DayBreaks for 7/13/16 – The Day Jesus Met the Lawyer
The parable of the Good Samaritan arises out of a discussion between Jesus and a Pharisee. Please understand that the Pharisees were more than just religious folk – they were the lawyers of their time, so here we see a religious lawyer asking Jesus a question on the nature of the law. Luke sets the stage this way: Behold a lawyer stood up to put him to the test.
Do you get it? It’s a trick question! I am sure it’s not the first time and won’t be the last time that a lawyer poses a trick question. It was the kind of question in which any kind of an answer would pose still further problems (such as the proverbial “Have you stopped kicking your dog yet?” question – there is no way to succeed with a question phrased in that way.) So, here’s the test question: Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life. Now right away we know that this man was a Pharisee, because the Pharisees believed in eternal life and the Sadducees did not. Jesus could tell that this man was an astute student of the law so he asked him: What is written? In other words, use your own mind to discern the essence of the law. Jesus, like a good discussion leader, throws the question right back in his lap.
The lawyer has a good answer. He said: You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul and mind and strength and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. This was a direct quote from Deuteronomy 6. It was part of the Shema, a confession regularly made in Jewish worship. Jesus says: “Excellent. You are correct.” If he were a teacher I suppose he would have said: “You get A+.” Jesus is saying he has no issue with that answer. Do this and you shall live. You have not only penetrated to the essence of the law but you have worded it succinctly.
The question had been asked and the answer given. You would think that the man would be pleased and go home. But lawyers are never happy. A lawyer’s responsibility is to define the limits of liability. “But he, desiring to justify himself, asked ‘Who is my neighbor.'” In other words, where does my responsibility stop? Who exactly am I responsible for?”
Therein is a clue to the heart of a Pharisee (including modern-day Christian Pharisee’s): we want to know how far we are required to go, how much (or more properly, how little) is required of us. It is an indicator of a heart that isn’t totally sold out to God or His will.
When God has asked you for something such as obedience to His word and commands, do you in your mind and heart start a lawyerly discussion with God to press the issue to know how far you really have to go in obedience? If so, that may be an indicator that you’d be a good lawyer…and a Pharisee.
We are all pharisaical from time to time, but if we find ourselves asking these kind of defining questions instead of simply saying, “Yes, Lord and Master!” we may be much bigger Pharisees than we want to believe.
PRAYER: Jesus, I know there are parts of my life where I want to get away with doing as little as I can in response to your leading. Help me be more fully sold out to you and less of a Pharisee! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple. All rights reserved.