In the life of our family, we’ve had many gardens ranging in size from large plots plowed with mid-sized tractors to small beds built with landscape timber. Regardless the scale or location, all of them required attention. No good harvest ever comes from neglect.
Gardens have to be guarded from pests and predators in order to provide produce. Our lives are much the same. To enjoy the fruit of the good seed God planted in our hearts, we need to be vigilant against the foxes and weeds that would destroy our gardens. Three common daily attackers are offenses, anger, and worry. If we let any of these enemies have so much as a sleepover in our souls, we grant ground to the devil and endanger our harvest of joy and peace.
40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.
42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” ESV
Business transactions, money, and debt were common themes in Jesus’s parables. This parable in Luke is unique in that it was presented to one man at a banquet as an object lesson. While Jesus was speaking to his host Simon, a woman with a reputation for loose morals was drying her tears off Jesus’s feet with her hair. While these two men talked over dinner, she bathed the Master’s feet with kisses and then anointed them with perfume.
The Teacher’s parable in this instance wasn’t given to conceal the deeper truths of the kingdom from itchy-eared crowd followers. He shared it to drive home the point that recognition of our debts and thankfulness for forgiveness are the necessary fertilizers for love to grow in the garden of life. The woman loved, Simon did not.
8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. ESV
Love chokes sin. When the only debt we carry is the willing obligation to do good for our neighbors and harbor no ill will toward them; adultery, murder, theft, and covetousness cannot grow in our garden. Our relationships become healthy and whole. This is impossible without receiving God’s forgiveness.
We all carry a debt of sin, of offenses against God and man. As Jesus made clear to Simon, pretending righteousness before God leaves us cold hearted and lost. Receiving the Savior’s forgiveness lets love grow and leads to salvation.
44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.
45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.
46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.
47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”
50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” ESV
Pride is the sin that leads us to live beyond our moral means. Like consumers living on credit, we live in the comfort of our carefully crafted affluence bought on borrowed money. The debt collector always comes. The prideful respond in anger and bitterness, the humble in remorse and pleas for mercy. We see this in the parables of the Unforgiving Servant and the Pharisee and Publican.
Jesus paid for our sins. Not accepting His forgiveness is more foolish than rejecting an offer of solvency when drowning in debt. Worse yet is taking on the debt of others.
1 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger,
2 if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth,
3 then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor.
4 Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber;
5 save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler. ESV
Being bitter toward someone for wrongs supposedly done to another is like cosigning someone else’s loan. Personal offences are relational debts. If your father was abusive, he owes you a debt. Jesus calls on us to forgive—to cancel the debt—in light of what He has forgiven us. This is a personal debt. In this case, we are the creditor. But like a bank bled dry through bad loans, we lack the moral capital—the personal righteousness—to mortgage unforgiveness for ourselves let alone anyone else.
Sleep should never find us in unforgiveness for the wrongs done to us or others.
26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
27 Neither give place to the devil. KJV
Anger is the heart-seed of murder which germinates when we fertilize it with sin. Only God has righteous wrath and only He can provide it to us in a form that is toxic to the devil and not us. Our own wrath, self-righteous and vengeful wrath, only grants prideful ground for the devil to stand on in our hearts.
Darkness should never find us in anger.
1 Peter 5:6-8
6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: KJV
Pride pushes against grace. When we humbly acknowledge our moral poverty through submission to God’s commands, He gives us grace—not an extended line of credit, but real moral wealth in our account in the currency of love, joy, and peace. The Father’s desire is that we bring all our distracting worries to Him because He wants to set us free. And being free under the loving fleece of the Lamb of God keeps us safe from the roars of the accusing lion who seeks to feast on our souls.
38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,
42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” ESV
Self-righteous pride is most prevalent when we are doing good. It subtly skews our focus from the served to our performance. We forget the who in our concentration on the how and the what. In such conditions, love withers and weeds of anxiety and worry grow. The remedy is to be daily at the Master’s feet so we can retain the good fruit He has given us.
In the light of His love, weeds of worry, wrath, and wrongs unforgiven cannot grow.