"Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that's why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little."
No matter what your background is with regard to church or Bible study, most people are familiar (even if only vaguely!) with the story of the "sinful woman".
In Luke 7, we read that after ministering to many people, Jesus visited the home of a religious leader named Simon. Simon, a Pharisee, had invited Jesus over to his home to dine with him. While they are reclined at Simon's table, Jesus and Simon are joined by an unexpected guest. That's right, the "woman in the city who was a sinner" (Luke 7:37).
Scripture tells us that the woman had learned that Jesus was at Simon's home and made her way to him. The woman then proceeded to pour out an alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume onto the feet of Jesus.
She not only poured this prized possession onto Jesus' feet but also used her hair to wash them. 1 Corinthians 11:15 tells us that if a woman has long hair, that is glory to her. The woman washed Jesus' feet with her crowning glory and costly perfume.
Keep in mind that the woman was in full view of Simon in addition to Jesus. Her shame was laid bare before them. And so was the honor that Jesus gave her.
While the woman is washing Jesus' feet, Simon's critical judgment was already falling upon both her and Jesus. Jesus, being privy to the thoughts and heart content of Simon, asked an important question: Would someone who had been forgiven a greater financial debt be more, less, or equally grateful as someone who had been forgiven a lesser debt?
Easy, Simon surely thought before responding that the person forgiven of a greater debt would be more grateful.
Jesus responded to Simon in Luke 7:47, "Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that's why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little."
You see, Simon could not fathom why Jesus, who he saw as a powerful religious leader and prophet, was allowing a woman of such questionable character to touch him. Scripture allows us insight into Simon's thoughts at the time. He even allowed himself to question Jesus' power because surely, He would be able to see the shameful past of this woman and refuse to allow her access to Him.
But that was not Jesus' thought process. Instead, He offered Simon the parable of financial debt to help explain His heart to Simon.
As a Pharisee, Simon had grown up in the Synagogue and studied the Scriptures day in and day out. I think it is safe to assume that Simon had lived a pure life, at least from the standpoint of what one can see from the outside.
Over the years of religious service and pious living, Simon had perhaps grown apathetic toward his own sin. Although he may not have harbored any ill intentions, the routine nature of his relationship with God had caused him to lose sight of Who God was and what His heart was toward humanity.
Looking through his own flawed, human perspective, Simon saw what she was--a sinful woman. Jesus, on the other hand, looked from a divine perspective and saw what the woman could be--His co-heir.
The approaches of the two religious leaders toward this woman were entirely different. Simon's religious thinking had him see the woman as one-dimensional. She was a sinner and nothing more. Her works, contrary to his own, were unrighteous and shameful. On the other hand, I'm sure he viewed his works as honest and God-pleasing.
Simon had grown used to his relationship with God and as a result, the fervent hands of pride had begun to claw at his spiritual vision. This concept is beautifully illustrated in the words of Jesus from Matthew 7:3, "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"
I believe that as Christians, we can so easily disguise and conceal our own sins because they may not take on as strong of a physical form as something like sexual sin. But just because our sins are less apparent does not mean that they are not detestable to God. We do not get a free pass to lust, hate, judgment, or envy simply because these sins can often live within the confines of our brains.
Proverbs 16:18 warns us, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling." Pride is a sin I believe has the power and potential to limit our love of Jesus. Our sins might not be scribed on our foreheads or stained across our chests with a scarlet letter, but they are still just that--sins.
Jesus, in all of His compassion and love for the sinner and the saved, presented Simon with a perspective he may have never considered or been exposed to before. Simon may not have had a laundry list of blatant sins to report, but he was still a man in need of forgiveness from a Savior.
In comparison to others, perhaps Simon did not have to be forgiven of much. But he still had to be forgiven. His righteous and religious acts did not exclude him from needing grace and redemption from God.
So, maybe you have followed Jesus Christ for many years and your sins are not as apparent as other people's sins. Please hear this loving caution from the Lord: "The one who is forgiven little, loves little."
Complicity is a formidable opponent that we must constantly and consistently, through the strength of God, battle against every day. Pride is a sneaky assassin who can slowly but effectively weaken your defenses until you give in to its alluring destruction.
If you forget to recognize that we are all sinners in need of a Savior, then your love for Jesus will diminish until your relationship with Him becomes nothing more than a habit.
In closing, I was reading a chapter of The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis in which one character who had been sent to Hell was speaking with a man he had known in life who had died and gone to Heaven. The man who had gone to Heaven had, in fact, killed another man before he came to know the Lord.
The man who had gone to Hell stated over and over to his heavenly counterpart that he had been a good man and did not deserve to go where he had gone. He went even further with his argument and said that the man who had killed another definitely did not deserve to be in Heaven.
The man in Heaven kindly set a mirror before the man who went to Hell, reminding them that although he may have never killed anyone, he was an unkind, unloving person in life. The one who now resided in Heaven had understood his great need for forgiveness through the power of Jesus Christ; on the other hand, the man who had gone to Hell was still convinced he deserved the reward of Heaven.
At the end of the chapter, the man who had been sent to Hell said the following: "Tell them I'm not coming, see? I'd rather be damned than go along with you. I came here to get my rights, see? Not to go sniveling along on charity tied onto your apron-strings. If they're too fine to have me without you, I'll go home."
Although this is an extreme example, the image this scene paints opened my eyes to what God has been laying on my heart all week. Pride is a thief of joy saturated in the unjust comparisons of our own perceived innate goodness to our perceptions of what we believe others deserve.
You must be vigilant to guard yourself against the dangers of prideful thinking. The moment we are convinced we have earned the favor and forgiveness of God is the moment we need to fall onto our knees in humility and repentance.