A Great Debt – Ronnie Scherffius

A Great Debt – Ronnie Scherffius

There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged” (Luke 7:41-43).

The book of Luke has many unique characteristics. For example, Luke writes on the subject of prayer more than any other gospel writer. He alone records that Jesus prayed at His baptism (3:21); before His first confrontation with Jewish leaders (5:16); before choosing the twelve (6:12); before the first time revealing His suffering (9:18); at the transfiguration (9:29); before instructing the apostles “how to pray” (10:1); while on the cross (23:34, 46); for Peter’s faith not to fail (22:32).

Another characteristic that sets Luke’s gospel account apart from his inspired companions is the number of parables he records. Of the 26 parables recorded by Luke 17 are peculiar to him. Some the most recognizable parables of Jesus are the Good Samaritan (10:30-35), the Lost Sheep (15:3-6) and Lost Coin (15:8-9), and the Prodigal Son (18:11- 32). All of these are found only in the book of Luke. Another parable unique to Luke is the Two Debtors. (7:41-42) In this parable we learn the reality of one’s love for God is the estimate of his indebtedness to God.

Consider first that a great debt was owed: “There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty” (41). In real terms, one man’s debt was the equivalent of 500 days wages and the other 50 days wages. One might suppose the debtor who owed the 500 owed a greater debt, but the fact is both men owed a great debt because neither could afford to pay (42). If a man has no means of paying off a debt the amount matters little—it is a great debt because it is unplayable! A great debt was owed by both men.

Observe next a great forgiveness is given: “And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both” (42). The Greek word translated forgave is found only in this parable in Luke and only in Luke of the four gospel writers. The literal meaning of the word is “to do something pleasant or agreeable (to someone), or to do a favor.” In fact, the root from which this word comes would be translated grace. If we were relating such a story to someone we might say that by forgiving the debt, “the creditor was very gracious.”

Finally, in our parable we see a great love is shown. After speaking the parable Jesus asked Simon (40): “Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most” (42). Simon’s answer very revealing: “I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most” (43). We know Simon’s answer is correct because of Jesus response, “thou has rightly judged.” What is most striking is revealed in Simon’s words “I suppose.” The man Simon supposed or assumed to have the greater love is the one he himself assumed to have had the greater debt. But each man’s debt was equally great because neither could pay! The lesson of the parable is clear: the love and gratitude one shows to God is based on one’s estimate of their debt to God.

Those who reject God, the sacrifice of His only begotten Son, and the authority of His Word fail to see not only the greatness of His grace but also their indebtedness. The one who loves God “most” is that one who truly realizes the immeasurable love and bound- less grace of God has made available for them the forgiveness of all sins by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. A sacrifice that stands as the payment for a debt none can pay. How much do you love God? What is the estimate of your debt?