September 5, 2021

Homily for the Eleventh Sunday of Matthew - The Consequences of Debt (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

Homily for the Eleventh Sunday of Matthew (18:23-35)

The Consequences of Debt

Today's Gospel reading refers to the debtor of a myriad of talents, who could not repay his debt and his master ordered that he himself, his wife, his children, and his belongings be sold to pay off the debt. But he asked for forgiveness, which was granted to him. While he repaid his debt with repentance, he was cruel to his companion, and he did not forgive him, despite him asking, and put him in prison. His master found out about this, he who had previously forgiven him, so it was returned to him and he handed him over to the torturers.

This parable refers to the Kingdom of God, into which those who repent and ask God for forgiveness will enter, but in return they also forgive all those who have wronged them.

The image of the parable comes from the situation of that time, namely that of loans, debts and the repayments of loans. When the loan could not be repaid, then the debtor was handed over to the torturers, he himself was sold, his wife, children, his personal property was confiscated, he was put in prison. At that time things were difficult, since the institution of slavery prevailed and harsh laws prevailed and the relevant behaviors were inhuman. But even today similar conditions prevail, things have just become more civilized, and eventually people suffer.

In the beginning, even today, people borrow from banks, unfortunately also from usurers, but the States also take loans from the so-called markets. There is a great deal of economic interdependence resulting in the violation of freedom. Of course, sometimes borrowing is necessary, but it is not justified to take loans without a real reason. Lending has been around lately. From the very beginning, people played the stock market, received consumer loans. At the heart of this was prosperity, recklessness, but also the challenge, in the sense that the lenders themselves were provoking and urging people to take out unnecessary loans. Thus, a frenzy was observed, of people lending easily, and of lenders facilitating lending and seeking it.

If we look at this issue from a theological and ecclesiastical point of view, then we can say that in our society the passions of lust and avarice prevail, a prosperity and over-consumption with loans is sought. On the other hand, lending is sought as an attempt to enslave people and nations. The "religion of avarice" that prevails in the world today has as a principle that everyone - people and States - are in debt, so that they can easily be ruled, become slaves.

The consequences of this situation are terrible. Those in debt live under the fear and anxiety of the future, fall into despair and melancholy, lose their sleep, go to prison, create problems for their families. States in particular are losing their independence, often losing their territorial integrity, subjected to external pressures, and are generally in a state of slavery. We say that slavery was abolished, as it used to be, but it came back in a different form and in a different way.

When one examines the mentality of the various Christian denominations developed in the West, one will find that the mentality of avarice and neo-enrichment distinguishes Western Christianity from theological scholasticism and Protestant morality. Papal scholasticism speaks of blissful happiness in this and the next life, and Protestant morality does not deny wealth, as long as its acquisition is legal, that is, it identifies the legal with the moral. On the contrary, the Orthodox ethic, which is basically ascetic, is determined by the love for God and the love for others, it frees man from matter, it cures the passions of ambition, avarice and lust.

Orthodox Christians are content with what they have, avoid borrowing, live ascetically, move away from opulence and luxury, and, of course, benefit those in need from their possessions. When one reads the Sermon on the Mount by Christ, which is the statutory charter of Christianity, one sees this ascetic ethic taught by Christ, which gives us freedom and, above all, leads us to experience the love of God, of the Kingdom of God.

Let us learn to be free, independent of financial pressures.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.