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 debt.
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
By St. John Chryostom
Matt. XVIII. "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 seven."
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
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
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 without fear.
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
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
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
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
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
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, for vainglory.
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 money?
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 toils.
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
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 of virtue.
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 have gone?
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
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
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 servant."
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
"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 corrected.
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
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
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.