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The high value of coins in New Testament times

October 27, 2023

Daily Scripture

Matthew 18:21-35, Luke 19:11-28

Matthew 18
21 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?”
22 Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times [Or seventy times seven]. 23 Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold [Or ten thousand talanta, an amount equal to the wages for sixty million days]. 25 Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. 26 But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 27 The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan.
28 “When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins [Or one hundred denaria, an amount equal to the wages for one hundred days]. He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.’
29 “Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ 30 But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt.
31 “When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened. 32 His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. 33 Shouldn’t you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 His master was furious and handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners, until he had paid the whole debt.
35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Luke 19
11 As they listened to this, Jesus told them another parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought God’s kingdom would appear right away. 12 He said, “A certain man who was born into royalty went to a distant land to receive his kingdom and then return. 13 He called together ten servants and gave each of them money worth four months’ wages [Or he divided ten minas among them. “A mina was worth 100 denarii, and 1 denarius or drachma was the normal daily wage for an unskilled laborer.” *] He said, ‘Do business with this until I return.’ 14 His citizens hated him, so they sent a representative after him who said, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ 15 After receiving his kingdom, he returned and called the servants to whom he had given the money to find out how much they had earned. 16 The first servant came forward and said, ‘Your money has earned a return of one thousand percent.’ 17 The king replied, ‘Excellent! You are a good servant. Because you have been faithful in a small matter, you will have authority over ten cities.’
18 “The second servant came and said, ‘Master, your money has made a return of five hundred percent.’ 19 To this one, the king said, ‘You will have authority over five cities.’
20 “Another servant came and said, ‘Master, here is your money. I wrapped it up in a scarf for safekeeping. 21 I was afraid of you because you are a stern man. You withdraw what you haven’t deposited and you harvest what you haven’t planted.’ 22 The king replied, ‘I will judge you by the words of your own mouth, you worthless servant! You knew, did you, that I’m a stern man, withdrawing what I didn’t deposit, and harvesting what I didn’t plant? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money in the bank? Then when I arrived, at least I could have gotten it back with interest.’
24 “He said to his attendants, ‘Take his money and give it to the one who has ten times as much.’ 25 ‘But Master,’ they said, ‘he already has ten times as much!’ 26 He replied, ‘I say to you that everyone who has will be given more, but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 As for my enemies who don’t want me as their king, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’”
28 After Jesus said this, he continued on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Jesus told other stories that showed coins had serious value in his day. In Matthew’s story, a servant owed a whopper of a debt, equal to 60 million days’ wages (about 170,000 years of work)! Yet the king (clearly God) showed mercy even to a man who owed “a gazillion dollars.” The Luke 19 story (Matthew 25 told it a bit differently) showed the master rewarding servants who boldly invested prized mina coins for him. Don’t play life too safe—the king chided the servant too fearful to risk anything.

  • Pastor Hamilton wrote, “More than any other world religion, Christianity… veritably shouts forgiveness…. a Christianity obsessed with guilt is no Christianity. Christianity is a faith whose central focus is not guilt, but grace, redemption, healing, forgiveness, and mercy.” ** In what ways has God’s forgiveness been freeing and life-changing for you? How can you begin or deepen “healing, forgiveness and mercy” in your relationships?
  • The Luke story’s ending fit real life. “Archelaus’s [Herod the Great’s son] subjects in fact sent a delegation after him asking that he not be allowed to rule (cf. 19:14)…. Archelaus and other rulers often dealt harshly with their political opponents.” *** Jesus was “near Jerusalem,” saying that God gave Israel a task—to show all nations God’s glory and love (Genesis 12:1-3). How do your God-given gifts show what God calls you to? Do you ever keep your gifts safely in a “scarf,” not used for God’s work?

Lord Jesus, even as I ask for your mercy, which I need every day, help me be merciful to those who wrong me. Help me see in what ways you have gifted me and help me use those gifts to serve you boldly and faithfully. Amen.

GPS Insights

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe and his wife, Doris, first met in a Resurrection Single Adult Sunday School class in 1997 and were married in what is now the Student Center. They are empty nesters with 2 college-aged sons, Matthew and Jacob. Darren serves as a Couples Small Group co-leader & Men's Group Leader, while volunteering in a variety of other capacities at Resurrection.

Since Doris & I are in the midst of Resurrection’s trip to Turkey/Greece to re-trace the Apostle Paul’s 2nd & 3rd Missionary journeys, today’s GPS will be a bit off-topic. (Sigh. This Insight always strains the definition of topical – Editor.)

To be clear, I could relate a half dozen scenarios during this week of traveling that echoed this week’s theme of “Lost & Found.” However, extremely strict Non-Disclosure Agreements prevent me from sharing them at this time, but, rest assured, they all were resolved with great rejoicing.

So, we’ll just provide a few highlights of our trip to this point.  We were excited to take this trip for 2 reasons:

  1. Every Resurrection trip is a phenomenal, life-changing experience. 
  2. I have had a nagging feeling that I haven’t been giving Paul his proper due.

Doris & I started with a pre-tour of Cappadocia (Kappa-Doe-Kia), Turkey. The Christians of Cappadocia are referenced in 1 Peter & on Pentecost Sunday. Their story is an amazing story of perseverance as they dug out entire underground cities complete with stables, worship spaces, bedrooms, kitchens, & booby-traps just to live out their faith to the fullest.

In Istanbul, we visited the stunning Blue Mosque, the culturally iconic St. Sophia, & heard our Islamic friends’ beautiful call to prayer. It’d be so cool if someone could invent a gadget to go in my pocket or on my wrist to remind me to pray throughout the day.

     Aside: We enjoyed perusing Greek children’s books about Greek Mythology. Our favorite was Dr. Zeuss’s
     “Hermes Hears a Who.”

We also toured the ruins of Phillipi, Greece. We renewed our baptismal vows in the same river where Lydia & her household were baptized. The Holy Spirit’s presence is palpable when surrounded by hundreds of fellow-believers excited about their faith.

     Aside: The folks in Phillipi weren’t stirring early in the morning.  I guess the old advertising slogan for that dish-
     soap was accurate: “Dawn is tough on Greece.”

We also toured Thessaloniki, Greece. Walking where Paul walked, standing where Paul preached, & realizing just how divisive Paul’s preaching was to his audience, helps you appreciate Paul’s passion (& perseverance) to share Jesus’ message.

     Aside: It was cool to refresh my memory about ancient Greek Gods. For example, I forgot all about the Greek god
     of Regrets: Apollo-G.

Finally, we had the privilege of attending a worship concert performed by Resurrection’s own Dr. Cameron Smith. An amazing evening of praising God facilitated by a virtuoso performance by Cameron.

So, what might this travelogue mean for us today?

  • What are we doing to develop our faith? Have we allowed the enthusiasm & excitement of our 1st leap of faith become stale & routine? Maybe we should deliberately seek out ways to re-energize our faith walk.
  • It is so tempting to discount or overlook the incredible sacrifices that early Christians took to share the faith. They had no assurances that their work would be remembered by future generations, yet our faith today rests solely on their immense efforts. How might we mimic our Brothers & Sisters in Christ from 2,000 years ago?
  • Finally, it is an amazing experience to be amongst people of faith, learning about Biblical places & people, sharing each other’s spiritual walks, & forming life-long friendships in Christ. Never take for granted the power of Christian community. What are we doing to foster our own communities in faith?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to take an Aleve for a sore ankle. I slipped on an old oil stain on a stone roadway. You always have to be mindful when walking around ancient grease.

PS: Here’s a snapshot from our phenomenal balloon tour over Cappadocia at dawn:

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Richard B. Vinson, study note on Luke 19:12 in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 150 NT.
** Adam Hamilton, Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go. Nashville: Abingdon Press, p. 17.
*** NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook. Zondervan (Kindle Locations 234126-234128, 234142). Kindle Edition.