Devotional Thoughts for This Morning
Lk. 7:37-50 (ESV): And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,  and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.  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.”  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 cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”  Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”  And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Just two months after I arrived in Mexico, when my Spanish was still shaky, I was asked to speak at the men’s regional retreat of the United Methodist church. But I still understood most of what was said during testimony time. Three words summed up their past life: drinking, violence and women. Their testimony was that now, having been redeemed, they felt like the man whose great debt was cancelled; they felt like the woman with a sordid past whose sin Christ forgave. And they were grateful to God.
This parable seems to suggest that those who are redeemed from a sinful lifestyle can sense God’s love and grace more readily than those who have always behaved; as a result, they love God more than others. After all, Jesus tells this story in response to a Pharisee, a moral person, who questions him for allowing the sinful woman to touch him.
But this parable isn’t saying that at all; in fact, those who have sinned less can love God even more. On the last day of conference, the bishop, a man in his mid-40s, said this: “While I thank God for these wonderful changed lives, my story is different. Having grown up in a Christian home, I’ve never drank, been given to violence or cheated on my wife. But it was all because of God’s grace, and that is my testimony.”
Additionally, this parable isn’t saying that some sinners owe more to God than others (500 vs. 50 denarii). Whether we’ve broken God’s laws a thousand times or just once, we’re equally lawbreakers before God (James 2:10-1). A spiritual danger that Christ points to is our tendency to assume that we aren’t as sinful because of our impressive piety (“I fast twice a week and I give a tenth of all I get”); so, we further assume that we’ve been forgiven of 50 denarii worth of sin instead of 500. That is what kills spirituality because that leads to loving and appreciating God less.
Instead, be like the woman in this parable (and not like the Pharisees) who wasn’t concerned about what people thought, but showed love for God in earnestness and humility.
O God, You are to be exalted and lifted on high, for your loving kindness towards me continues to be unfathomable! How awful for me to fathom that I can contribute something toward my own salvation or that I’m not as sinful as others. Forgive me for my arrogance and foolishness. I love you Lord. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 33
Lunch Break Study
Read James 2:8-10 (NASB): “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well.  But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.  For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”
Ps: 143:5 (NASB): “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands.  I stretch out my hands to You; My soul longs for You, as a parched land.”
Phil. 3:7-8 (NASB): “but whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ. . . .”
Question to Consider
- What would you say to someone who feels like he/she is less of a sinner than others?
- What spiritual/mental exercise can help us to appreciate God more even as we are becoming more pious (meaning sinning less than before)?
- What are some spiritual conditions in your life that cause you to be less appreciative of God, thereby loving Him less? What can help us to stay humble?
- It only takes one break in a rope for a mountain climber to fall to his death. Likewise, one who commits a crime once or ten times is deemed as a criminal before the law. Similarly, one who breaks God’s law once or hundred times is the same: they’re both law-breakers who face the same consequences.
- First, we constantly remind ourselves (like during our prayer times) the miserable state that we were in (sordid lifestyle, loneliness, alienated self, etc.) before meeting Christ; second, we quickly forget the good works we have done or the accolades we have received from men.
- One thing that can keep us in check is people’s criticism of us. While in Mexico, most pastors who I worked with really appreciated my ministry and liked me as a person. But there were exceptions: I always tried to use their criticisms to remind myself to stay humble.
Review your day. Did anything occur today (good or bad) that helped you to appreciate and love God more? Reflect on what happened; thank the Lord for such an opportunity; be grateful for your salvation.