The danger of spiritual pride – a tale of two debtors

Luke 7:36-50                 The Parable of Two Debtors (a must read)


Luke 18:9-14                 The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector


Matthew 22:36-40          “‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’  And He said to him, ‘“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’”


Ephesians 2:8-9             “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”


Galatians 2:16               “Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”


Titus 3:5                       “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”


James 2:10                    “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”


James 2:13                    “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”


My last assignment in the Navy landed me in San Antonio, TX, where I served out my last three and half years of service commanding a recruiting district.  While there a very good friend of mine sent me to a wise and elderly business man who was a Yale grad, who had a unique ministry of mentoring young men.  I was entering my last year of military service, and I began contemplating what I should do once I retired, and my good friend thought this gentleman could help me.
I met with this man on several occasions, and I still don’t know if I ever understood him or his ways – he was quite unique, but I must say exceptionally wise.  He spent the first two meetings asking me shallow questions to get to know my story, but quickly he got personal in his queries of me.  I have since come to truly appreciate his manner, but at the time it unnerved me.  I was mostly honest with him … mostly.  I hid from him the most private matters that I didn’t want anyone to know – those things we hide in the innermost closet of our lives.  After our third meeting he had some words for me, and at the time I took them as a compliment; but as I have grown and matured in my later years, I don’t necessarily feel the same today.
He shared with me Jesus’ parable of the two debtors, and he told me that I seemed to be a 50 denarii man, but that I would be spending my life leading others who are primarily 500 denarii men and women.  Eaten up with spiritual pride, I smiled on the inside, but tried not to show it to appear humble.  However, what I failed to see at the time was that this was not the point of Jesus’ parable at all!  Jesus was not nearly as focused and concerned about whether someone was a 50 denarii or 500 denarii sinner, because we all are found to be sinners in need of God’s merciful saving grace, given to us through the very author of this parable.  The 50 denarii guy and the 500 denarii guy need the same forgiveness – there is no sliding scale when it comes to stacking sinners.  Jesus’ main theme of the parable was the same truth expressed in His answer to the religious teacher and lawyer in Matthew 22, giving us the greatest commandment of all – to love God with all our being!  Back to the parable.  Jesus sums up His main point to Simon the Pharisee in verse 47 of Luke 7: “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
I had spent my whole life so full of spiritual pride – thinking that I was actually quite a good guy.  Surely I was a sinner, but on the chart of minimal sinners to maximum sinners, kidding myself into thinking that such an entity actually existed, I graded myself as a minimal sinner.  I felt as if God should be glad I was on His team!  I needed forgiveness of course, but I certainly didn’t think that I required as much forgiveness as most.  I was completely blind to the notion that I was in essence living out a “salvation by works” mentality.  The reality, however, was since I didn’t think I needed much forgiveness and was such a moral guy, I didn’t love much.  To the degree that one sees their desperate need for God is the degree to which they will love Him and bask in His glorious grace!  Until one is willing and courageous enough to gaze into a mirror and genuinely come face to face with the depths of their depravity and filth, they will never learn to love, nor will they live in the peace and joy of God’s amazing grace.
The wise man had one last word for me that day.  He told me that since I appear to be a 50 denarii sinner, I may find it difficult identifying and relating with others as a leader in the civilian sector, since there the strict and authoritative style of the military structure does not exist to the same degree.  In other words, in the civilian world people will follow you more for who you are and not as much based upon a position within a strict and well-defined chain of command.  I found his wise words to be the case – but not because I was a 50 denarii sinner, but because I thought of myself as a 50 denarii sinner.  What a profound and sobering truth this sequence of events proved to be!  If I see myself as good and moral and better than the guy next door, then I won’t see my need for Christ and His forgiveness as much.  If I don’t see myself as forgiven much, then I will not love much.  If I do not love much, then I will find it difficult to live with others in an understanding way, to forgive them, to have an impact upon them, to be Christ to them.  My ability to lead, to influence, to teach, to change my world is severely impacted … all because I have too much spiritual pride to see myself for who I really am.  The truth is … I am a 500 denarii sinner, and now I see myself that way, despite what it may look like on the outside; and because of that I am learning the importance of and the joy that accompanies loving much.  And that has made all the difference!