He Who is Forgiven Little, Loves Little

Luke 7:36-50
The Pharisee versus the Sinful Woman

The Pharisee was not consciously aware of how far he fell short of the holiness of God. Here was a woman who knew she had broken God’s law in more ways than she could count or remember. And then there was the Pharisee, who upheld himself as a keeper of the law. Verse 39 tells us that this is the way he was. Because of what he was thinking. 


Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” (Luke 7:39)


Jesus would have known that she was a sinner if he truly was a prophet, and he would have nothing to do with her. That was the belief of the Pharisees. This man thought of himself as one who only needed a little bit of forgiveness. But that woman needed a lot more than he needed. Jesus, of course, knowing the thoughts of this man, then tells him about a parable in verses 40 through 43.


And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he canceled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” (Luke 7:40-43)


The Contrast

There’s a great contrast here between these two debtors. One owes 500 denarii. A denarius was a day’s wage, so here we’re looking at about a year and a half of salary a year and a half of income is what this man owed. The other owed almost two months’ worth of income. And when they could not repay their debt, the money lender canceled the debt of both. So, the money lender erased the debt of both the guy who owed a year and a half of income and the one who owed a couple of months worth of income. So, the question is, in verse 42, which of them will love him more? Which of those two forgiven debtors will love the moneylender more? Simon knew the answer, and so he said, “I suppose, the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly. Simon, you’ve judged rightly.” The one with the larger debt is obviously going to love the money lender more than the one with the smaller debt. 

But then Jesus turns in verse 44 toward the woman. And he says to Simon, “Do you see this woman?” Obviously, Simon saw her. She was there. But Jesus is about to draw a great contrast between her response to his presence and the Pharisees’ response to the presence of Jesus. “Do you see this woman? I entered your house. You gave me no water for my feet.” Which was customary in that day when a guest came into a home for their feet to be washed. You didn’t do that for me. “Yet she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss.” That would have been the kiss of hospitality. A kiss of hospitality is given by the host to the one invited into the home. “Yet she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil.” Another custom. Custom performed by the host to the guest. “But she has anointed my feet with ointment.” 


What’s the Difference?

What was the chief difference between Simon and this woman? Well, both were sinners in the eyes of God. Both had broken his law. James says, that if you break God’s law, even in one point, you’ve broken it all (James 4). And so therefore we are all sinners. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. There are no exceptions. Jesus, of course, is the only exception because he was not only human, but he was fully divine. But there was no difference as far as guiltiness was concerned. They were both guilty before God, as sinners and lawbreakers. So according to God’s holy standard, they were both great sinners, but the difference is this: the woman was consciously aware of her sinfulness, the Pharisee was not. That’s the difference. 


The woman knew what guilt was. She felt the weight of her guilt every day, and that’s what brought her to Simon’s house when she heard the Savior was there. Simon was, unlike the prophet Isaiah, who fell on his face before the holiness of God, a self-righteous, proud Pharisee who enjoyed looking down his long religious nose at others who were less worthy of God’s love than he considered himself to be. Which made him unsavable in that current state. But the broken sinner before the merciful Savior receives salvation. Therefore, in verse 47, Jesus says to Simon, “I tell you her sins, which are many.” So, he’s not excusing her sin sweeping it under the rug, or saying God’s love is greater than sin, and therefore we won’t even think about sin. We won’t even talk about sin. We won’t even consider the weight of sin.


He says no, her sin is great. Yet they are forgiven for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little loves little. Now that word for can be a little tricky. Because it almost sounds like she’s forgiven because she loves but it’s the opposite. It’s the meaning there in other translations that because she’s forgiven much, she loves much. Because she understands the depth of her forgiveness from God, she loves Jesus more. But verse 47, “He who has forgiven little loves little.”

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