It’s officially summer, which means playing outside, staying up late, kids running outside barefoot, and eating ice cream WAY too much. But for me, it also means I have two kids who are constantly declaring, “I’m telling!” I’ve gotten to a point where I have outlined some guidelines for them to determine if it’s something worth telling me or if it’s just tattling. Probably the biggest struggle, however, comes for my oldest, who is seven. She’s got this pesky little brother who is three, and he pretty much exists in constant trouble. Because of his age (why does noone warn you about threenagers?!?!) and because he is just naturally headstrong, we’ve been forced to pick our battles with him. (If I didn’t, I’d be yelling ALL day.) The problem is that my oldest is still held to her age and personality-appropriate standards, while he is getting off easy in some places that she isn’t. It isn’t fair. Sometimes she notices and even though she’s mature for her age, it’s difficult to explain to her that different kids require different parenting styles, even if they are in the same family. She simply is incapable of understanding that right now. So she’s left feeling wronged and sometimes bitter.
The other day, I read a story in the Bible that reminded me of the current dynamic between my kids. Take a look:
13 Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.
15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) 16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”
17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:13-17 NLT
Going with the Bible study outline I explained in previous posts (Read to Know Basis), we can take a closer look at this text.
What happened?: Jesus invited Levi/Matthew to follow him. Matthew said yes and later invited Jesus and friends to dinner, a dinner that included disreputable sinners. The Pharisees were outraged, but Jesus explained that healthy people don’t need a doctor; sick people do.
Your first reaction?: The interaction that sticks out is the one with the Pharisees. The Pharisees are so stuck in their frame of mind that they probably didn’t even realize Jesus was directly confronting their self-righteousness. He said, “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
How does this apply to Jesus-followers?: This is yet another story where we look at the Pharisees as the bad guys and therefore unrelatable. But if we were devoting our lives to our faith, only to have our God come and scoff at our works while embracing someone who doesn’t seem to even try to live righteously, we would feel wronged. It wouldn’t seem fair. My pastor, Ben Snyder (Cedar Creek Church), explains it like this: “we have to be open-handed to receive,” but the Pharisees hold tight to their beliefs, even though they are inaccurate. Continuing with what Ben teaches: keeping a closed hand, that is, holding tight to what we think we know, prevents us from receiving what God has for us.
What does this tell you about Jesus?: Jesus doesn’t look at things like we do. We see a situation as unfair, but he sees it as just. But we are the ones who need to adjust our thinking. We are wrong. Jesus knows he can work in the hearts of people who are willing to admit they are sinners. To him, that is the first step. Jesus values humility and hates pride.
I think of my conversations with my oldest, trying to explain to her why I am giving grace to her younger brother, that is, why he is getting away with some things that she would be punished for. And the conversation never satisfies her. To a child her age, if it’s not exactly the same, that means it’s not fair. But as a parent, I know it is fair. For example, I don’t let my oldest get away with whining, pouting, or throwing a fit. She is old enough to express herself in different, more effective ways. But for my three year old, I correct him in these behaviors, but I don’t punish it as much because I understand his situation is different than hers. He may not understand what he is feeling, so he might not have the words to be able to express himself in any other way. My daughter thinks I’m being unfair. However, what really would be unfair is if I held both kids to the same standards even though they are 3.5 years apart and have polar opposite personalities.
Jesus is justice. He is the standard for what is fair. If we think something is not fair in how he treats sinners verses believers, we need to recognize that we are like the child that doesn’t understand the parent’s technique. Each of us require a different parenting technique from God, which can change with our circumstances. Jesus can be gentle or firm, straight-forward or mysterious, calm or outraged. He is to each of us exactly what we need. Keep your eyes in your own lane, and trust that Jesus knows how to lead us.
A.j. is a wife and SAHM, an eager follower of Jesus, and a chronically loud-laugher. She loves finding new ways to look at the Bible, in hopes to grow closer to Jesus and to find fresh ways to learn and teach others.
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