Good people don’t need grace

““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 7:41–50 ESV)““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 7:41–50 ESV)

I once had a friend tell me that the reason that a pastor of ours was so passionate about his pursuit of Christ was because he had lived such a dark life before he became a Christian.  He quoted Luke 7:47 to justify his thinking (“those who have been forgiven much, love much”).  I still recall that conversation because it is true.  We often times think that God’s grace covers the gap between what we have done right & His perfect standard.  The problem with this thinking is that we fail to understand that we have never done anything right before God – all of our affections, actions and motivations are stained by sin.  The bible describes us using phrases like:  dead (last time I checked, dead people don’t do stuff), enemies of God, objects of wrath, destined for destruction and that no one is good in His sight.

Isn’t that the point of this parable?  Isn’t Jesus trying to get us to see the absurdity of our morality based thinking.  This is the Creator of the Universe – do we really think that we have anything that we can bring before Him that makes Him say, “that guy is really killing it, I’m really glad he’s on my team?”  It is true that many people who were saved out of checkered pasts fraught with promiscuity, drugs, drunkenness & immorality have a passion that other Christians lack.  The reason for this is because they are more likely to realize their desperate need for the grace of God because they have such a good understanding of their own depravity.  But, the truth is that EVERYONE is in dire need of grace.

Think about the parable of the prodigal son that Jesus tells in Luke 15.  We love the idea of God’s amazing grace towards the “worst of sinners” like the younger brother.  Unfortunately, we are some times more like the older brother in the story – indignant that the Father would be so gracious to that undeserving rebel and not doting over us for our faithful obedience.  Do you see it?  The older brother (like many of us) had grown dependent on his own obedience as the reason that God should approve of him.  He was self righteous because he had followed the rules; he had lived obediently.  The problem is that we can never earn the approval of God (God’s approval of you was earned by Jesus on the cross, period).  This thinking causes us to believe that God now “owes us” us because we have so faithfully obeyed.  The God of this universe owes us nothing – except His just wrath.

We all slip into this thinking without intentionality in our lives.  We must regularly beg God to quicken our hearts and enlighten our eyes to see His perfect, holy & sovereign nature AND just how rebellious our hearts are towards Him.  The better we understand these things at a deep heart level, the more profoundly grateful (like the woman in the parable above) we are for the unearned approval of the Creator.  Good people don’t need grace, but you aren’t good (Romans 3:12) – only One was good.

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