Last week, I heard a message by Pastor David Hewitt at King of Glory Lutheran Church on the story Jesus told that we call “The Good Samaritan.” As he was reading from Luke 10, something stood out to me in the lead up to the parable that I had not previously noticed. It comes from the prior conversation that resulted in Jesus using this illustration to convey his message.
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Sure, I’ve heard the story countless times. The part that resonated with me this time was found in verse 29:
“But he wanted to justify himself…”
I looked up a few commentaries on different opinions about what this meant in the context of the time period in which Jesus lived as it related to being challenged by this law teacher. One opinion stated that the “Teacher of the Law” got caught asking a stupid question, then he was trying to ask a follow up question to make himself sound smart.
My personal opinion is that it also had another level of meaning to it, maybe he was trying to justify his actions toward those around him. Maybe he treated his educated peers with respect, while treating others with condescension. Was this his way of hoping Jesus would give him a neat and tidy response as to how to classify people who deserved his respect? I don’t know.
The main question that kept coming to my mind was:
“Do I go to God for his guidance… or to justify my own desires?”
James 1:5 is a verse that has given me so much comfort over the last 20 years and reminded me of where I should turn when everything around me seems to be falling apart:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
If you’ve been in church very long, you’ve likely heard or read that verse at some point. But, how often do we really seek God’s wisdom in a situation over our own desires?
When we call Jesus “Lord” or “Ruler” of our life, we are (at least in word) submitting our will to his. Yet so often we still choose our own will, our own desire, our own resolution, our own perceived wisdom over that of the one we call our King. When we come to God through faith in Jesus, we are given the Holy Spirit to guide us… do we listen?
Do we truly desire to do God’s will… or are we only interested in justifying our own?