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Parables of Jesus – Cancelled Debt

Updated on November 22, 2008
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

Before we begin, mentally list all the debt that you owe. All of it. Every dollar that you borrowed for a soda. Is your breath leaving you as you see the number go up and up? What if you went to each one of these people you are indebted to and explained that you could never pay it all off? Would they laugh in your face? Would you even have the courage to do it? What would you do if they said yes? You say, it could never happen? Let me tell you otherwise.

Luke 7:41-43

“Two men 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 canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled.” (NIV)

Sounds Incredible

This does sound heavenly in today’s economy. To have all our debt cancelled. That would be a miracle. But Jesus was talking about something much bigger than just a few dollars.

Like all scripture, pulling these few verses out and examining them can cause one to pull meanings out of it that are confusing. So let us look at what happened just a few sentences before.

36-40: Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in the town had learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and 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 was 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. (NIV)

Reading this, someone in the 21st century might be a little confused and just focused on the feet part. Let’s look at this a little different in a way that you can relate to.

What does that Mean to Me to Today?

Jesus is invited out to dinner by the very group of people who have been slandering him and trying to get him arrested. It will be at a local restaurant owned by one of the group. But Jesus agrees to go. Word is spreading around town like wildfire that he actually accepted the invitation. One particular woman who has been working the corner all night hears this and marvels what kind of man would do this. Even she knew the possible danger for him. Yet, she cannot get it out of her mind. She finds herself leaving the corner and making her way toward the packed restaurant. She manages to get inside as people pull away from her. As she comes closer she reaches a hand into her purse and feels the bottle of perfume. Not just any perfume. It was the most expensive on the market and she had saved 2 months worth of working money to pay for it. She had always dreamed of wearing it. She had not even dared put it on for fear of running out of the precious oil. As she comes closer to him, she notices that since this restaurant is of an Asian style all the guests are reclining on cushions and have their feet off. His feet look so tired. Her heart begins to cry and before she knows it she is kneeling with his feet in her lap. She pours the precious oil on his tired feet and tears that fall from her eyes from all the hurt in her soul mingle with the oil. She then lovingly and submissively take down her floor length hair that everyone has always praised her and uses it as a towel to dry his feet. The owner is shocked and is convinced that this man cannot be the prophet or chosen one. If he was he would have known who was touching him and sent her away. Ah, but Jesus does know and knows exactly what went through this man’s mind. But instead of embarrassing him at that moment, he turns to his trusted assistant and decides to explain it to him so that not only does Peter learn a valuable lesson all the guests learn it, too.

This “nobody” saw a need that was not expressed and gave up the oil that was precious to her and allowed her hair that was prized by all to be used as a simple towel. It would get anybody’s attention. It says a lot about Jesus that he would just sit there and allow her to minister to him.

It is at this point that he tells the parable of the forgiven debt. Before we go on, who do think is the one with the highest debt that he is referring to? If you need to, scroll back up and re-read those verses and read them carefully. To help get a better perspective, a denarii was worth about a day’s wages. So let us say that you make $100 a day. One debt was $5,000 and the other was $50,000. Which one would be most thankful for?

That lady of the night was the $50,000. She had so much on her heart and soul that it was weighing her down to the gutters.

Jesus then proceeds to explain the parable to all through Simon:

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 – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (7:44-48 NIV)

You have to understand the culture of the day to get the full impact here. The Pharisee is the host. The host has a big responsibility to ensure that ALL needs of the guests are met. It is scandalous not to. One of the customary host duties was to provide water for the guest’s feet. Why? In those days, their shoes where sandals and the roads were dusty. You can imagine how dirty their feet got. So before reclining to eat where everyone sees your feet, you would wash them. Much like us washing out hands before eating. The host ignored the basic rule of hosting while a prostitute used her tears and her hair to meet this basic need.

In this culture, greeting each other with a kiss on the cheek was customary as a sign of acceptance and peace. The host neglected this, too. He obviously did not accept Jesus. It would be like refusing to offer a handshake today. The woman of the night did more than kiss him, she kissed his feet. She accepted Him totally. Oil was also a symbol of honor that the host neglected though he could obviously afford it. The one who could not afford it, gave every ounce she owned.

Who was the poorer? Who humbled herself and received more than she ever imagined? Who thought too highly of himself and got little?

Who are you today?


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    • dhundley93 profile image

      dhundley93 6 years ago

      As a Sunday School teacher, I appreciate the way you place the story in context, and how you explain the culture of the day and its significance in what was done, and also what was omitted. I alao liked the insight you shared of what the woman was thinking.

      (I also was in accounting over 20 years, and I don't recall of very much debt being forgiven. The Lord allowed me to make a good living from it, but I don't miss it one bit.)

    • catydid52 profile image

      Catharine Parks 6 years ago from Niagara Falls, On

      Great hub! Well written, a lesson we need reminded of very much today.

    • sherrylou57 profile image

      sherrylou57 7 years ago from Riverside

      Great hub! Thank you for sharing this!

    • thomasczech profile image

      thomasczech 7 years ago from Canada

      nicely written,

      well done,

      Thanks for this hub

    • justamber profile image

      justamber 7 years ago

      Great hub! I love this parable...I would be the woman anyday!

    • SwiftlyClean profile image

      SwiftlyClean 7 years ago from Texas

      I'm so glad you wrote this because the depht of God's word is over looked.Understanding in the Spirit of God.God Bless!!

    • knowledgeispower profile image

      knowledgeispower 7 years ago

      Great hub that truly is enlightening for the soul.


    • Putz Ballard profile image

      Putz Ballard 8 years ago

      Great hub, I owed a debt I could not pay, He paid a debt He did not owe.

    • profile image

      AlexFernandes 8 years ago from India

      Thank you for the wonderful Hub...God Bless you!

    • Gicky Soriano profile image

      Gicky Soriano 8 years ago from California

      The contrast is staggering, His love is moving. The woman plays the missing part of the host being forgiven the most. Where am I today? Like Mary, seated at the feet of the Master. Great hub RGraf! Keep it coming.

    • skye2day profile image

      skye2day 8 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      Thank Your for Sharing. The holy spirit moves through you. We will know them their fruits. I have had so many money MIRACLES (DEBT) Erased I can not count them on my fingers and toes. What a beautiful reminder to me. When down or out Look to what God has done for you. Not to mention he suffered a brutal death for our salvation, and so we could live life and more abundantly. Thank You, With Love, Your friend

      CHECK my NEW hub:   NEWS FLASH  I will be back

    • Aragon5000 profile image

      Aragon5000 8 years ago

      Wow, I am really loving your stuff RGraft. You definitely got yourself a good fan.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thank you very much! I appreciate it.

    • Cloud Watcher profile image

      Cloud Watcher 8 years ago from Kentucky

      Very touching. Thanks for your gift of writing.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Minnow, thank you. It is very interesting to see where we are and very humbling.

    • minnow profile image

      minnow 8 years ago from Seattle

      I like your discussion of the contrast between the host who did not offer water and the woman who gave everything she had. It's always interesting to ask myself, where do I fall on that spectrum at this moment? Great hub and definitely food for thought.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      BDazzler, we always laugh at how some people react to our friends. One is a tatoo artist and former Outlaw biker. Another just looks like one. Many of them are still trying to get out from under drugs. We have one that just got out of jail. And my husband is a minister so people think our friends should only be ministers. I didn't come from that lifestyle so hearing their life stories is always so amazing. They are such wonderful people.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

    • BDazzler profile image

      BDazzler 8 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      I have discovered that though I grew up "in church" and I am at another church, most of my friends are not people who grew up "in church". There are the former drug dealers, former crack-heads, fomer strip-club regulars etc. ... these are people who came to Jesus. When you hear their stories, you know what they were saved "from". These people love Jesus much. That's why I love being with them.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thank you. I'm planning on writing on the rest of His parables.

    • profile image

      Susan M 8 years ago

      What a wonderful hub --- we need more like this, thank you!

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thank you. I agree how powerful this story is and it gets so neglected. I would rather be the woman any day - in fact I am that woman whenever I come to His feet.

      Thank you for visiting again. :)

    • AEvans profile image

      Julianna 8 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

      It was the woman who humbled herself and I love this story as it reminds me of my life sometimes, as I am always giving and forgiving and have this will to always say nice things. God had humbled me in my 20's when so much was happening in my life. I am so thankful to God that I am who I am. Another great Hub!! :)