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Welcome back to our ongoing series, I DARE YOU. This is our look at the unique parables of Jesus Christ from the four Gospels found in the New Testament. Once a week, we will examine one of Christ’s stories and let his challenge to his first-century audience speak to us now and provoke us to live in the Kingdom of God better, more fully, more wholeheartedly. We see these parables as dares to step outside of the norm of the world and enter into what God has for us. We hope that you will be likewise challenged and that you will take the dare to live a more Christlike, Kingdom of God-focused life.

This may not strike you as a parable. It doesn’t have the traditional opening and closing of a parable. There isn’t a “There was once” or “The Kingdom of Heaven is like”. So, there may be some that wouldn’t consider this a parable.

But still, Jesus tells a story (which is what a parable is) that has the power change and reshape our lives. It is a story that you know, a story most Christians are familiar with. Try to hear what Jesus says with fresh ears. Let the familiar surprise you.

SCRIPTURE

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Luke 7:36-50

WHAT IS THIS ABOUT?

There is a lot going on here, with a parable tucked in the middle of it. It barely makes up a paragraph. It’s a whole four sentences, but it packs a punch.

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Jesus often told parables that started with something everyone understood. Even now, people know what it is to owe someone money. Whether it is a lot or a little, we all know the devastating weight of debt. The shame, the guilt, the gnawing feeling that you are not in control of your own life…some know it better than others. But Jesus does what he often did, take the normal and exaggerate it to make a point.

A denarius (singular of denarii) was a day’s wages in Jesus’ day. While one would never hope to have fifty days worth of debt, it wasn’t a crazy idea. Five hundred days, over a year worth of debt, would be devastating. A family, not just the parents, would basically be slaves to a moneylender. They would have to do anything and everything to pay back that debt.

(If that sounds familiar, it is mentioned in another parable of Jesus in Matthew 18.)

While five hundred day’s wages worth of debt may have been crazy to imagine, how mad must the idea of a moneylender forgiving that debt?

Imagine a conservative day’s wage. Say you made $100 in a day but needed to borrow that much money for five hundred days. That’s $50,000. While there are those of us that make that in a year, there are many that don’t. To have a year or years worth of debt hanging over your head would be crushing.

Then it was gone. The stress, gone. The shame, gone. The anxiety, gone. The debt, gone.

Even the idea of someone magically wishing away my own debt leaves me with a sense of “I can’t believe it” followed by a slumping deeper into my chair. How much more if it happened? There would be many “thank you”s and “I love you”s. There would be weeping and prayers of gratitude.

While we can all emphasize with the one more deeply in debt, look at what Jesus is implying.

Jesus makes this interesting connection between forgiveness and love; the one who was forgiven much loved much in return. 

And that pushes us towards the dare, the challenge Jesus has for us.

THE DARE

It’s a quiet dare, a subtle challenge, but on that Christians especially need to hear.

I DARE YOU TO RECOGNIZE HOW MUCH YOU HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN.

Do you realize how much you are forgiven? Most of us would first imagine that we would be the one that had a debt of fifty. We’ve done terrible things. We have sinned. We have fallen short. We have stumbled.

But we are too generous to ourselves, too gracious.

Here is the truth. We owe five hundred denarii to the moneylender.

We are in so much need of forgiveness. We have sinned more than we know. We have stumbled and fallen short more times and in more ways that we understand.

Jesus is not condemning anyone in the parable, nor will I condemn anyone in this article. The focus, the dare, the challenge isn’t to realize how horrible or evil we are. Jesus isn’t trying to point out how fall we have fallen from grace, or how unholy we are.

Jesus never did that.

Rather Jesus is pointing out how much we have been forgiven. How much grace we have received. How far God had gone to restore our relationship with him.

Will you recognize how much you have been forgiven?

WAIT, THERE’S MORE

But that isn’t all that Jesus is saying. Yes, recognize how much you have been forgiven, but how does Jesus end the parable?

“Now which of them will love him more?”

Forgiveness is connected to love. The one that is forgiven much, loves much. The man that borrowed five hundred denarii would have responded with love on a level unheard of and unseen by the one that borrowed fifty.

So how much love are you showing the moneylender?

Not pushing the metaphor or the parable too far, but God has forgiven us much. So much.

How are you reacting to that forgiveness?

There isn’t a gauge, there is no measurement for loving God enough. Especially because of the forgiveness he has shown us. Instead, this is a question for personal reflection.

How are you responding to the love of God, the forgiveness, the grace that has covered you and your sin?

I know for myself, I am NOT always the most thankful, the most loving recipient of God’s goodness. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that self-evaluation.

The question becomes, What am I, or what are you, going to do now? How will we react to God’s forgiveness? How will our love and gratitude and thanksgiving for our sin debt being erased be manifest?

Will we jump for joy? Will we sing a song? Will we give someone else that same kind of grace when we have a chance? Will we fall at the feet of Jesus, weep and wash them with those tears?

Something to think about.

CONCLUSION

This is not the longest parable. Not a parable at all according to some. But what Jesus says calls us, believers, to consider what we have in this faith relationship and to react accordingly. It is something for us think about. Chances are good that we have lost sight of the great forgiveness shown to us. Let us remedy that.


All Scripture references provided by Biblegateway.com Be sure to check them out if you are looking for a verse, some commentaries to help you understand a passage or a devotional to keep you in the Written Word every day. Or for those on the go, check out their app, available at the App Store, Google Play, and Amazon Fire.

This article first appeared on Christian Thought Sandbox.

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