3 June 2013

Luke 7:40-43

“When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him (the moneylender) more?” (v. 42)


This little parable comes right in the middle of the account of the anointing of Christ while he was at table with the Pharisees by a women with a pot of myrrh (Luke 7:36-50). In Luke's Gospel the woman is described as having an immoral life (in other Gospel accountsthe women is identified as Mary Magdalene), so the context is one of making value judgements without self-examination first. The woman was not appreciated and her actions were seen as unnecessary extravagance by the gathered company. Jesus, overhearing the trivial comments, challenges the Pharisee, Simon, with this story of two labourers in debt to a moneylender. Posing the question "who will love him more?", Christ moves the whole scenario out of the present moment on to a much larger canvass about the nature of love.

The woman anointed Christ as a gesture, asking for forgiveness. Her overwhelming love for Christ, her knowledge of him from and all that she had heard about him, had moved her so deeply that she had to break into a room full of men and fill it with the scent of her costly perfume. Her action was a huge demonstration of love which wiped away all her former activities, and gave her a chance to rebuild her life with the love that Christ offered back to her.

The story in Luke ends with Christ pointing out to Simon a list of things that he had failed to do when Jesus came to his house and then challenging Simon about his ability to love (verses 44-47).

It may be surprising to read that Christ agrees with Simon that the one who will love the moneylender the most is the one who is let off the larger amount. But Jesus concludes his conversation by saying that the one who forgives little shows little love, thus illuminating for Simon how his small talk demonstrates his own narrowness. For Simon had offered Christ none of the cultural norms of hospitality when Christ entered his house, but Mary had poured out her heart to him.

To Ponder

  • Have you ever stood back and observed yourself in social situations, noticing how easy it is to get sucked into small mindedness, to go with the flow of the conversation and not keep your own integrity? Can you think of something which could remind you of the bigger picture, the larger map of human relationships that demands love first? What might that be?
  • What do you know about debt collectors or moneylenders in your local area? What happens to people who have their possessions taken or who are made homeless? What might your church do to support these people?

Bible notes author

Margaret Sawyer

Margaret Sawyer has worked for the Methodist Connexional Team for ten years, first as connexional secretary for Women's Network and then as the Church's equality and diversity officer. She now works to support preaching and worship in her local circuit and district.