Are You the Prostitute or the Pharisee?

Posted on: November 29th, 2012 by Laurie Coombs 3 Comments

I’m reading several books right now. I do that. In fact, oftentimes I read four to five books at a time. Admittedly this isn’t the best way to go about reading, but it works for me––most of the time.

Anyway, I think Jesus has been trying to get my attention. The story of the sinful woman being forgiven by Jesus found in Luke 7 was presented in two different books I’m reading within days of each other.

Both accounts painted the scene with vivid color. Flesh was given to these individuals as they came alive before my eyes. The authors explored the tension held in the room, the feelings of those in attendance, and all of the cultural intricacies at play––all drawn from biblical and historical sources.

Here’s this woman. This prostitute. She sees Jesus, dining with a Pharisee. Overtaken by emotion, she enters into the room and approaches Jesus, who is reclining at the table in Roman-esque fashion. She’s an unwelcome guest in the minds of all but Jesus, whose interactions with her convey grace, love, and mercy.

She begins to weep, tears falling onto his feet. She wipes them away with her hair and then anoints His feet with oil. Jesus is moved. Meanwhile, the Pharisee “said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner'” (Luke 7:39b).

This woman knows the depths of her sin. She’s broken. She knows she’s a sinner. She knows her need.

The Pharisee doesn’t see his need. The Pharisee thinks his transgressions are few. The Pharisee is self-righteous and judgmental of others’ sins.

Upon being confronted with this account several times, I asked myself, who am I in this story? Am I the Pharisee or the Prostitute?

I think (or I hope), as true followers of Christ, we’ve all been in a place of brokenness over our sin. But over time, we see God work on our hearts, we see fruit in our lives, and if we’re not careful, if we don’t guard our heart, we can begin to be Pharisees. To be religious. To be judgmental. To be self-righteous. Unaware of the fact that these sins are equal to those of the prostitute.

The only difference between the Prostitute and the Pharisee is that the Prostitute is keenly aware of her sin, and the Pharisee is blind to his. Both are equally sinners. Both possess the same need. One knows it. The other doesn’t.

I began praying. Lord, let me be the Prostitute in this story. Let me be the one who knows my need. I am nothing without my Savior.

At the end of this story, Jesus says this:

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” – Luke 7:47-50

Grace is a beautiful thing. It is a gift unlike any other. And all we need to do is simply reach out and receive it.

Let us all humbly approach the feet of our Lord knowing full well our state apart from Him, and bathe in the righteousness given to us through His blood.

{Remember your need. Remember who you are apart from Jesus.}

Who are you in this story? The Prostitute or the Pharisee?

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  • Oh, Laurie,
    Your posts have been hitting me so hard in the heart these past two weeks. Not only the ones on your blog, but also because my friend Bob Bevington reposted the blog you did for Red Like Blood several months ago.
    My heart is in a conundrum right now. And it is not that I have not chosen forgiveness for someone who was a friend, it is that I have chosen to no longer continue the friendship. It is a very long story, so I won’t go into it, but suffice it to say, God has placed this on my heart again. Praying that I will find his answer and have the courage to let go of my pride and follow through. So in answer to your question, I feel like I am a little bit of both, the prostitute and the pharisee.

    • What an amazing place to be, Paula! One thing He’s been showing me as well is that regardless of where I currently am (which is far from perfect) I am loved and accepted right where I am… Praying that you will follow where He leads!