Bad Girls of the Bible: The Sinful Woman

Bad Girls of the Bible | Liz Curtis Higgs

We don’t know her name, her age, or her history. We know only that she was bad for a season. To be specific, she sold her body for money. Because her sinful lifestyle was common knowledge, people whispered about her, eyed her with disdain, avoided her company.

Except Jesus. He welcomed her touch. He met her gaze. He called her forgiven.

She dried his feet with her hair

Chapter 10: I Beg Your Pardon
Luke 7:36-50

Here’s the story: Simon, a Pharisee, invited Jesus to a large public dinner. In the style of the day, the Lord reclined at a low table, propping himself up on his left elbow, eating with his right hand. His body was stretched out, his feet exposed. Aha.

Then “a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town” (Luke 7:37) showed up at Simon’s house. Make no mistake, she was “an especially wicked sinner” (AMP), “an immoral woman” (NLT). Her sins weren’t listed in detail because they didn’t need to be. The world’s oldest profession hardly requires a job description.

She came alone, bearing a small alabaster vial of perfume. Did she intend to give the Lord this “flask of ointment” (AMP), this “jar of fragrant oil” (HCSB)? Or did she mean simply to anoint his head, a common gesture of respect?

Whatever her plans, they flew out the window the moment she saw him.


Speechless, she drew closer, then “stood behind him at his feet weeping” (Luke 7:38). Little wonder. Tears often spring to my eyes when I sense the Lord’s presence. Tears of sorrow for my sins. Tears of gratitude for his goodness.

Perhaps she felt the same. Perhaps you’ve been there as well.

The Sinful Woman in Tears

She cried so hard that “her tears began to wet his feet “(Luke 7:38 CJB). You know she must have been mortified. But she couldn’t stop her tears—not when her heart was filled to overflowing. She sank to her knees, then bowed her head so low it touched the ground.

Jesus didn’t pull away, didn’t scold her, didn’t make her feel foolish. No, he gladly received the baptism of her tears, recognizing this heartfelt expression for what it was—worship, pure and holy.

She could have used her sleeves to dry his tear-drenched feet. Instead, “she wiped them with the hair of her head” (NKJV). Far more personal, more humble, more sacrificial.

Our Bad Girl held nothing back now. She pressed her lips to his feet, “kissing them many times” (NCV). Not just once in shy affection, but “over and over again” (GW) with an abundance born of passion. It was customary to kiss a man’s hand or cheek or the hem of his garment. But this woman kissed his dirt-covered, stone-bruised feet.

Oh my. And she wasn’t finished yet.

Perfumed oil in a bottle

Then she reached for her alabaster box, “and poured perfume” (Luke 7:38) on his feet—the same perfume she wore to advertise her services. So much for slipping under the radar at Simon’s gathering.

When Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus on a later occasion, “the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3). This anointing, though, was done in a different time and place, and performed by a very different woman. Not Mary of Bethany, and certainly not Mary Magdalene, who has yet to be introduced in Luke’s gospel and who was never called a prostitute anywhere in Scripture.

But this woman? Undeniably bad.

Simon the Pharisee had seen enough. He said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39). He was not only disgusted with this “social outcast, devoted to sin” (AMP), he was also unimpressed with Jesus.

If he were a prophet… Clearly Simon was not convinced.

The story of a moneylender

Jesus knew the man’s thoughts, and so responded with a story about two men in debt to a moneylender. One owed a lot, one owed a little. Neither man could afford to pay back his loan, so the moneylender canceled their debts and “freely forgave them both” (Luke 7:42 AMP).

Don’t you love the Lord’s teaching style? Enter into their story, he beckons. Learn from their example.

When Jesus asked Simon, “Which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:42), the Pharisee had no choice but to confess, “I suppose the one he forgave more” (Luke 7:43 HCSB). Too right, Simon.

The Lord affirmed the man’s answer, then turned toward our repentant Bad Girl, even as he continued speaking to Simon. This is my favorite part.

“Do you see this woman?” (Luke 7:44)

Simon saw a prostitute, period. He didn’t see her as a person, nor had he “noticed” (CEV) her acts of worship for what they were.

But Jesus missed nothing. He saw her. He saw her sordid past, her humble present, and her glorious future. He quickly described all the ways she’d honored him—unlike Simon—then finished with this startling announcement: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven” (Luke 7:47 ASV).

All her sins? All are forgiven? Yes.
Why? “Because she loves much” (Luke 7:47 NLV).

Love, love, love, love

We’ve called her silent adulation worship. What she really poured all over his feet was love. Her tears, her hair, her kisses, her perfume. Love, love, love, love.

In comparison, Jesus told Simon, “He who is forgiven little, loves little” (ESV). In truth, no one should fall into that category, because we’ve all been forgiven of a great many sins. All of us should be reduced to tears of gratitude. All of us should be on our faces before him.

Our Former Bad Girl understood that, which is why Jesus told her straight out, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 7:48). Not will be, not might be. Are.

The other guests began murmuring among themselves, as Jesus offered the woman a final word of assurance: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:50).

Peace? Yes, please. What woman doesn’t need more of that in her life?

She did not speak her faith—no verbal confession, no sinner’s prayer was recorded here—but she certainly demonstrated her love for a God who forgives completely. May we go and do the same. This week, this day, this hour.

Here’s this week’s question:

How can we know, as surely as this woman did, that our sins are forgiven?

God’s Word declares that truth, again and again, like a shower of kisses: “Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Romans 4:7).

Then in the next chapter, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Need more? “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7-8).

Forgiven. The word is written on our foreheads and etched across our hearts. It’s genuine, true, a finished work. I may not always feel worthy of his forgiveness, but that doesn’t change the fact of it: “Your sins have been forgiven on account of his name” (1 John 2:12).

Done. Thank you, Jesus.

Now, it’s your turn

How can you know, as surely as this woman did, that your sins are forgiven?

Kindly take a moment to post your Comment below. Your sisters and I would love to hear from you, learn from you, pray for you.

And do take a quick look at The Sinful Woman’s amber Pinterest board. I hope you’ll find her visual story inspiring!

Next week we’ll begin our new Bible study series, The Women of Christmas, carrying us right through December 31. I hope you’ll be reading along with us. Don’t have a copy yet? Here’s the best price I found online. Think about buying one for a friend and inviting her to join us. Or you might gather with several women for a Bible study:
How to Use the Women of Christmas as a Bible Study.

However you wish to enter into this sacred season, I’ll be here for you every Wednesday, beloved. I can hardly wait to turn to page one!

Your sister, Liz

Christmas at the Farm with Ann Voskamp and Liz Curtis Higgs
Christmas at the Farm: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas
Watch our webcast, anytime!

47 Responses to Bad Girls of the Bible: The Sinful Woman

  1. Shellynne November 6, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    I first know because His Word proclaims it! Hallelujah! On a more personal level, I know because the Holy Spirit within me confirms the truth of His Word. How amazing it is that His Spirit which daily convicts me of my sin, also daily reminds me that I have been forgiven. I am so thankful for the gift of His Spirit.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 7, 2013 at 7:41 am #

      Wow, Shellynne. You’ve perfectly described the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives: he convicts and he comforts. Grateful for both!

  2. Cheryl Thompson November 7, 2013 at 12:27 am #

    Loved this post!

    I know my sins are forgiven because they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. His word tells me it is done.

  3. Angela November 7, 2013 at 2:34 am #

    A sinful woman forgiven… me too :). How refreshing!

  4. Robin November 7, 2013 at 6:19 am #

    Faith–believing that what God says is true. When I have continued to question & doubt, I have effectively been calling God a liar.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 7, 2013 at 7:46 am #

      So well said, Robin. Kind of rocks us back on our heels. Just what we need.

  5. Ann November 7, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    Powerful lesson.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 7, 2013 at 7:47 am #

      I think that’s why her story is a favorite for so many of us. The sheer power of the Lord’s forgiveness is as palpable as her tears.

  6. Lynn Martin November 7, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    I know because God’s Word tells me so. I often wonder how He could love me so much and forgive me so much everyday. But I know because He is my Lord and Savior and that He sent His precious son to die for me that every day when I say and do things that hurt Him, He forgives. I ask Him to be patient with me and to hold my hand so I can draw closer through the temptation of life every single day. God Bless!

  7. Lynn Zabler November 7, 2013 at 6:56 am #

    I know my sins are forgiven every time I look upon the cross with Our Lord hanging there with love and forgiveness for our sins.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 7, 2013 at 7:51 am #

      So right, Lynn. Nothing speaks more powerfully than the cross.

  8. Bonnie camacho November 7, 2013 at 7:14 am #

    Thank u for email love it .love u mrs bible study.God bless u .love bonnie

  9. Linda H November 7, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    I must stay in His word everyday lest I forget His amazing love for me! I remind myself that I am God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). It still amazes me that when I sin and fail my obedience and repentance brings forgiveness! My identity in Christ is not defined by my past sins. God who created me to be His very own masterpiece will never forsake me and His love is everlasting! His eyes always see me who He created me to be! Thanks Liz for an amazing study once again!!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 7, 2013 at 7:50 am #

      This is beautifully stated, Linda: “His eyes always see me who He created me to be!” YES. When Jesus said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?” I sense him looking across the centuries at all of us, and saying, “I see you, my daughter. I see you.”

  10. Vicky November 7, 2013 at 8:23 am #

    I can know I am forgiven because God’s Word says
    “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:9

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 7, 2013 at 10:02 am #

      One of my favorites, Vicky. Love that two-part response on the Lord’s part: He not only forgives (amazing as that is), he will also “purify us from all unrighteousness” (NIV) which leaves us righteous, meaning “in right standing” with God. WOW.

  11. Sherry November 7, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    This story is one of my favorites and means a lot to me. I have read
    and reread how Jesus treated this woman…He accepted her, defended
    her and forgave her. You wrote a wonderful retelling. Thank you!!!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 7, 2013 at 10:04 am #

      Love your point about how Jesus treated this sinful woman. What hope that gives us!

  12. Emily November 7, 2013 at 9:01 am #

    So powerfully said, so very Spirit led. He welcomed her touch. A Holy God welcoming a well known unholy sinner’s touch. Allowing her to gaze upon Him with eyes of tears; and then calling her forgiven. Does He still do this today? Yes, God is love and He sent His beloved Son to show love and forgiveness to all who would receive Him, once for all. I am one of those who has been forgiven and I am ever thankful to the Lord. “Whom the Son sets free, is truly free indeed”, and I’m totally free! It doesn’t get better than that! Thank you for the powerful message.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 7, 2013 at 10:04 am #

      Waving the flag of freedom with you, dear Emily!

  13. Erin November 7, 2013 at 10:09 am #

    I have been through so much in my life. I was sexually abused by my brother. My father physically, emotionally, and mentally abused me. And my mother just, well, I’m not didn’t stop it. But I’ve forgiven them. But it’s so hard to forget. As a young adult I searched for love in all the wrong places, even though I was saved an knew His love was enough. I slept with every guy I could and anywhere. I still feel so ashamed about it so disgusted more so now that I’m married and I know that I was not his first. I don’t even know who they were. One day when on the train coming home from babysitting I was raped and figured this is my punishment. I still struggle once in a while but realized one day while praying that maybe God. wants me to use as of these situations to help other girls/ women going through similar situations. I just need to learn to accept His forgiveness and forgive myself.
    I want to thank you for helping wine like me see that there is hope in Him. We just need to remember

    • Chelsea November 7, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

      Erin-I just listened to this testimony by Kasey Van Norman, I don’t think it’s an accident that it popped into my mind when I read your comment. Please listen to it; I just really think it could help you:
      Praying for you~

      • kelli November 21, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

        Chelsea, so glad you heard Erin’ s pain and responded to her with Kasey’ s video. God answered a prayer for me today with your response. Thanks to liz also for her generous gift of this blog.

  14. Lancia November 7, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    I am still here. I’ve made many poor, wrong choices in my life. A lot of them could have resulted in my & or others harm, but did not in any physical way. I know beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus covered & protected me. He did this because he loves me. He has plans for me. & covers me still. Thank you Jesus.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

      God is faithful beyond imagining or explaining. YES, he covers us still!

  15. Margaret November 7, 2013 at 11:10 am #

    I learned too, that nothing fills the hole in our hearts. No man, no lust, no sex, NOTHING…. fills that hole, but Jesus….. as tears are welling up in my eyes, I am reminded how GOD did not ignore me, nor cast me aside. He just wrapped His arms around me and said that now I was His. Praise the Holy, and wonderful GOD that we love!!!!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 17, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

      You are so right, Margaret. NOTHING fills our empty hearts like the love of God.

  16. Chelsea November 7, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

    It’s hard to believe that my sins are forgiven….especially when I keep on falling back into the same sins I repented of.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 17, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

      It IS hard to grasp, Chelsea. Yet God’s Word promises us over and over again that we are forgiven…over and over again! “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Ephesians 1:7-8 When you have time, you might read through my blogs on EMBRACE GRACE: I hope they will encourage you and ground your faith in God’s truth: you are forgiven!

    • T J Herron April 20, 2014 at 1:37 am #

      Chelsea, it says in the Word that we are to forgive 7 times 7, endlessly forgive others. That, to me, is the example that Our Lord gives us of how He forgives us, endlessly, on and on! He sees our hearts, our emptiness, our pain and our despair. Whether we say it or not, He sees our hearts! Praise His Holy Name, He is faithful to forgive each and every shortcoming, sin nature and thought! Trying to teach my grandchildren about Our Lord and His Forgiveness has taught me so much more on this very thing. When the “grands” as I call them disobey or sin in any way and tell me they are sorry and will I forgive them, my first response is, “What does Jesus say?” Even the youngest says, “if we really are sorry, He forgives us our sin and throws it into the deepest part of the ocean, never to be remembered again!” Then washes us clean so we can start again! If we adults can only accept Our Lord’s teachings with the simple faith of a child!!! (which we are suppose to do anyhow) I know for me, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, forgave me, continues to forgive me on a daily basis simply because He loved me first, before I ever loved Him. He loved me so much that He came here Holy, Sinless, being God Himself, and chose, chose again I say to take upon Himself each sin I have commited in the past, what I have sinned today and what I will sin tomorrow! I helped put those nails in His Hands and Feet but He still forgave me! I know that I am Forgiven by my Lord and Savior simply (as someone else has already said) because the Holy Spirit shows me that I am Forgiven….clean again to begin anew knowing that He has washed me clean with His Holy Blood (of the Lamb of God). If it says it in the Holy Word of God, then by faith, I believe it completely! Sorry for the long post, just full of His Grace, Forgiveness and Love that I can’t be quiet sometimes! In His Blessings, TJ

  17. Wendy November 7, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    I always believed in God but I was never sure that God believed in me. I could never seem to please my dad and somehow that translated in my mind into a belief that I couldn’t please my Heavenly Father either. Especially since I had made so many bad choices in my life. I abandoned my faith for a very long time but eventually found my way back into a faith community and into a Bible study. Then one morning…I will never forget it…I was reading and I was overcome with the sense of being totally and unconditionally loved. I had a vision of the Father calling to me…telling me to come and rest in His arms. I ran to Him and laid my head on His shoulder and knew, no matter what had happened or would happen in the future, I found my true home. I wish I could say life has been easy since then and I never made a mes of things again. But that’s not so. I continue to make mistakes and fall down. Sometimes I get far away from God again. But whenever I finally get to the end of my rope, I find God waiting there and know that, somehow, it’s going to be ok in the end.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 17, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

      Wendy, your real-life description of grace in action brings tears to my eyes. If we could do everything right, we wouldn’t need God’s grace. But in truth we fail miserably on our own, and so are wholly dependent on his forgiveness to give us a future and a hope. Thanks be to God!

  18. Naomi Rhode November 7, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    Precious Liz….on my face (if I could) before our Holy God…knowing that we are holy in His sight because of Jesus, His blood sacrifice. I imagine His knees may have been pretty painful also!!

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 17, 2013 at 2:18 pm #

      Sweet Naomi, you take care of those knees! In your heart, you are ever prostrate before him. Oh how he loves you!

  19. Rebecca Mahannah November 7, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    I closely relate to Erin and Wendy. Only thing is I’m not married or have children. I live with my brother who is single without children also. But, there is a relationship that needs to be considered here. When I was young I was mostly verbally but also physically abused by my parents including my brother. I, then, abused right back. We were a dysfunctional family to say the least. I’m glad to be a part of Liz’s study blog where I can relate in so many ways to the Bad Girls Of The Bible as well as all you who have contributed to it. My faith in Christ’s blood to forgive my sins has brought me a long way away from that old abusive person and I praise Him for his work on me but, mostly for His love and teaching me how to love others. I’m not perfect nor I know I will never be perfect this side of Heaven but, I so love Him for loving me first I can’t describe how free from hate I feel now and I so want to be like this forever. I will post what I wrote in the last chapter here also.
    Thank you so much for this Bible study blog, Liz. You get the ball rolling and the commentators bring out thoughts that are so familiar to everyone reading. On so many chapters I’ve wanted to just say “ditto” (smile). It’s nice to know that you are not alone with the feelings the study brings to the surface.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

      It IS heartening to know we’re not alone in our feelings and experiences. So glad you are finding comfort and encouragement here, Rebecca, and I PRAISE GOD for being free from hate!

  20. Pat November 8, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    Oh, how I praise God for your gift of putting us in the story. Thank you. Yes, she or he, who is forgiven much loves much. I am redeemed by the one who declared, ” It is finished!” Hallelujah !

  21. Becky November 17, 2013 at 12:17 am #

    Liz, I am so grateful for your ministry to so many women. I have often and recently been one of those Really Bad Girls who looks for love in all the wrong places and with the wrong people. Despite growing up in a loving , Christian home, my wild, rebellious heart guided my choices in my youth. I always hurried ahead of God, never seeking His guidance in choosing a husband. There was (and still is) an idol in my life and that is Romance. Yes I have to be the most “incurable romantic”. I wondered if anyone had ever felt compassion for women like me….adulteresses who more than anything just want to be loved and cherished like all those fairy tales promised. Then I found your Bad Women Series and website. Back to the Bible I go, learning to trust that God’s Love for me surpasses any romance. I am on my way to becoming a Former Bad Girl.

    • Liz Curtis Higgs November 17, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

      And I am cheering you on every step of the way, Becky! Once I realized that the ultimate romance is God’s love for you, for me, for all his people, my desires changed rather dramatically. That will be my prayer for you as well, dear sister. Jesus is holding you close in his embrace!

  22. Teresa November 17, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    Wow…. Forgiven. It’s surreal for sure. Most of my life I felt inadequate, unlovable, and certainly not forgiven. I could relate to these bad girls so well. You know the Ruth and Mary I thought I had to be to be acceptable in God’s eyes…were always out of reach for me. I was never good enough… Would never be good enough….but through the pain and despair I experienced I came to a point where He showed me that I am ok….just as I am. Satan tried to use my sexual abuse that led to promiscuity to convince me that I would never fit in. He used the rejection of classmates and dysfunction of family to try to keep me from coming to a point where I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that I am lovable. I am FORGIVEN. That I am seen through the righteousness of Christ by a loving God…and nothing ….NOTHING can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. I am not saved by works…what I do or do not do. I am not perfect. But I am forgiven. Hallelujah! Forgiven. Now that’s a freeing gift!

  23. Susan Gruener November 18, 2013 at 9:31 pm #

    Such a beautiful story…and you tell it best, Liz. Sometimes we read a story, but don’t really ‘see’ the story. I know He has forgiven me, because my heart, head, spirit and soul told me He did. The best ‘miracle’ of all – salvation!
    Thanks for another great ‘story’ Liz!

  24. Emily Hockenhull November 21, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    God’s grace is so amazing! In Hebrews 8:12, He declares that He remembers our sins no more! And 2 Corinthians 5:19 says that He no longer counts our wrong doing against us. The love of Christ truly is beyond comprehension (Ephesians 3:18)!

  25. monica November 27, 2013 at 6:23 am #

    It took me awhile to truly accept that my sins were forgiven. To be 27, unmarried and pregnant with my second child, I was sure that I have fallen completely short of his glory, mercy and grace and that there would be no way possible that he could and would accept me again. Over and over I failed at staying faithful and consistent to him. When the men in the world (literally) failed me I substituted that to he failed me as well, during this pregnancy emotionally I struggled not knowing where to turn, what to do next and how to forgive myself. Until one day at church I gave it all back to him on the alter during prayer. To hear again, and again that I was forgiven. No condemnation that he forgave me and the only thing that was holding me back was forgiving myself. Im still a little nervous about being a mother of 2, but in googling and finding your blogs in the past couple of days has helped me so much especially this one. I have begun reading and praying again, and believing this time will be consistency. I hope to find more readings where you go in depth with things further in the bible since I want to know him so much more than I had before. Thank you very much, for the perception you have shared.

  26. Francis Paquette November 30, 2013 at 4:11 am #

    Dear friends
    I have truly been touched by the story of the sinful woman. Jesus has surely a way of sharing things
    Lets keep in touch
    Thanks Again

  27. Ursula Martin January 31, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

    Ms Liz! I had to write and say “THANK YOUUUUUUUUUU” for Bad Girls in the Bible. I picked this book up from a used bookstore and could not put it down! I was in a Christian bookstore today looking for more of your writings when my friend (whom i let borrow the book) called me in tears to say, “I AM THE WOMAN AT THE WELL” and “HALLELUJAH”…. I have since purchased “Really Bad Girls” and “The Girls Still Got It”… I just had to reach out to you somehow to let you know that this little black girl in kMemphis Tn who is stretching and pressing towards the mark has found in you a BEAUTIFUL, RELEVANT, TIMELY AND REAL sista who is MOST DEFINITELY on the battlefield for the Lord! GOD BLESS YOU!!!


  1. Bad Girls of the Bible: The Sinful Woman | Liz Curtis Higgs | Ventures In Faith - November 7, 2013

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