A scandalous scene was unfolding at Simon the Pharisee’s dinner party. A prostitute had crept in and was crouched, weeping at the feet of Jesus. As her tears mingled with her emptied-out perfume, making trickles in his dirty feet, she wiped them with her hair and kissed them clean.

“If this man were a prophet,” Simon thought to himself, “he would know what kind of woman is touching him.” (Luke 7:39). Since Jesus was a prophet, he answered Simon’s thoughts with a story.

“If a man forgave two debts—one for 500 pieces of silver another for 50—which debtor would love him more?” He asked.

Jesus used this comparison story to reveal the true comparison story happening at Simon’s table.

The first debtor is the woman. She has sinned greatly, and contrary to Simon’s supposition, Jesus knows it. Yet, he sees her sin as forgiven. Here at his feet is a daughter of the kingdom, who will one day dance—forgiven and clean—on streets of gold!

But who’s the second debtor? It’s Simon. In his story, Jesus places the Pharisee and a prostitute side-by-side as two sin debtors who cannot pay. Obviously, Simon sees it differently. His condescending disgust reveals his elevated sense of superiority, as he sees himself as a judge. Yet he has misjudged both the woman and Jesus!

By offering no kiss, no foot washing, and no anointing oil, Simon has just snubbed the only One who can forgive his sin. And the woman, with her extravagant love, has rightly elevated Him.

Friend, are you lifting yourself up as a judge with your condescending disgust toward others? Or are you crouched low at Jesus’s feet—a woman who is forgiven and clean?

“Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14).

*For deeper reflection, listen to Luke 7.

The U.S. presidential inauguration introduced a new voice, as twenty-two-year-old National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman inspired a fitful nation with her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” on January 20, 2021.

Her final hope-filled lines stuck with me:

For there is always light,

if only we’re brave enough to see it

If only we’re brave enough to be it

History is full of ezer-warriors “brave enough to be” light in their time and place. The Bible frequently highlights women (often very young) who confront the challenges of the moment to bring light and hope to others.

I think of Ruth.

Marriage to Naomi’s son swept Ruth into Naomi’s tsunami of suffering. Naomi was a famine refugee and a widow. By the time the dust settled both women had plummeted to the bottom of ancient society. Both were childless widows. Post-menopausal Naomi and barren Ruth had no future. Ruth was about Amanda Gorman’s age when she faced the hardest decision of her life. Yet instead of abandoning Naomi, Ruth chose a dark, foreboding future in Bethlehem by embracing Naomi, her people, and her God.

That changed everything.

Ruth took refuge under God’s wing and, from that place of blazing light, drew courage to do whatever Naomi needed. From that moment, she refused to hold back or shrink from bravely making bold initiatives to a powerful man—all on Naomi’s behalf. She ignored cultural boundaries limiting her as an immigrant, an impoverished widow, and a scavenger for food to bring light and renewed hope to Naomi.

Ruth never knew God was advancing his purposes for the world through her brave, selfless love for Naomi.

Her story reminds us never to underestimate how God might multiply our smallest act of kindness, encouraging word, or helping hand. We should all be asking, “If Ruth, why not me?” May God help us to be “brave enough” to bring the light of hope to others.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Ruth 1.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. (Psalm 23:1)

The Twenty-Third Psalm offers us a real picture of our life’s journey, in light of our relationship with God as Father, Son, and Spirit.

The Psalmist David came to know the Lord while spending time in the fields, tending his father’s flock. In the stillness of time spent alone with God, he learned how to guide the sheep, provide for their daily needs, and keep them safe from harm.

David’s experiences taught him to declare the Lord as his Shepherd. We must also know the Lord and declare Him to be our Shepherd who cares for us and provides for our every need.

God wants us to rest in His peace. The green meadows are symbolic of how God nourishes us, while the peaceful streams reveal the calmness we can experience from the inside out as we cease from fretting, worrying, and being anxious about the cares of this world.

The Lord comforts our hurting hearts and heals the emotional wounds we carry. He restores our minds and stabilizes and strengthens us emotionally.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. (Psalm 23:4)

God wants us to learn to trust Him. These paths may appear dark and hopeless, but we don’t have to fear because the Lord walks close beside us.

His rod protects us. His Shepherd’s staff guides us along our journey.

God rewards us for our suffering. It’s as if He prepares a beautifully decorated table with the most delicious spread of our favorite things. He anoints us with the oil of gladness and fills our cup until it overflows.

God is a good and loving Father.

May we stay close to God, spending our days in His presence here on earth and throughout eternity.

*For deeper reflection, listen to Psalm 23.