Two Debtors

Luke 7:40-50
Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “say it.” “Two men were in debt to a moneylender. One owed him 500 denarii, and the other fifty. When they couldn’t pay it back, he generously canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him the most?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the larger debt canceled.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly.”

Then, turning to the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You didn’t give me any water for my feet, but this woman has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You didn’t give me a kiss, but this woman, from the moment I came in, has not stopped kissing my feet. You didn’t anoint my head with oil, but this woman has anointed my feet with perfume.

So I’m telling you that her sins, as many as they are, have been forgiven, and that’s why she has shown such great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven!” Those who were at the table with them began to say among themselves, “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” But Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Possible Points of Jesus
      1. A creditor had two debtors – Lk 7:41
        1. One owed five hundred denarii
        2. The other owed fifty denarii (a denarius was equivalent to a day’s wage)
      2. The debtors could not repay, yet the creditor forgave them both – Lk 7:42a
      1. He challenges Simon (the Pharisee) with a question – Lk 7:42b-43
        1. “Which of them (the debtors) will love him (the creditor) more?”
        2. Simon’s response: “I suppose the one whom he forgave more”
          1. Does “I suppose” suggest a reluctance to respond on Simon’s part?
          2. Could it be he has already begun to see the point of the parable?
        3. Jesus replies that Simon has properly judged the correct answer
      2. Jesus then makes the contrast between Simon and the woman – Lk 7:44-46
        1. Simon gave Him no water for His feet, but she washed them with her tears and dried them with her hair
        2. Simon gave Him no kiss, but she has not ceased to kiss His feet
        3. Simon did not anoint His head with oil, but she anointed His feet with fragrant oil
          — All of these things Simon should have done as a normal host, but he did not do it for the most important Guest of all!
      3. Jesus drives the point home – Lk 7:47
        1. The first part of this verse is difficult: “…her sins which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.”
          1. Is Jesus saying that her love is the “cause” of her forgiveness, or the “proof”?
            1. Is she forgiven because she loved much? (that’s what it sounds like)
            2. Or is her much love the evidence of the forgiveness of her many sins?
          2. Jesus does say that her “faith” saved her – Lk 7:50
            1. That is, her faith was the cause for her being forgiven
            2. And her love may have been a reflection of her faith (cf. “faith working through love” – Ga 5:6)
        2. But the latter part of the verse, and the implication of the parable itself suggests that her love is the result or proof of her forgiveness
          1. “But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little”
            1. Just as one who receives little forgiveness, loves little…
            2. …so one who receives much forgiveness, loves much!
          2. “Her love was the result, and not the cause, of her forgiveness. Our sins are not forgiven because we love God, but we love God because they are forgiven (1Jn 4:19). Such is the inference of the parable, and such the teaching of the entire NT.” (McGarvey’s Fourfold Gospel)
          3. “For she loved much (hoti ˆgapˆsen polu). Illustration or proof, not reason for the forgiveness. Her sins had been already forgiven and remained forgiven. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little (H“i de oligon aphietai oligon agapƒi). This explanation proves that the meaning of hoti preceding is proof, not cause.” (Robertson’s Word Pictures)
      4. If the woman’s love is simply the evidence her forgiveness, as the parable suggests, then Jesus’ next words were designed to further reassure her – Lk 7:48-50
        1. “Your sins are forgiven.”
        2. “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace”
          — Both statements simply confirm that her great display of love was properly placed, for she had indeed been saved by her faith
      1. Many people who come to Jesus have really made a mess of their lives
      2. They know it, and the sense of their guilt is acute
        1. But this parable reminds us the Lord is willing to forgive no matter the debt!
        2. And the woman reminds us that as one’s sense of guilt is
          acute, so their love will be greater!
        3. With a greater love, there will be the motivation for greater service!
      3. Just as with the apostle Paul, who did not consider himself worthy to be called an apostle – cf. 1Co 15:9-10
        — So rather than wallow in your guilt of the past, allow the great forgiveness Jesus offers to motivate you to love and serve Him even more!
      1. Remember, the more cognizant we are of the forgiveness we have in Christ, the more we will love and serve Him
      2. There are at least two ways one can have an heightened sense of forgiveness
        1. One way is to have been forgiven of much, as in the case of this woman
        2. But another way is learn more about the nature of sin…
          1. I.e., how just one sin makes us guilty of all – Jm 2:10
          2. I.e., how the wages of sin is spiritual death,
            separation from God – Ro 6:23; Isa 59:1-2
      3. We cannot change the degree of our sinfulness prior to coming to Christ…
        1. But we can always increase the level of our understanding about sin!
        2. I.e., the more we learn about the terrible nature of sin…
          1. The more we appreciate the forgiveness we have in Christ!
          2. The more motivated we are by love to serve Him – 2Co 5:14-15
    1. What is our devotion and service to Jesus like?
      1. Do we treat Him like Simon did?
      2. I.e., we invite Him into our lives, but really don’t give Him the honor He deserves?
    2. Could it be that we are more like the Pharisee than we care to admit?
      1. Failing to give Jesus the proper devotion due Him?
      2. Looking down in self-righteousness at people who we think are not worthy of Him?
    3. If you find yourself with an attitude like Simon’s, instead of one like the woman’s…
      1. Remember that those forgiven most are capable of loving Jesus more!
      2. And that perhaps you need to reflect more on your true spiritual condition!

For it was to the sinful woman, and not to self-righteous Simon, that
Jesus said:

“Your sins are forgiven.”
“Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Recommended reading for further study: