Reading Time: 5 Minutes
The parable of Two Debtors reveals the character of people who are confronted with its message.
The parable is a short but powerful story that asks listeners to be the judge of what sort of behavior is best.
Jesus told the parable to a group of religious people at a dinner party in his honor.
He said, “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more? (Luke 7.41-42)
Millions of people have responded to Jesus’ question in the parable over the years. The first man to hear the parable said this, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.”
Jesus said to him and to everyone else who has responded in a like manner, “You have judged rightly” (Luke 7.43).
The main point of the parable is that God’s grace and forgiveness must always be accompanied by a response of love to God.
The parable also pictures the character of God. He is a pictured as a creditor who cares little for his money, but cares greatly about the heart-attitude of his debtors.
A Friend of Sinners
Jesus came to earth to reveal the true nature and character of God. One of the major themes of his teaching was that God is compassionate.
Jesus didn’t just talk about compassion, he showed it by reaching out to people who were believed to be outside of God’s love and interest.
The religious establishment frequently criticized the way that Jesus included so-called “sinners” in the love and compassion of the kingdom he came to bring.
Jesus invited Levi, a hated tax-collector, to become one of his followers. Like Simon the Pharisee, Levi hosted a party in Jesus’ honor at his home.
The guest list at Levi’s dinner included other tax-collectors and people who were believed to be enemies of God, in contrast to the religious crowd who graced Simon’s table.
When the religious leaders saw Jesus eating with Levi and his friends, they complained to Jesus’ close followers and said, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (Luke 5.30).
Jesus’ answer beautifully pictured both God’s heart and his mission. He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5.31-32).
Jesus takes people who are outside of the presence of God and brings them inside. That very act causes them to change their minds about God and life.
The grace of God brings about a response that causes them to live as friends of God. This is what is meant by the word, “repentance.”
The result is that sin-sick people are made whole.
The Wisdom of God’s Love
Jesus took note of the criticism that both John the Baptist and he received from the religious establishment and said,
“To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not weep'” (Luke 7.32-32).
Jesus saw through the gamesmanship of the religious elite. He knew their issues were more about retaining their power than representing God.
When you put what they said about John beside what they said about Jesus, it is easy to see that they were playing games – very serious games – about the character of these two men.
Jesus said, “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'” (Luke 7.33-34).
Tax collectors and sinner both responded to the ministry of John the Baptist and Jesus (Luke 7.22 and 29), while the religious authorities continually criticized the methods of these two men.
Jesus beautifully described both the means and the end effect of John’s and his work. He said, “Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children” (Luke 7.35).
In the wisdom of God Jesus included people who were normally excluded. He picked up those who were put down. He conquered his enemies by making them his friends. In the wisdom of God, he transformed human hearts through compassion, grace and love.
The wisdom of compassion and love was present on the lips of Jesus, while he died on the cross. In that place of torture and death he said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23.34).
After the resurrection, Jesus gave the church the same message of God’s saving wisdom. Luke made it clear in his writing, “That repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24.47).
Adapting the Parables to Life
One of my favorite authors, Rufus Moseley, wrote about three acts of God’s grace for the Macon Telegraph.
(1) His grace, love and compassion reaches out to people who are outside of a relationship with him.
(2) God’s grace, love and compassion reaches people. They respond to it, experience forgiveness and God’s wholeness of life.
(3) God’s grace, love and compassion transforms people who have received it and they become channels though which God will express his love to other people.
Both this parable and the Unforgiving Servant involve our being a conduit of God’s love, compassion and grace. God’s love produces love in us. God’s forgiveness creates an ability to forgive in us.
If we care about what God has done for us, a gratitude that responds and acts will be present. In the wisdom of God, he has loved us into being people who are like Jesus. To fall short of that is to miss the purpose of our salvation.
About This Blog
Klyne Snodgrass has devoted 12 years of study to produce the book, Stories With Intent. His book is recognized as the best book on the parables in print. I am indebted to Dr. Snodrass’ work that helps shape my articles.
If you have a prayer request, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and so will the prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church.