Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
Do you have a “debt problem”? According to credit service, Experian, the average credit card debt per household is $5,315 (Wallethub puts it at $7,849). Renting money comes at a high cost with exorbitant interest. Perhaps you or a loved one have faced an enormous debt, medical costs, business or student loans, or a mortgage that made for uncomfortable living? Most of us know how that feels, to one degree or another. We don’t like the thought of owing someone. It gives them power and control over us (read Prov. 22:7). Perhaps you are one of those who can say that you don’t owe anyone–not the credit card companies, the mortgage company, the automobile dealers, etc. But you are still in debt! So am I.
Luke reveals a dinner party with a very diverse cast of characters (Luke 7:36-50). There’s Simon, a Pharisee, who plays host (36). There are several dinner guests (49), but sinless Jesus, God in the flesh, is the guest of honor (36). Then, there was a woman who crashed the party, whose name Luke doesn’t give us but who instead is identified by her lifestyle–“a woman in the city who was a sinner” (37). The Pharisees were the custodians of the Old Law (Mat. 23:2). Simon would be a man of great reputation, one who we’d think would not be the indebted type. This unnamed woman was the opposite.
Such is the setting that allows Jesus to drive home a powerful point about debt. The woman, with a visibly enormous, spiritual debt, spends money (Mark and John record a similar incident where the contents were worth as much as 300 denarii, or almost a year’s wages), sacrifices dignity, submits humble service, and shows significant emotion (37-38). Apparently, “who” she was was well-known and she had nothing to lose and everything to gain. She is the picture of transparency and need.
Apparently, Simon is at the other end of the spectrum, physically, socially, and, at least on the surface, spiritually. In fact, he sits in judgment of Jesus for allowing the woman to be so familiar with Him, thinking to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who & what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner” (39).
Jesus, able to read Simon’s thoughts, uses them as a launching point to teach that vital point about spiritual indebtedness. He shares the parable of two debtors. There was a disparity between the two debts, but neither could repay what they owed. The lender forgives both debts, no strings attached. Who would feel the greater depth of gratitude and affection? The answer is obvious, and Jesus makes application.
He points to how humbly and freely the woman expresses her love and appreciation to Jesus, while Simon is negligent in all the ways she was demonstrative. Jesus points out that this is about faith and forgiveness (47-50). The Lord doesn’t deny that the magnitude of the woman’s sinfulness is enormous (47), but He fully and freely forgives her. Simon’s disadvantage is not as apparent, but is definitely serious. Was he prideful? Self-righteous? Judgmental? There are definitely signs of such struggles in his life.
It is dangerous to live a life of sin and rebellion against God’s will. Too many never come to grips with their need for faith and forgiveness. But, it is at least as dangerous to be blind to our sin problem or to rationalize and minimize its effect upon our lives. This woman teaches us to be transparent with God and others, to acknowledge our debt, to ask the only one capable of forgiving it to do so, and then to live with humble gratitude and renewed resolve and purpose. Because, whether we admit it or not, we all have an insurmountable debt we cannot repay without His help.