I always remind my students to make good choices and to let me see their true character. I tell them that their good decisions will make me happy and ultimately reward them. Each student reacts differently, but I find myself spending more time helping two types of children. The first kind of student knows that they are smart, cute, and well liked, but at some point in the school year it starts to go to their head. These students will point out how well they are doing and want recognition immediately. Then they are usually upset if I divert my attention to another student who usually exhibits bad behavior but is showing improvement. The other kind of student is constantly making bad decisions and is often mentally or emotionally exhausted. Usually they see their error and want to improve.
These characteristics remind me of the Pharisee and the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50.
Simon, the Pharisee, was an elite Jew who prided himself on keeping the law and set himself apart from the world. Much like the generations of Jews before him, Simon was waiting for God to send the promised Messiah. After all, he was ready for his earthly reward!
In Simon’s eyes, the sinful woman was unworthy of even a passing glance. She experienced nothing but disapproval from men and kept neither God’s nor man’s rules. She was downtrodden, exhausted, and needed a savior. Lucky for her (and the rest of us), Jesus showed an outpouring of love and compassion towards those that were seen as the most undeserving of compassion and mercy.
We know from Luke 7 that Simon invited Jesus to dinner, but he did not even think to wash Jesus’ feet or anoint Him with oil. But when the sinful woman heard of Jesus’ presence at the Pharisee’s house she came with an alabaster jar. Kneeling before him she washed His feet with her tears and anointed them with oil. Scripture doesn’t tell us how this woman knew about Jesus. But it is clear she knew of His love and mercy and wanted to show gratitude by acting humbly and serving Him. Simon should have been horrified that he had not thought to do such an act himself but nothing could be further than what was in Simon’s heart. Simon said to himself, in verse 39, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of a woman she is – that she is a sinner.” Simon’s heart was not only judging the woman but Jesus…the very messiah he had been waiting for!
In Matthew 5, Jesus taught what we know as “The Beatitudes.” In verse 8, Jesus speaks these words, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Simon made sure others recognized him for all that he was, had, and did. He made sure he appeared to be put together from the outside, but he overlooked the condition of his heart. Simon didn’t see his need for forgiveness, or his need for a savior. The sinful woman had just the opposite condition. The outside of her life was a mess before she met Jesus, but she knew her need for salvation. Her heart was not full of pride but overflowed with love.
A pure heart and the ability to see God is only possible with God’s help and a willingness to be honest about the sin that’s within our thoughts, words, and actions. What choices will you make that will expose your heart to others? Will it reflect the jaded heart of a Pharisee or the humility of the sinful woman? I hope we can all say that we would rather have the heart of the sinful woman and see God act in our lives, than be bound by pride and truly miss seeing God in heaven.