Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little (Luke 7:47, esv).
I don’t know how he can even show his face in public!
She should be ashamed of herself!
Of course I’m not perfect, but I’d never do anything like that!
Granted, you may never have committed that particular sin—whichever one seems so gross or inconceivable to you. It might not even tempt you. But in whatever ways our sins may differ from others’ in specifics, they are not different in principle. Other people are not worse than we are simply because their brand of struggle and weakness may be hard for us to relate to. In fact, the admonishment we receive from Scripture should take our attitude a step further. “Let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3, nkjv).
“Our sense of how much we’ve been forgiven is the thermostat on the heat of our judgment toward others.”
Not just, not worse.
When Simon—a Pharisee who’d invited Jesus into his home—saw the spectacle of a filthy, streetwalking woman weeping at Jesus’ feet and wiping away the falling tears with her hair, he condescendingly thought, “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 7:39, esv).
It’s true. She’d probably been a lot of places with a lot of men, done a lot of things—and felt a whole lot of shame. But every person is either the Pharisee who thinks they’re better than Jesus or the sinful woman, acutely aware of their desperate need for His forgiveness. The immediate, instinctive response of every believer, when seeing the sins and failures of others, should be, I am no better. I am that person.
And if that isn’t our response, Jesus said, here’s the reason why: “He who is forgiven little, loves little.” In other words, our sense of how much we’ve been forgiven is the thermostat on the heat of our judgment toward others. If in looking at ourselves we feel it’s really no wonder that God would want to recruit a winner like us, the best we’ll do is treat everyone else as if they don’t quite measure up. But if we’re continually cultivating a mindset that understands our own desperate need for grace, nobody will seem beneath us. We’ll regard them all, in fact, as “better than” us.
“Do not be wise in your own eyes,” the Bible says (Proverbs 3:7, nkjv). “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7, esv). Any righteousness we have is not our own! Sure, some sins may be more perverse than others. Some carry greater consequences. But all sin—not just theirs, but yours and mine—are in this way all the same: any sin not brought under the finished work of Christ would have been enough to send you or me to hell.
So when you see someone who may have been places you’d never go or done things you’d never do—remember, they’re not lower than you. Through the humble, knowing eyes of grace, esteem them as actually better than you. As a forgiven sinner, be broken again over your own need for Christ’s welcome, and stay focused on how much you need Him yourself. Then you’ll find you’re loving Jesus “much”—and others more, too.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your holy Word that helps me see You as You really are, and helps me see myself as I really am. Please forgive me for my arrogance and harsh assessments of others. Forgive me for feeling superior despite what I know to be true of myself. Forgive me for acting as though I have any goodness apart from You. Thank You, merciful Savior, for saving me from the sin which condemned me to death. Help me think differently. Help me judge rightly . . . by never putting myself in the place of Righteous Judge. I pray this in Jesus’ holy, merciful name. Amen.