Bad Girls of the Bible

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!

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