My daughter has accused me of being a “softy” when it comes to her dog. Sometimes, I think she thinks I do nothing but feed her dog table scraps. I don’t. That doesn’t quell her dog’s optimism, though. There are some days that she doesn’t so much answer to her name as to the crinkling of what might be a food wrapper. A trip to the kitchen to get a quick snack that includes any kind of wrapping noise is sure to end up with me turning around and seeing this cute chihuahua staring me in the face, demanding that I share my plunder. The family joke is that her picture is on the definition of “optimism.”
Last night, her optimism was rewarded. Most of my family was with us while we ate pizza. Someone started feeding her bits and pieces of their crust. After a while, someone else joined in and she was in dog heaven eating a few table scraps. It’s hard to believe that this story reminded me of a Bible story. Amazingly enough, that story was in my reading today. A woman was seeking healing for her daughter. She wasn’t Jewish and Jesus ignored her until He finally explained why He was ignoring her. “He replied, ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.’ ‘Yes it is, Lord,’ she said. ‘Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’” (Matthew 15:26-27)
I’m going to be honest with you. There is a lot about this story I don’t understand. I can’t understand why Jesus ignored this lady for so long. He ignored her for so long that her continuous pleas for help annoyed the disciples. I can’t understand why the disciples, who had been with Jesus for so long, thought Jesus should send her away, rather than send healing first. I can’t understand why Jesus played the “I was sent to the lost sheep of Israel” card when He explained why He was ignoring her. He had healed many people who were not Jewish previously. The hardest part for me is Jesus calling her a dog. Yeah, that word came to mind, too. Her response, though, pleased Jesus and He healed her daughter. I guess all’s well, that ends well.
I do have a theory about the rationale for the unexplainable parts of this story. I don’t know if it’s right, but check with me in 150 years. I think this woman was notorious for her bad attitudes towards Jewish people. Perhaps she owned Jewish slaves. Perhaps he knew her heart needed this spiritual jiu-jitsu to come to terms with her own prejudice. When Jesus ignored her, He forced her to confront those attitudes. When Jesus talked about giving the children’s bread to dogs, perhaps He was echoing some of the very things she had said either privately or publicly. When she humbled herself, Jesus was willing to deal with her concern. As I said, that is my theory. It may not be correct. Whether or not I’m correct in any way about this troubling story, though, there is some truth in the understanding that we need to confront our own sins and attitudes before Jesus will deal with our concerns. It’s easy to start thinking too highly of ourselves, especially if we compare ourselves to others. Comparisons are fun, because I get to choose the criteria, and those criteria usually involve looking at the weakest sin areas they have and comparing it to my strongest areas. “Look at them. They commit sin A. I would never commit sin A.” Of course, I would never mention how comfortable I am with committing sin B. Nor that I had now added the sin of pride into my life, thinking that I was better than another person. God has reminded me again and again to be careful of my thoughts, attitudes, and words. How would He confront your sin? Are you willing to let Him do that?
Oh Lord, I like to think that my sins aren’t as bad as those of other people, but I know the truth. My sins sent Jesus to the cross also. Help me to confront my sins, confess them to You, and live in Your mercy.