The Subtle Behaviors of a Disciple Part 1 Gratitude: Two Debtors
If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.
The Subtle Behaviors of a Disciple Part 1
Gratitude: Two Debtors
We start a new series of teachings today drawn from the parables of Jesus that we read in the gospel according to Luke. A parable is a story that teaches the truth that informs the story. For instance, in the Wizard of Oz, the truth that informs L. Frank Baum’s classic tale is that everything you really need and want you will find right at home. No need to leave the farm for the big city. Within each parable, there is an informing truth that now we must wrestle out of the story, then discovering the informing truth apply it to our lives.
This series is entitled the Subtle Behaviors of a Disciple. During our Advent celebration, an invitation was given to come into the light. We put up road signs to help those who do not know God to find their way. The signs read Acknowledge, Believe, Commit. Acknowledge means the realization that you need a savior, a Messiah, a Master; Believe means that you have discovered that the savior, Messiah, Master whom you need is Jesus; Commit means learning how to live your life as a follower of Jesus Christ. In this series we are going to concentrate on that Commitment part, what are the behaviors of a follower of Jesus?
It is my hope that as we explore the subtle truths of these parables that we can incorporate them into our lives and gradually develop an authentic Christian lifestyle. For learning to follow Jesus is to become like Jesus in this world. Christ-likeness is the fruit of your commitment.
I attended a celebration feast. Friends and family gathered to enjoy the blessings of God, each other’s company, the relationship shared and to make some new memories. A substantial table was set, music playing, gifts exchanged, laughter, the elders telling stories of days gone by. But one in the party was not happy, I don’t know the reason why maybe some long-standing grievance that often happens in families that can’t keep the fun in dysfunction. Whatever the reason, an ungrateful attitude threw a wet blanket over the festivities. The party wasn’t as grand as it should have been because one of the group voiced their displeasure. Ingratitude is a great spoiler in life.
One of the subtle behaviors of a disciple of Christ is gratitude. Gratitude is that feeling of appreciation when you are the recipient of kindness, a gift, a favor, or some help out of a difficult situation. Gratitude is displayed in some sort of thankful behavior. Gratitude has a number of benefits: Gratitude helps us to be happy, gratitude is a people attractor, there are physical benefits, gratitude makes us healthier and actually helps you sleep better, gratitude helps you be more optimistic, more content, less self-centered and increases your sense of self-worth. Research seems to indicate that just about every aspect of our lives improves when we have and express feelings of gratitude.
Gratitude in the life of a disciple comes from an awareness of how much he or she has been forgiven. The parable of the Two Debtors is about forgiveness and the gratitude one feels and then expresses for being forgiven.
Luke 7:36-50 (MSG)
36 One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee's house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him."
40 Jesus said to him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."
"Oh? Tell me."
41 "Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?"
43 Simon answered, "I suppose the one who was forgiven the most."
"That's right," said Jesus. Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, "Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived, she hasn't quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn't it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal."
48 Then he spoke to her: "I forgive your sins."
49 That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: "Who does he think he is, forgiving sins!"
50 He ignored them and said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace."
“’She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.’”
She, Luke does not give her a name, he only reveals her occupation. She made a living entertaining man. She was “that kind of women.” The narrative does not reveal when the encounter that She had previously with Jesus. I have heard it suggested that it was the women caught in the act of adultery that the men of the town in their self-righteous indignation were going to stone to death and brought before Jesus for his ruling. But this is conjecture. It does set a precedent for us to make a reasoned guess that She also received forgiveness and grace from Jesus with the words “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11). “She was forgiven many, many sins…”
The dinner’s host was a Pharisee named Simon. Simon is a member of the religious clergy who maintained strict religious discipline. Jesus warned his disciples about the kind of self-righteousness that many Pharisees seemed to be prone to. We can assume that Simon thought of himself as a good man, both in the sight of men and God. He did his duty, kept the Law, he had no need for forgiveness. He was OK in his own mind. He was oblivious to his sin of discourtesy. When a guest is invited to dinner three things were done upon the guest’s arrival. The host would give the guest the kiss of peace, it was a sign of respect and welcome. Clean water would be poured over the guest’s feet for the roads were dusty and the culture of the day people laid on their sides to eat dinner. Finally, a drop or two of sweet smelling oil was used to anoint the guest’s head. Simon extended none of these courtesies, it was rather rude, an insult to the guest. Maybe that was his intention.
Then “that kind of woman” arrives and at her own great personal embarrassment, enduring the scorn of respectable people, breaking with the protocol of social norms shamed herself by letting her hair down, expresses her gratitude in doing the very things the host was required by courtesy did not do. She kissed Jesus' feet, she washed his feet, dried those feet with her hair, and anointed his feet with sweet perfume, not a drop or two but lavishly. That she concentrated on his feet, the lowliest part of the body, it is an expression of humility as well as gratitude.
Simon is indignant. Instead of realizing is lack of courtesy, or wondering what would motivate this kind of woman to be in his home, he validates his suspicions that Jesus is not a true prophet of God.
Then Jesus tells his parable. This story is not very hard to figure out. Who would you guess is more grateful? The point is that the one who got the biggest break would be the most thankful. “If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” This woman’s actions are a sign of gratitude, a grateful and thankful heart for what Jesus has done for her.
What did Jesus do for her? He forgave her of her sins. He again confirms it in front of all the respectable religious people gathered in Simon’s house.
Gratitude for what Jesus has done for you results in behaviors, words, and deeds, that say thank you, I appreciate what you have done for me. I know I did not deserve your consideration and I am completely blown away by it.
Written in 1972 the words to the song My Tribute begin:
How can I say thanks for all the things you’ve done for me?
Things so undeserved, yet You gave to prove your love for me.
The voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude.
All that I am and ever hope to be, I owe it all to thee.
With his blood, he has saved me, with his power he has raised me
To God be the glory for the things He has done.
Then in the second verse, here’s what I want you to grasp hold of. Here is the action of gratitude: “Let me live my life so that it is pleasing
Lord to thee.”
Gratitude results in living in such a way that it becomes your desire that every thought, word, and deed, finds approval in Christ. I suggest to you that the more you understand the magnitude of what Jesus has done for you, the greater you desire will be to live a life pleasing to Him.
What has Jesus done for you?
This is a question that calls for you to exercise that 7th habit of a disciple, that habit of contemplation.
It’s been a while since I have mentioned the 7 habits of a disciple, the 7 practices that request an encounter with God when you seek Him through them. The practices are reading and studying the scripture, prayer, fellowship, service, worship, obedience and contemplation. These are the continual daily practice of those who are committed to following Jesus.
Contemplation involves reflection under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. That may sound mystical but it’s not. Contemplation is taking a deep heart look at one’s self-asking God to help you find, in this case, what requires gratitude for what God has done for you.
Psalms 139:23-24 (MSG)
Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I'm about; See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life.
For me, my search for things to express gratitude over was the forgiveness of my sins. Many, many sins, I have been forgiven of. Sin is anything, a thought, word, deed, that disrupts right relationships. A right relationship is one that is mutually edifying, bringing out the best in one another, helping one another become the person God created them to be. A right relationship is characterized by trust, mutual respect, loyalty, and love. When such a relationship is deterred, damaged or destroyed the cause of that betrayal is sin. You can sin against others, others can sin against you, a relationship that once was good, is no longer. You can sin against yourself, doing what an outside observer sees as simply self-destructive behavior; lying to yourself, deluding yourself, grifting, scamming, objectifying, taking advantage of others, destroys the person God desires that you become. It’s sin. What’s worse is that sin is a considered a crime against God, the defacing of the beautiful things God intends. Sin must be destroyed and the sinner either redeemed or destroyed. I am grateful that I have not suffered the wrath of God upon my sins. Jesus did and then said to me “I forgive you of your sins.” I want to live my life so that it is pleasing to him as my expression of gratitude. Gratitude in the life of a disciple comes from an awareness of how much he or she has been forgiven.
How can I say thanks for all the things you’ve done for me? By imitating Jesus; Doing the things he has done, being a lover, one who encourages, one who advocates, one who cares.
How about you, what has Jesus done for you?
Sometimes the reason our lives lack spiritual passion is that we have forgotten what has been done for us. So I encourage you, take time to discover in detail the things that God has done for you. You may want to make a list. Gratitude will help you draw closer to God, help you to grow deep. Your expression of Gratitude will help you grow fruit. Gratitude energizes your becoming like Jesus.
The subtle behavior of a disciple is cultivating gratitude for what God has done for you.