Giving it Away

Scriptures: Luke 7:36-8:3

Let us pray:

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer, Amen.

John Philip Newell wrote in 2014,

“It is time for Christianity to enter its macrophase. It is time for us to grow into the maturity of our Chrithood and make our offerings freely to the world. Not on the basis of whether people become Christian and choose to enter our household, but on the basis of the gifts that we have to offer for the well-being of the world. Think of the way in which Hinduism in its maturity has blessed humanity with a single word, Namaste. This ancient Sanskrit greeting has become common parlance throughout the world. It means, “The divine in me honors the divine in you,” “The Sacred in me bows to the Sacred in you.” Hinduism has freely given this away to the world. There are no strings attached, no accompanying conditions. We do not have to become Hindu to use the phrase.

What is it that a grown-up Christianity has to freely offer the world? There is so much treasure in our household that we could generously distribute. We hold within our Scriptures an awareness of earth’s sacredness that could more deeply serve today’s environmental movements. We have inherited from Jesus a vision of nonviolence that could profoundly redirect our nations from conflict to peace. We have been taught practices of compassion for those who are poor and hungry and sick that could play a foundational role in the well-being of any society. There is no shortage of treasure in our household. What do we need to give away freely to the world and what do we need to receive from humanity’s other great religious traditions?”[1]

Today’s story in Luke is one of those treasures. At his dinner for Jesus, Simon the Pharisee is cautious, while the “woman from the city” is expressive, giving Jesus the hospitality that Simon failed to give:

“While Simon gives Jesus no water for cleansing, she gives Jesus the water of her tears. While Simon gives Jesus no kiss of greeting, the woman continually kisses his feet. While he gives Jesus no oil for anointing, she extensively anoints his feet with ointment (vv. 44-46).  For Simon [the Pharisee,] the righteousness of God means that God cannot endure sinners, and a follower of God gains salvation by upholding the purity code, with its separation of the elect from the sinners of the world (Lev. 5:2-3; 6:18, 27; 7:20; 22:4-9). Simon judges the woman to be a sinner and himself to be different from and above her in status. He thus distances himself from her. Simon also distances himself from Jesus, whom he quickly disregards as a prophet (cf. Lev. 15:19-32). ‘Jesus must not have been able,’ [he thinks,] ‘to see the woman’s heart, as any prophet should’ (v. 39; cf. John 4:19).

Countering Simon’s contemptuous dismissal, Jesus demonstrates his divinely given power and authority. Jesus knows not only the woman’s heart, but Simon’s thoughts [as well] (v.39), proving by Simon’s own criterion that Jesus is a prophet. [Jesus goes beyond even that, however. He claims the very authority of God] to forgive sins (vv. 48-50), revealing God’s generous intention to heal life, restore relationships, and forgive the sinful (cf. 5:17-26).”[2]

Through his parable, Jesus further counters Simon’s misunderstanding. First, The righteousness of God is the generous mercy of God (cf. 6:36), exemplified by the creditor who forgives the debts “by way of gift,” Second, by Jesus’ attempt to persuade the Pharisee Simon himself toward a saving change in his perspective, and Third, by Jesus’ hospitable reception of the woman’s gifts of love and gratitude for her own forgiven debt.[3]

“Jesus contrasts the righteousness of God with the unrighteousness of human contempt for self, others, or God, and the resulting lack of graciousness and gratitude in relationships—traits exhibited by Simon, who is unaware of his own need for divine mercy.

Luke [highlights] the interconnection between grace and gratitude…, since, for him, both God and humans are actively involved in reconciliation. The centerpiece of the entire text is Jesus’ proclamation that the creditor forgives the debt gratis, not because of anything done by the debtors. God’s love and free forgiveness are central and prior for Luke, and realized through Jesus’ cross, resurrection, and exaltation (cf. Acts 5:31; 13:38; 26:18).”[4]

One more thing that ought to be mentioned before we carry this into personal practice: Luke brings us these stories with some astonishing additions: when possible, he has included the names of women disciples of Jesus. Here, at the tail end of this passage on God’s love and free forgiveness, we have Mary, called Magdalene, Joanna-the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna as named women (among others not named) included in the band of traveling disciples – and that they provided for him out of their own resources.

Now for personal practice. In your life, who is like a Simon the Pharisee? Think about this and then challenge yourself to do as Jesus did: Extend mercy. Offer a grace-filled perspective. Let your own heart be open to receive. Who knows, maybe, just maybe, the one gift we can offer the world is unconditional love. Amen? May it be so.

[1] Newell, John Phillip.  The Rebirthing of God-Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings.  2014, SkyLight Paths Publishing; Woodstock, VT.

[2] Love, Gregory Anderson. Feasting on the Word: Preaching the Revised Common Lectionary – Feasting on the Word – Year C, Volume 3: Pentecost and Season After Pentecost 1 (Propers 3-16).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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