Astounding Hypocrisy

astounding hypocrisy (2)

c) Matt 18:28–30: Jesus continued the parable of Matt 18:21–35, saying, “But that slave went out [and] found one of his fellow slaves who was indebted to him [for] one hundred denarii.”

A much more plausible figure than 10,000 talents,[1] one hundred denarii consists of one hundred days’ wages.[2]

The second slave owed his colleague one six-hundred thousandth the amount forgiven by the ruler.[3]

However, the first slave “seized him and he began to strangle him, saying, ‘Repay everything that you owe.’”

The man in incredible debt resorted to physical violence,[4] rather than emulating the forgiving nature of the king:[5] an exhibition of incredible hypocrisy.[6]

Some Greco-Roman creditors did indeed seize their debtors by the throat in order to forcefully drag them to a governing official.[7]

The playwright Plautus (254–184 BC) wrote a scene in which a man caught with dishonest gain contemplated suicide, saying, “But why do I hesitate to betake me hence to utter perdition, before I’m dragged off to the Prætor by the throat?”[8]

Jesus stated, “After falling, therefore, his fellow slave began to implore him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay [it] to you.’”

His entreaty closely parallels that of the one assaulting him, with only the word “all” missing (Cf. Matt 18:26).[9]

This highlights the extravagance of the first slave’s promise to his creditor.[10]

Christ continued, “But he was not willing. Instead, after departing he cast him into prison until he should repay the sum that was owed.”

Unlike the king, the first slave showed no compassion (Matt 18:23–27). Since he could not sell a slave belonging to the ruler, he capitalized upon his rights and committed the man to a debtor’s prison (Matt 5:25–26).[11]

Incarcerated people could not repay their debts.[12] They could only hope that their family members or friends remitted what they owed.[13]

Plutarch (46–122 AD) asserted, “Miltiades, who had been condemned to pay a fine of fifty talents and confined till payment should be made, died in prison.”[14]

 Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Matt 18:28–30. Were the actions of the first slave toward his colleague a reasonable response in light of the debt owed? Why or why not? What do they reveal about his heart?




Go to Having Mercy on our Fellow Debtors


[Related posts include A Lesson on Forgiveness (Matt 18:21–22); A King Settling Accounts (Matt 18:23–27); Having Mercy on our Fellow Debtors (Matt 18:31–34); The Tragedy of Mercilessness (Matt 18:35); and Lamech’s Ode to Himself (Gen 4:23–24)]

[Click here to go to Chapter 2: The Descent of Humanity (Genesis 4:17–24)]


[1]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 704.

[2]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 539.

[3]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 707.

[4]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 539.

[5]Keener, IVPBBCNT, Matt 18:28.

[6]W. D Davies and Dale C. Allison, Matthew 8–18 (ICC; New York: T & T Clark, 1991), 801.

[7]Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 459–60.

[8]T. Maccius Plautus, “Poenulus,” in The Comedies of Plautus (trans. Henry Thomas Riley; London: G. Bell & Sons, 1912), 3.5.45,

[9]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 707.

[10]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 539.

[11]France, The Gospel of Matthew, 707.

[12]Keener, IVPBBCNT, Matt 18:29–30.

[13]Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 539.

[14]Plutarch, “Cimon,” in Plutarch’s Lives (LCL; trans. Bernadotte Perrin; London; Cambridge, MA: Heinemann; Harvard University Press, 1959), 4.3, 413,