Today’s Reading: Matthew 19
Written by Arlene Bergen
Our text today opens by telling us that a large crowd gathered around Jesus. They followed Him because of His teachings and because He healed their sick. Yet Jesus was a source of continual frustration to the Pharisees, so they tried to test Him. To call Him out in front of the crowd. To silence Him. Today they do this by throwing out a tricky question. They ask Jesus how to ‘rightly’ get out of a marriage.
Okay, we probably don’t need a ton of context about how different Rabbi’s had different criteria for making this exit. We probably get that marriage is a hot button issue—maybe even more so in the church than out of it.
But Jesus doesn’t engage them in a hot topic debate. ‘You’re asking the wrong question,’ Jesus says.
People who commit to marriage shouldn’t be asking, ‘where’s my out’? They’re supposed to be people celebrating their in. They’re supposed to be people who’ve been drawn in by love and allow it to change their hearts and then direct their loyalty, devotion, and commitment. I could sit with this challenge all day long: am I looking for an out? Or are my loyalties, my devotion, my commitment being changed by love?
These aren’t easy thoughts to tackle, so it almost seems like it’s too quick when Matthew moves on to write about Jesus encountering children and saying they’re the ones His kingdom belongs to, and a questioning, rich, young, man. How does all this connect?
I think I might have an idea. The rich, young man presses Jesus wanting to know what he can do to enter into Jesus’ kingdom of life. He seems to think he’s doing everything right. So why does he even bother asking what he needs to do? Is he just looking for confirmation that he’s doing the right things?
I wonder if he asked because he felt like me. I’m not meaning to brag here, but I probably seem like a pretty decent person at first glance. I try hard to live with integrity. To say what I mean and mean what I say. I try to live in such a way that I don’t have to worry about dark secrets being dragged into the light.
But still, in those quiet moments when I’m alone with my thoughts, I have this persistent fear that there’s still something missing. That all the good I try to do won’t outweigh the bad. Bad thoughts. Bad attitudes. Bad motivations (even for good things). In the light of day, I can be fooled into thinking I’m doing okay—I’m mostly self-sufficient. But there’s something about being alone with my thoughts that challenges the illusion. I can’t silence the inner cry for help.
With Jesus, it’s always heart before deeds. He’s looking for people who will allow their hearts to be changed by love. People who are eager to join their lives to His in loyalty, devotion, and commitment. People who aren’t looking for an out, but who are nestling deeper and deeper in. People who know that even if they have to give up everything else to have Him, it’ll be worth it. People willing to come to Him with adoring, child-like trust, not worried about what they don’t have or can’t do, because they’re trusting the One who has it all and can do it all.
What about you? Do you have a wandering heart that’s looking for an out? Or are you holding onto Jesus with the trust of a child, willing to give up everything to have Him?