Philanthropy and Hardheartedness
By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos
(Eleventh Sunday of Matthew - 18:23-35)
Today's Gospel reading is the well-known Parable of the Myriad of Talents that Christ spoke. According to the parable, the ruler forgave his servant the myriad talents he owed him, but then this servant not only did not forgive his fellow servant the lowest amount of one hundred dinars, but he also seemed very cruel to him. This parable reveals the philanthropy of God towards us, but also the hardheartedness that we show to our fellow human beings. We are not moved at all by the love and philanthropy of God and we are cruel.
But this parable also shows the social situation that prevailed at that time, since Christ uses images from his time to show philanthropy and hardheartedness. Such a situation was the prevailing poverty and in order to face it people were forced to borrow money from various people who took advantage of this misery and the miserable condition of their fellow human beings. This tragic situation is evident from the whole content of the parable.
Because the debtor could not repay it, the ruler ordered that his servant, his wife, his children, and all his belongings be sold in order to pay off his debt. It is a frightening thing to sell the whole family! But that servant, too, because his fellow-servant did not repay his debt, grabbed him by the neck and squeezed him, and then put him in prison. And when the ruler was informed of this fact, he handed him over to the torturers until he paid the debt. It shows the cruel ways people used to pay off their loans at the time, and these were the sale of their bodies and families, the violence against them, the imprisonment and the torture. A truly tragic situation.
The Holy Fathers of the Church, especially St. Basil, St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom, refer in their discourses, to the tendency of the people of their time to borrow, to the callousness of usurers, to the consequences of indebtedness, to the inability of people to repay the loan and the excessive interest. They scold both the ease with which people borrow money and the cruelty shown by moneylenders. And above all they advised people to seek to eliminate love of money and love of pleasure, because most spending and consuming is done not because there is a need, but to satisfy the passions of greed, lust and ambition. But even when there is a real need, those who have money should lend to their fellow human beings, without asking for interest.
On a smaller scale the same prevails today. How many people do not suffer from not being able to repay the loans they have received, and how many families are suffering from the loans! They are losing their homes, their property, their dignity, their peace. All this means that we should reduce our many needs, but also be merciful to those who find it difficult to support their families.
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.