Summary: The world will never give us true lasting contentment. What will?
“A Recipe for Contentment”
Contentment, inner peace, serenity, terribly elusive but desired states of mind in our culture. Often sought after through worldly pursuits, which may bring fleeting glimpses of it, but ultimately are temporary. The New Testament word for contentment in it’s different forms means “enough”, “is sufficient”, or basically freedom or independence from worry about our needs being met. It most often refers to possessions or wealth and this is one of the reasons I believe it is applicable to the parable of the two debtors that we will look at shortly.
Why do people seek God in the first place? I would like to suggest that today one major reason is the same reason many people seek counseling. When people would come for counseling they usually knew at least in the back of their mind that no other person could fix their life. I would ask new clients the question: “How will you know when your counseling is over” and the most common response I would get was, “I will be content or have peace of mind”. In other words, freedom from anxiety or worry even if they could not erase the past or change their circumstances. I have come to realize that it’s impossible to find true, lasting contentment or peace of mind without a clear knowledge of our nature, our need, and our negation of self regardless of our circumstances. Our nature as sinners, our need of forgiveness, and our negation or denial of self. How we mentally respond to our circumstances will determine our actions, and we have a choice about this.
In a few minutes I am going to suggest a biblical recipe for the kind of contentment just described, based on a short parable and the surrounding text from Luke chapter 7. But before we begin I think it’s important to briefly discuss the words of Jesus in the New Testament. A professor once told me that everything Jesus said in His parables was to give us an idea of what the Kingdom of Heaven was like, and the principles for living in the Kingdom, so let’s remember this as we look at the parables in Luke over the summer. Another important thing is to make sure that we read the text around Jesus’ words. The danger in the red letter versions of the Bible is that there is sometimes a tendency to just read the red parts because we think that’s the important stuff, Jesus’ own words, but this is a dangerous error that may cause us to take his words out of context and at the very least not understand what he is really saying and why. Much like the following young man did.
When I went to university back in the eighties, many people were defaulting on their student loans. I had a relatively small loan of about 7,000 dollars and I certainly didn’t want to pay it back, but the payments were pretty small so I did, and it felt good when it was finally gone. I heard of a young person recently who claimed to be a Christian, who said that he shouldn’t have to pay back his student loan because the Bible says that people should forgive our debts if we feel we can’t pay them back. This person mistakenly used the parable of the two debtors that we are going to talk about today as support for his view.
Today I am going to speak on this very small parable of the two debtors in verses 41-43 of Luke chapter 7, which seems pretty self-explanatory on the surface. But to do it justice we must read the larger text. One of the great things about having the time to really let a passage of scripture become a part of you when preparing to preach on it, is that more things become apparent and you start to see the overall picture more clearly. This last section of chapter 7 is profoundly important for us today, and the parable is really just an illustration of the whole point of this section of Scripture. As we read it, we see that it is every bit as significant as Paul’s more well known words about the nature of salvation by faith in Ephesians 2 and Romans 3. In fact I believe this passage in Luke shows more clearly what this faith looks like practically, how we can practice it in our life, and what the benefits are.
So please open your Bibles with me to Luke 7 verses 36-50.
To begin with, I just want to share a few summarizing statements about the parable in verses 41-43 then we will go into more detail a little later. First of all notice that the Pharisee calls Jesus teacher just before verse 41. The Jewish religious leaders never called him master or Lord, just teacher or Rabbi. This reflects their overall attitude of doubt about him being the messiah. Secondly, the moneylender clearly represents God, and the great discrepancy between the amounts of debt shows that it doesn’t matter how much or how little we have sinned, we need forgiveness, and God will forgive us if we repent. Thirdly, the answer is obvious who will love him more even though Simon interestingly says “I suppose” when he answers this obvious question. I would suggest that Jesus could have just as easily asked “who will be more grateful or who will be more content”. Finally Jesus is trying to indirectly imply that the Pharisees especially need a saviour because of their blindness, and are going to have a hard time entering the Kingdom because they don’t believe they are sinners.