Note: I preached last Sunday from Luke 7:36-50 on the sinful woman who anointed Jesus. In the midst of this anointing Jesus tells Simon the Pharisee a brief parable about a creditor who unilaterally forgave two debtors (vv. 41-42). Here are some expanded notes from the exposition:
Luke 7:41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
In this parable, Jesus says there was a creditor who had two debtors (v. 41). The KJV says, “the one owed five hundred pence, the other fifty.” The Greek word rendered “pence” is denarius, which was the amount of money typically paid for one day’s labor. So one man owed 500 days’ labor and the other 50. We might then say that one owed for roughly two years’ wages and the other for only about two months. According to the last census the median household income in Albemarle County was nearly $66,000. So, let’s say the one owed some $130,000 and the other $11,000.
Jesus continues, “And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both” (v. 42). Now, notice that though one owed much more than the other, neither had the ability or resources to repay the debt. In this sense both were in the same predicament and deserving of the same just punishment. But the creditor resolved to forgive both debts. I love the brevity, the starkness of that description.
One need not be a genius to figure out the correspondents in this parable. Who is the creditor? It is the holy God of Scripture. Who are the debtors? Sinners who have to one degree or another trespassed against this holy God and who are subject to his just judgment. And what does he do? He acts unilaterally, sovereignly, finally, incontrovertibly, inexplicably, and forgives both. Why? Because he can. Note there is no mention of their pleading with him, seeking him, imploring him. He just does it. He acts. He forgives. He extends mercy. This is how our God treats sinners.
This parable then might be best called not the parable of the two debtors, but the parable of the inexplicably merciful creditor.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle