Grounds for Gratitude
Grounds for Gratitude (Luke 7:36-50)
What actually motivates persons toward gratitude? According to Jesus, we feel gratitude when we truly sense we have been forgiven. When we feel no need for forgiveness, we demonstrate no gratitude. How much gratitude we feel is a good index to how much of God's forgiveness we have experienced.
Luke alone gives the striking contrast of ingratitude and gratitude demonstrated at the house of Simon the Pharisee. The story presupposes that Jesus had spoken about God's forgiveness, and was invited to Simon's house for a banquet. The interruption of the banquet by a notorious sinner sets the stage for Jesus' teaching about gratitude as it relates to forgiveness. Those who most know forgiveness, most express gratitude.
Ingratitude Roots in No Sense of Need
Simon the Pharisee models the absence of felt need for the grace of God. His attitudes toward Jesus present a timeless portrait of ingratitude.
Ingratitude reacts to Christ with an incorrect motivation. Curiosity without commitment never results in gratitude toward Christ. At best, Simon had invited Jesus out of curiosity. At worst, Simon desired to entrap Jesus. Nothing about Simon's reaction to Christ reveals any sense of personal need for Christ's message of forgiveness. An attitude of indifferent detachment toward Christ yields no sense of gratitude.
Ingratitude reacts to Christ with an inaccurate evaluation. A cold, calculating self-righteousness cannot evaluate the mission and message of Jesus. Simon calculated that Jesus could not be God's prophet because He let a sinner touch Him. Jesus was the prophet of God just because He did let sinners touch Him.
Ingratitude reacts to Christ with an inappropriate reception. A detached and aloof attitude toward Christ reveals no sense of gratitude. Simon did not even offer to Christ the most common courtesies of hospitality (vv. 44-46).
In spite of our rank ingratitude, Christ still tries to find an opening with us. Jesus Christ sought to touch Simon's life even though Simon's motivation, evaluation, and reception were all wrong.
Gratitude Roots in a Deep Sense of Need
The sinful woman models the presence of deeply felt need for the grace of God. Because she felt that need, she expressed gratitude toward Christ.
Authentic gratitude expresses itself spontaneously. A spirit of thankfulness does not have to be pushed or promoted. She spontaneously came into the banquet room to express her gratitude. The customs of that day enabled uninvited guests to do so.
Authentic gratitude expresses itself demonstratively. True thankfulness must express itself outwardly. Although she had not intended to do so, she began to weep at the feet of Jesus. She was not ashamed to demonstrate the depth of her thanksgiving.
Authentic gratitude expresses itself humbly. A true sense of lowliness marks authentic thanksgiving. For a woman to unbind her hair publicly in that culture indicated the deepest sense of personal humiliation and self-effacement.
Authentic gratitude expresses itself sacrificially. The alabaster container of perfume had been used by or earned from her life of sin. In pouring it out on Jesus' feet, she expressed gratitude by giving the best that she had.
When we deeply feel our need for Jesus' grace, we will openly express our gratitude for that grace.
Gratitude Marks Those Who Discover Needs Met in Christ
The little parable of the two debtors teaches that those most express grateful love who most know forgiveness. Verse 47 has always troubled sincere readers of Scripture. Jesus means, "God must have forgiven her sins, many as they are, since she displays such deep thankfulness; he to whom God forgives little shows little thankfulness."
Who will be most grateful this Thanksgiving? The person who most deeply feels the experience of Christ's forgiveness will be the most grateful. The person who shows no gratitude shows no evidence of experiencing that grace. Great grace gives great gratitude.