Happy Monday! Today, I'm excited to feature a guest post from my BFF Alyssa, who also happens to be a super talented writer. Alyssa is a total gem (although she'll probably hate being described as a "total gem" #sorrynotsorry) -- she's the kind of friend who's steady and kind, wildly hilarious, and completely unwilling to compromise for anyone or anything except for Jesus. She's loyal, she's full of wisdom beyond her years, and she's always up for anything. Basically, she's the Ann to my Leslie (this article literally sums up our relationship), and I'm so glad y'all get to enjoy her hilarious insights and incredibly challenging perspective on Mark 12. Enjoy!
Scripture: Mark 12:1-43
Observation: Jesus continues to use parables (a fancy word for stories with a point) to teach the people around him. The religious leaders of the day realize they are the villain in Jesus’ first story and subsequently try to use trick questions to turn people against him. We wrap up this chapter with Jesus warning everyone of all the flashy gestures the religious leaders use and reminding people to be humble and generous.
Application: My whole life, I’ve been a rebellious person trapped inside a rule follower’s body -- always wanting to follow the rules and make people happy but also wanting to push the limits and see how far I could go with them. Sounds complicated? Trust me, it is. The best way I found to do this was by asking a TON of questions. If I had a big project coming up, I would try to find out every single detail I could. How many pages does it have to be? Do I need just a timeline or an actual plan put in place? The more information I had, the safer I felt, and the less I could mess it up.
I see myself a lot when I look at the Pharisees in this chapter. (Not the people you want to be relating with -- am I right?) But that’s exactly what they were doing with Jesus! “Okay, so this whole tax thing. Should we really pay it or should it go to God?” “Whose son is the Messiah?” “If a woman marries multiple men in her lifetime, whose wife will she be in eternity?” I mean, COME ON. You can’t help asking yourself, “Why does it even matter?”
What I see in Jesus’ response to each of these questions is that it didn’t matter as much as the Pharisees thought. In fact, he pretty much shut them down. I can picture him being a first century version of Dikembe Mutombo- waving a finger and telling them they’re focusing on the wrong issues.
Now, if you’re having a hard time relating to those questions, let’s look at some I’m sure you’re all too familiar with. “Is it okay for Christians to have wine?” “Do you think it would be okay if I got a tattoo?” “Is it considered a sin if I _______?” The more people I talk to, the more I’m surprised by how easy it is for us to get caught up in questions like these. Questions that you can’t help but ask, “does it even matter?” I think Jesus might have some of the same responses for us as he did for the Pharisees.
He would probably tell us we’re getting caught up in the wrong stuff.
Issues that don’t have as much of an impact on our relationship with God as we’re saying they do. All because we’re so concerned with not wanting to break the “rules” and make him happy.
But you know what I think would make him most happy? If we followed his advice to focus on the most important things: love God and love people. He kept it pretty simple, and he did it on purpose. He had the choice to sit down with people and give them a whole list of do’s and don’ts for following Jesus; instead he gave us two things. That’s it.
Two questions to ask ourselves as we’re making decisions- whether they’re about relationships, work, school… it doesn’t matter because the questions stay the same:
- Is what I want to do loving to God?
- Is what I want to do loving to the people around me?
There’s no need for us to overcomplicate the issues and get caught up in all the “stuff” we face each day. What if instead we simply asked ourselves (and maybe some trusted friends) those two questions? How would it change our relationships with other people? With Jesus?
I think we would be able to spend a lot more time focused on our relationships than on the rules.
I think we would be freed up from a lot of guilt that comes from nit-picking our decisions to death.
And I think we would end up a lot more like Jesus.
Friends, I can’t think of anything better than that.
Prayer: God, I pray you’ll help me focus on the things that you find most important- loving you and loving others. Help me not to get caught up in the other stuff that comes up and instead focus on you. Amen.