Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, you her sins which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
Jesus said those words in Luke 8:34. He was talking to a religious leader, named Simon, at whose home he was eating when a woman, who Luke refers to as a ‘sinner,’ approached Jesus and began washing his feet with her tears and anointing his feet with her perfume. Jesus’ words were in response to Simon’s thoughts that believed Jesus would have stopped the woman from touching him if he knew who her character. Most likely, this woman was a known prostitute, which was considered among the lowest and most shameful of all the people in Israel. However, Jesus responded to the man’s thoughts (catch that – Jesus responded to the man’s THOUGHTS!) and said, “When I arrived at your house, you didn’t offer me water so that I could wash my feet. This woman has wet my feet with her tears and she wiped them clean with her hair. You didn’t give me the customary greeting of a kiss on my cheek and you didn’t show me honor by anointing my head with ointment. She kissed my feet and anointed them with ointment!” Jesus ended his response to Simon with the summary, “She loves me more than you do because she understands how much she has been forgiven more than you do.”
I’m afraid that Jesus’ words could be applied to many of us more easily than we might like to think
It might be easy for us to read that and think to ourselves, “Ouch! Jesus really put Simon in his place!” However, I’m afraid that Jesus’ words could be applied to many of us more easily than we might like to think. In Luke’s narrative, we are not told what Simon thought about Jesus, but he likely viewed Jesus as a very powerful prophet, since that seemed to be the consensus view of the people (see Luke 7:16-17). With that in mind, it is easy to see that Simon was honoring Jesus to some degree by hosting him at a meal in his home. However, while Simon’s show of honor toward Jesus was present in some ways, it was measured and limited. As Jesus stated, Simon didn’t show Jesus the greatest amount of honor that he could have shown upon receiving Jesus into his home. It seems that Simon showed the minimal customary honors for their culture and even withheld some common courtesies. In a similar manner to so many of our lives, Simon’s actions demonstrated that he believed that his simple acknowledgement and acceptance of Jesus was enough.
Too often, like Simon, we misunderstand the gravity of who Jesus is and the abundance of forgiveness that has been shown to all of us who have believed in Jesus. For that reason, I think many of us are too comfortable simply “inviting Jesus into our lives” while withholding from him the highest honors of our lives much like when Simon invited Jesus into his home but did not go out of his way to honor him any further. We know that Jesus deserves a certain amount of our honor, but our actions often demonstrate that we don’t believe he deserves our highest honors. If we truly believed that he was worthy of our highest honors, then there would be nothing that he could ask of us that would be too much for us to give him. If we truly believed that he is worthy of our highest honors, then EVERYTHING in our lives would be on the table to be given at a moment’s notice. Sadly, that doesn’t always seem to be the case in my life and I expect that many of you can identify with me. Even when God asks seemingly difficult things of me and I act obediently, still it is often like the begrudging obedience of an obstinate child instead of the glad obedience of one who seeks only to honor his master. I am too much like Simon.
Romans 6:23 tells us that the penalty for sin – just one sin – is death, so the truth of the matter is that every person who has been forgiven of their sins through their belief in Jesus has been spared the death sentence. There is no more devastating a penalty than the death penalty and the Bible tells us that even the nice guy from church who never struggled with any obvious sins, but who did lie that one time, was deserving of the eternal death penalty until God forgave him through Jesus’ payment on the cross. If we don’t understand and believe at a deep, gut-wrenching, heart level that we were once on eternity’s death row until God forgave us our debts by no merit of our own because of the payment made by Jesus Christ, then we will never live as though Jesus is deserving of every honor our lives can afford him. If we simply acknowledge that Jesus is God and that he died for our sins in only a cerebral way, then we will always treat Jesus as Simon treated him and never like the weeping woman who truly understood the forgiveness she had been shown and to whom Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace.”
If we truly believed that he was worthy of our highest honors, then there would be nothing that he could ask of us that would be too much for us to give him.
As I think about this, I’m reminded of Morgan Freeman’s character in the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner. In the movie, Robin Hood is said to have once saved Morgan Freeman’s character’s life and for that reason Morgan Freeman’s character refuses to leave the side of Robin Hood. There was no battle so fierce or situation too risky that could persuade Morgan Freeman to leave the side of Robin Hood. Morgan Freeman’s character understood that because his life had been saved by Robin Hood, his life was no longer his own. He would live his life and even risk his death for Robin Hood. The same should be true of all of us who have believed in Jesus for our salvation. If we understand that our lives have been spared from such a grievous and torturous end by our gracious Savior who paid our debt with his own blood, then there should be nothing that he could ask of us that might give us pause. He gave all of himself so that we might have eternal life and the only right response is that we would spend our lives in a posture of total and unwavering commitment to him.
In what ways are you withholding your highest honors from Jesus? What areas of your life have you explicitly or implicitly refused to yield to his lordship? Are there areas of your life where you treat his forgiveness as an excuse to continue sinning, or to excuse a knowing lack of total surrender to his will for your life? Let us not be like Simon any longer. Let’s honor Jesus with our everything.
Let us not be like Simon any longer.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1
“Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel’s will find it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but to forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:35-36