wicked and malicious.
5. Two things therefore doth He here require, both to condemn ourselves
for our sins, and to forgive others; and the former for the sake of the
latter, that this may become more easy (for he who considers his own
sins is more indulgent to his fellow-servant); and not merely to
forgive with the lips, but from the heart.
Let us not then thrust the sword into ourselves by being revengeful.
For what grief hath he who hath grieved thee inflicted upon thee, like
thou wilt work unto thyself by keeping thine anger in mind, and drawing
upon thyself the sentence from God to condemn thee? For if indeed thou
art watchful, and keepest thyself under control, the evil will come
round upon his head, and it will be he that will suffer harm; but if
thou shouldest continue indignant, and displeased, then thyself wilt
undergo the harm not from him, but from thyself.
Say not then that he insulted thee, and slandered thee, and did unto
thee ills beyond number; for the more thou tellest, so much the more
dost thou. declare him a benefactor. For he hath given thee an
opportunity to wash away thy sins; so that the greater the injuries he
hath done thee, so much more is he become to thee a cause of a greater
remission of sins.
For if we be willing, no one shall be able to injure us, but even our
enemies shall advantage us in the greatest degree. And why do I speak
of men? For what can be more wicked than the devil; yet nevertheless,
even hence have we a great opportunity of approving ourselves; and Job
showeth it. But if the devil hath become a cause of crowns, why art
thou afraid of a man as an enemy?
See then how much thou gainest, bearing meekly the spiteful acts of
thine enemies. First and greatest, deliverance from sins; secondly,
fortitude and patience; thirdly, mildness and benevolence; for he that
knoweth not how to be angry with them that grieve him, much more will
he be ready to serve them that love him. Fourthly, to be free from
anger continually, to which nothing can be equal. For of him that is
free from anger, it is quite clear that he is delivered also from the
despondency hence arising, and will not spend his life on vain labors
and sorrows. For he that knows not how to hate, neither cloth he know
how to grieve, but will enjoy pleasure, and ten thousand blessings. So
that we punish ourselves by hating others, even as on the other hand we
benefit ourselves by loving them.
Besides all these things, thou wilt be an object of veneration even to
thy very enemies, though they be devils; or rather, thou wilt not so
much as have an enemy whilst thou art of such a disposition.
But what is greater than all, and first, thou gainest the favor of God.
Shouldest thou have sinned, thou wilt obtain pardon; shouldest thou
have done what is right, thou wilt obtain a greater confidence. Let us
accomplish therefore the hating no one, that God also may love us,
that, though we be in debt for ten thousand talents, He may have
compassion and pity us.
But hast thou been injured by him? Pity him then, do not hate him; weep
and mourn, do not turn away from him. For thou art not the one that
hath offended against God, but he; but thou hast even approved thyself,
if thou endure it. Consider that Christ, when about to be crucified,
rejoiced for Himself, but wept for them that were crucifying Him. This
ought to be our disposition also; and the more we are injured, so much
the more should we lament for them that are injuring us. For to us many
are the benefits hence arising, but to them the opposites.
But did he insult thee, and strike thee before all? Then bath he
disgraced and dishonored himself before all, and hath opened the mouths
of a thousand accusers, and for thee hath he woven more crowns, and
gathered for thee many to publish thy forbearance.
But did he slander thee to others? And what is this? God is the one
that is to demand the account, not they that have heard this. For to
himself hath he added occasion of punishment, so that not only for his
own sins he should give account, but also of what he said of thee. And
upon thee hath he brought evil report with men, but he himself hath
incurred evil report with God.
And if these things are not sufficient for thee, consider that even thy
Lordwas evil reported of both by Satan and by men, and that to those
most loved by Him; and His Only-Begotten the same again. Wherefore He
said, "If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more
shall they call them of His household."
And that wicked demon did not only slander Him, but was also believed,
and slandered Him not in ordinary matters, but with the greatest
reproaches and accusations. For he affirmed Him to be possessed, and to
be a deceiver, and an adversary of God. But hast thou also done good,
and received evil? Nay, in respect of this most of all lament and
grieve for him that hath done the wrong, but for thyself rather
rejoice, because thou art become like God, "Who maketh the sun to rise
upon evil and good."
But if to follow God is beyond thee, although to him that watcheth not
even this is hard; yet nevertheless if this seem to thee to be too
great for thee, come let us bring thee to thy fellow-servants, to
Joseph, who suffered countless things, and did good unto his brethren;
to Moses, who after their countless plots against him, prayed for them;
to the blessed Paul, who cannot so much as number what he suffered from
them, and is willing to be accursed for them; to Stephen, who is
stoned, and entreating this sin may be forgiven them. And having
considered all these things, cast away all anger, that God may forgive
us also all our trespasses by the grace and love towards man of our
Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory,
might, honor, now and always, and world without end. Amen.