Bible Articles

Bible Articles

How Much Do I Owe?

It might have been a supper like many others except that Jesus was present. A Pharisee named Simon had invited Jesus to eat in his house. However, it was the woman who was present and her unusual behavior that made the occasion particularly memorable (Luke 7:36-50).

Widely recognized as a sinner, she entered Simon’s house uninvited and began to wash the feet of Jesus with her tears, drying them with her hair. Kissing his feet, she anointed them with fragrant oil. Simon thought to himself that Jesus could not possibly be a prophet or he would have known that this woman was a sinner and thus would not have permitted her to touch him (verse 39). The Pharisees were careful not to have any contact with "sinners" in order to preserve their own "purity." Simon attributed to Jesus the same pharisaical prejudices that he himself held!

As the Son of God, Jesus was able to know what Simon was thinking and took this opportunity to respond to his attitudes of self-sufficiency and prejudice. Jesus told a parable about two debtors, one who owed 500 denarii and another who owed 50 denarii. While the first owed much more than the second, neither was able to pay his debt and so their creditor forgave both of them their debts. Jesus asked, "Tell me, therefore, which of them will love him more?" Simon answered that the one who was forgiven the greater debt would display more love and Jesus confirmed the correctness of his answer.

Jesus then proceeded to compare two other debtors, Simon and the woman. Simon had evidently shown very little love for Jesus, neglecting to perform even the normal rituals of hospitality toward a visitor (verses 44-46). He had not offered Jesus water to wash his feet, had given him no kiss, nor had he anointed Jesus’ head with oil. The woman, on the other hand, had shown great love. She clearly recognized that she was a sinner and in need of forgiveness. Jesus told Simon that the woman was forgiven because of the great love that she displayed.

Simon’s problem was that he thought that he owed little or nothing to God in a spiritual sense, or, in other words, that he was essentially without sin. However, as the apostle Paul stated, all men sin (Romans 3:23) and thus incur the same huge spiritual debt with God. Like the debtors in the parable, we cannot pay our spiritual debt; we must rely on the mercy of God. Fortunately, forgiveness is available through the sacrifice of Jesus. Those who display their love for God by obedience to His will (John 14:15, 21, 23; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37-38) are the ones who recognize the size and nature of their debt. The point of the parable, as Simon correctly noted, was that the love one will show to God is commensurate with the size of the debt that he thinks he owes.

How much do you owe?