Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” (Luke 7:41-43 ESV)
Here, Simon Peter was answering Jesus’ question, saying that the debtor who had the debt of five hundred denarii cancelled would love the moneylender more than the debtor who had fifty denarii’s debt cancelled. Jesus had just told the group the parable of the two debtors. The unnamed woman of ill repute appreciated God’s forgiveness and chose to show the depths of her gratitude. The expression of her gratitude was not just an emotional sentiment, but a practical giving of something of great value to her, the flask of ointment. This precious ointment used to anoint Jesus’ feet was her way of honouring Him. Here, we see an intentional expression of love and appreciation from one forgiven. She was able to give freely because she felt that she had been blessed richly.
The owner of the house and host, the Pharisee Simon, had a desire to spend more time with Jesus. In the middle of hosting the group and ensuring that the meal was ready, the more important aspect of paying personal attention to Jesus was sidelined. Did Simon deem himself of the same social standing as Jesus or was he keen to learn more spiritual truths from Jesus? The Bible is silent on this, but Jesus pointed out that Simon had missed out on basic hospitality. Guests in Holy Land homes expect to be kissed as they enter, but there wasn’t any welcome kiss for Jesus. There was no offer of water to clean his feet. Was Simon so complacent in Jesus’ presence that he forgot Jesus was his guest?
Recently, I did a module on spiritual development. I was surprised to be asked to meditate on the reality of sin; to focus on my experience of sin – personally, communally and globally. I thought it was an unusual area to contemplate. However, as I considered the parable of the prodigal son, the sin of the angels and the sin of Adam and Eve, I learned more about the effects of sin in my life, my community and our world. We can so often deceive ourselves and be blind to our own human sins of discontentment, greed and pride. In the eyes of God, there are no big sinners or small sinners. There are only the lost and the redeemed. Knowing God’s grace for us, we still choose to respond so meagrely to God’s love. In prayer and reading the Bible, we can ask God for a healthy sense of shame and strength when confronting our sin. As we recognise these hard realities, we recall the grace of God that reaches out to us unconditionally. We cannot progress in our walk with God by merely counting our sins and seeking to overcome them by sheer human effort.
Let us acknowledge our weaknesses before God, and keep our eyes fixed on the author and finisher of our faith. His ever-present mercy and grace will be the ultimate source of our lasting liberation from sin. It is through knowing the depths of our sins and the heavy price Jesus paid on the cross that we begin to appreciate the forgiveness of Christ more. We should never love God little because we feel that we have been forgiven little! We should be the ones who love more because we have been forgiven much. As things move back to “normalcy” and people rush to fulfil the objectives they were prevented from achieving in the past two years, the lost still need the gospel and the battle for souls remains. Let us take care that we do not fall into complacency and subconsciously tell ourselves, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men” (Luke 18:11).
- Dn Richard Yew
 Excerpt from Manners and Customs of Bible Lands by Fred H. Wight