“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.” (Luke 7:36-50)
I’ve always prided myself in not being a “rules” guy, ready to strike a blow against legalism whenever it rears its ugly head. But lately I’ve come to the realization that I’ve got a lot more Pharisee in me than I care to admit. It most often shows itself in the form of judgment and criticism. Oh, it doesn’t always end up coming out of my mouth (although it comes out a lot more often than I wish it did), but it is always a regular part of my inner dialogue.
It seems that I have an enormous need to be right. And if you, like me, have an ever-increasing need to be right, then you also need someone to be wrong. That’s where the judgment and criticism comes in, because you are always having to make a case for yourself, always comparing yourself. Which also means that you are also making a case against those on the opposing side of the fence, or, strangely enough, even against those on your side of the fence at times. You are always picking out the flaws in others to make yourself feel better about your own. And if you are totally honest, this whole ugly process comes from one horrible source—insecurity. The Pharisees must’ve been the most insecure group of people on the entire planet. And I ought to know, because, in spite of my best wishes not to be, I am, it seems, a card-carrying member. My constant inner dialogue proves it.
The answer, it would seem, to this dilemma is transformation. I need to have the way I see things completely transformed. I need to begin to see myself and my world—and even my God—through the eyes of the sinful woman rather than the eyes of the Pharisee. I need to know the depths of my own sinfulness, as well as the unfailing nature of His love. I need to find my security, not in my own efforts, but in His great affection. Then, and only then, can I choose security over insecurity, love over judgment, humility over criticism, compassion over competition, and community over comparison. Then I will begin to see all things through the lenses of his grace and mercy, which will produce a deep gratitude in me. Then I will be able to love much, because I will finally realize that I have been forgiven much.