Luke 7:29-35 (CEV)
29 Everyone had been listening to John. Even the tax collectors had obeyed God and had done what was right by letting John baptize them. 30 But the Pharisees and the experts in the Law of Moses refused to obey God and be baptized by John.
31 Jesus went on to say: What are you people like? What kind of people are you? 32 You are like children sitting in the market and shouting to each other, “We played the flute, but you would not dance! We sang a funeral song, but you would not cry!” 33John the Baptist did not go around eating and drinking, and you said, “John has a demon in him!” 34 But because the Son of Man goes around eating and drinking, you say, “Jesus eats and drinks too much! He is even a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” 35 Yet Wisdom is shown to be right by what its followers do.
What We Do
I’m a parent of teenagers, and one of the things I notice as I talk with my kids and their friends is that there seem to be two different approaches to raising teens. One is to assume that the goal is to make sure that the kids don’t ever cross out of any lines. To ensure that they don’t drink, smoke, have sex, hang out with the wrong crowd, wear the wrong clothes, date the wrong kids, get the wrong grades. That to whatever external standards the family has, the teens don’t ever stray outside of those parameters. The second is to assume that there is an ultimate goal – to raise a kid to be an adult who is able to become the person they were created to be. This second group of parents choose to emphasize with their kids and teenagers developing such a deep knowledge of who they are, of their value and worth in this world and the value and worth of those around them, that they are able to make wise decisions about how they live.
To be clear, both parents want the same outcomes. They want kids who are going to make them proud. They want kids who are going to succeed at life. They want kids who they can brag about to their friends, teenagers who they don’t have to spend all night worried about.
But apparently, I’ve been learning the hard way, it matters which approach we take if we actually want to get to our goal. Apparently our kids – and especially our teens – have an incredibly keen awareness of what it is that we are ultimately interested in. And it seems (I’m only 16 years into the experiment) that when we focus on the behaviours then we end up in all sorts of messy, challenging situations. However, when we recognize that this child is not simply something for us to control and manipulate and order, but rather a person in their own right – when we focus on raising that person to be the person God made them to be – then we begin to see them take ownership for the very behaviour we were worried about in the first place.
And I couldn’t help but think about this as I read this passage, because in general, the Pharisees are worried about people’s behaviours. They’re convinced that behaviour is the one thing that matters, and therefore they start with the list of behaviours to avoid and then go on to the list of behaviours to do, but it is always, always, always about the behaviour. So it’s unsurprising that the Pharisees are worried about all of the behaviours they see in John and Jesus. John is a little too ascetic. Jesus definitely parties a little too hard. John is a loner, he keeps to himself. Jesus is always thronged by company. John makes enemies of the political powers of the day. Jesus makes friends with the wrong sort of people.
Then Jesus steps in.
“Wisdom is shown to be right by what its followers do.”
Jesus doesn’t start with behaviour. He starts with wisdom. If wisdom is wisdom, then it will get us to the behaviour we need to get us to where we need to ultimately end up.
Jesus doesn’t seem to be too worried about whether John is an ascetic or not. I guess in the end, if asceticism gets him to where he needs to be, doing what he needs to be doing, then who cares?
And Jesus is clearly not going to change his partying ways just to suit the Pharisees – it’s getting him to where he needs to be, so why should he change?
We can get all caught up in doing all the right things – especially if this was the mindset we were raised with. But I think if we start with the actions and miss the wisdom, we’ve missed the point. I think if we want to make sure that we have the right actions we have to start by focusing on understanding who God made us to be.
Because in my experience, when we focus on being the person God made us to be, and raising our kids to be the people God made them to be, then the actions of a follower of Jesus start to follow.
- Some of us like the idea of a list of absolute behaivours. Do ‘this’ and everything will be ‘good’. Today I would encourage you to pick one of the following sets of people from the Bible and compare what ‘good’ looked like for each of them. (Note: all of them were held up as people who were ‘good’.)Rahab and Ruth
Tamar and Esther
Hosea and Samuel
Elijah and Malachi
John the Baptist and JesusIs ‘good’ just about what we do or don’t do?
Or is it possible that ‘good’ has more to do with where our focus lies?