Luke 7:47 NASB

47 For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

After contrasting Simon the Pharisee with the woman of the Alabaster oil Christ seems to say that the Pharisee is forgiven little while the woman is forgiven more.

But in most cases when Christ described the Pharisees(Matthew 23) they had a record of being self-centred,blind guides,Hypocrites,murderers and wicked

Christ goes farther even accuses Simon of lacking hospitality:

a)Washing of feet

b)Annointing with oil


Why then does Christ say Simon is forgiven little?

  • If someone is forgiven little : is it because they have confessed little ? Have they held back the greater - and it remains unforgiven ? Good question (+1).
    – Nigel J
    Mar 19, 2020 at 15:54

3 Answers 3


I believe the Lord is spelling out a simple theological and psychological truth: The self righteous, legalistic Pharisee does not think he sinned and so has nothing to confess; this makes him surly, arrogant, self sufficient and ignorant of his need of Jesus' grace and forgiveness. This is in direct contrast to the sinful woman who was acutely aware of her sinfulness - hence her actions and expressions of love.

Thus, Jesus is saying that the more aware we become of our innate sinfulness, the more we love Jesus and realise our need of Him. (The thirstier the man, the greater he loves the drink of water!)

Most commentaries suggest the same idea.

Ellicott: " … not that the sins of the Pharisee were few, but that he thought them few, and that therefore the scantiness of his love was a witness that he had but an equally scant consciousness of forgiveness."

MacLaren's Exposition: "self-righteous man … He [Simon] is a fair specimen of the whole of them. Respectable in life, rigid in morality, unquestionable in orthodoxy; no sound of suspicion having ever come near his belief in all the traditions of the elders; intelligent and learned, high up among the ranks of Israel! What was it that made this man’s morality a piece of dead nothingness? What was it that made his orthodoxy just so many dry words, from out of which all the life had gone? What was it? This one thing: there was no love in it. As I said, Love is the foundation of all obedience; without it, morality degenerates into mere casuistry. Love is the foundation of all knowledge; without it, religion degenerates into a chattering about Moses, and doctrines, and theories; a thing that will neither kill nor make alive, that never gave life to a single soul or blessing to a single heart, and never put strength into any hand for the conflict and strife of daily life. There is no more contemptible and impotent thing on the face of the earth than morality divorced from love, and religious thoughts divorced from a heart full of the love of God."

Barnes: "To whom little is forgiven - He who feels that little has been forgiven - that his sins were not as great as those of others. A man's love to God will be in proportion to the obligation he "feels" to him for forgiveness."

Gill's Exposition: "Simon, the Pharisee, whose debts, in his own opinion, were few or none, at least ten times less than this woman's; and he had little or no sense of the forgiveness of them, or of any obligation to Christ on that account; and therefore was very sparing of his love and respect, and even of common civilities to him."

We are all, including the modern Pharisees still among us (and in us) are great sinners - But Christ is an even greater loving Saviour. Only this sense of our great need of Him because of our complete hopelessness, can we begin to learn to love as Jesus loved, John 13:34, 35.

  • Yes, agreed. (+1).
    – Nigel J
    Mar 20, 2020 at 8:01

Jesus compares what the woman has done to what Simon has done. Love for God and forgiveness are interconnected. She’s clearly repenting as she weeps, wipes Jesus’ feet with her hair, kisses His feet, and anoints them with perfume.

Luke 7:37-38 And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.

Luke 7:44-47 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. You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

Love for God and forgiveness of sins are interconnected, but Simon has failed to show love for Jesus. Then he is far from obtaining the woman's level of forgiveness.

  • Are you saying that one is 'rewarded' by forgiveness in return for love ? I am uncertain as to your meaning.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 26, 2020 at 17:06

I am not sure that Jesus is so much criticizing Simon personally here as he is explaining to Simon why the woman was forgiven, at the same time more or less showing Simon that He is above the Prophets and has the ability to remit sins.

Simon is not necessarily wrong that the impure woman be kept apart. Speaking through the Prophet Ezekiel, for example, the Lord said:

Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean (22:26)

Cyril of Alexandria explains here, though, that we find in the words of the same Prophet, I will save you from all your uncleanness (Ezekiel 36:29).

Cyril continues to explain here:

He taught the Pharisee, and all who were assembled there, that the Word being God, came into the world in our likeness, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved by Him (John 3:17). He came that He might forgive the debtors much and little, and shew mercy upon small and great, that there might be no one whatsoever who did not participate in His goodness. And as a pledge and plain example of His grace, He freed that unchaste woman from her many iniquities by saying, Thy sins are forgiven thee. Worthy indeed of God is a declaration such as this! It is a word joined with supreme authority. For since the law condemned those that were in sin, who, I ask, was able to declare things above the law, except Him only Who ordained it? Immediately therefore He both set the woman free, and directed the attention of that Pharisee, and those who were dining with him, to more excellent things: for they learned that the Word being God, was not as one of the prophets, but rather far beyond the measure of humanity, even though He became man. And one may say to him who invited Him, Thou was trained up, O Pharisee, in the sacred Scriptures; thou knowest I suppose of course the commands given by most wise Moses: thou hast examined the words of the holy prophets: Who then is This That walking in a path contrary to the sacred commands, hath delivered from guilt? Who That hath pronounced them free who have boldly broken the things ordained? Recognise therefore by the facts themselves One superior to the prophets and the law: remember that one of the holy prophets proclaimed these things in old time of Him, and said:

They shall be in wonder at our God, and shall be afraid of Thee. Who is a God like unto Thee, That forgiveth the transgressions, and passeth over the iniquities of the remnant of His inheritance, nor retaineth His anger unto the end, because He willeth mercy? (Micah 7:17)

Commentary on Luke, Sermon XXXIX (tr. from Syriac)

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