Guilt & Shame

Luke 7:36-50; 19:1-10

  • Christians believe that guilt is valuable, because it leads to repentance. Do you think that the Christian view of guilt is different to the average Australian's view?

  • Do you think there is a difference between guilt and shame? If so, what is the difference? [1]

Read Luke 7:36-50 [2]

  • Consider each of the three main characters one at a time: Jesus, Simon the Pharisee, and the woman:

  • What do you imagine each character was thinking/feeling at each moment in the story?

  • How do you imagine each character viewed the other two?

  • The woman in the story was known to Simon the Pharisee as 'a sinner'. This is quite possibly a euphemism for a prostitute. She intrudes on the dinner, weeps tears onto Jesus' feet, lets her hair down in public (which was considered indecent in the culture of the time), and kisses Jesus (which was worse!). How does Jesus' short parable about the two debtors help to explain to everyone what was happening in the woman's heart?

  • What does it mean to you that Jesus saw her heart while the others judged her on her past mistake, or the outward appearance of her actions?

  • Do you think the woman came to Jesus because she felt guilty? Do you think she felt ashamed?

  • What do you think of Jesus' conclusion: "her many sins have been forgiven - as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little." Does the forgiveness of yours sins translate into a deep and even shameless love for Jesus? Or do your sins and failings make you feel ashamed?


Read Luke 19:1-10

  • How does the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector mirror the story of the woman in Luke 7? What is similar? What is different?

  • Zacchaeus gives away his ill-gotten gains and offers to repay those he cheated four times over. What do you think is his motivation? Is it guilt, or something else?


  • What do these two passages show us about the connection between guilt, forgiveness and love?


Spend some time praying together. You might want to use this traditional Anglican prayer - pray these words together, either silently or aloud:

  • Almighty God, our heavenly Father: We have sinned against you, through our own fault, in thought, and word, and deed, and in what we have left undone. For the sake of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us all our offences; and grant that we may serve you in newness of life, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Read 1 John 1:8-2:2 to close your time together.


[1] Brene Brown defines the difference this way:

I believe that there is a profound difference between shame and guilt. I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful—it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging—something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.


[2] According to commentaries, this is most likely a different occasion to the familiar one described in Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:6-13 and John 12:1-8, where Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus anoints Jesus with expensive perfume. This is an earlier occasion in Jesus' ministry, where an unnamed 'sinful woman' does something similar, but not the same. You might like to read these other accounts to compare them for yourself.

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