Starting With The Right Question

I want to begin this post with a little bit of scripture:

25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read?” 27 And he answered, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.”

29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, 34 and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

(Luke 10:25-37)

Here we have the classic parable of the good Samaritan. I’m sure most of my readers are quite familiar with it. My purpose in mentioning this parable is to examine the lawyer.

You see, the lawyer asks two questions. The first one is good, and I think, honest. The second question is an entirely different matter, however.

When the lawyer asked Jesus “who is my neighbor?”, what do we think his purpose was?

Was the lawyer trying to ensure that he lived out God’s law to the fullest? Did he ask the question ensure he didn’t miss anyone?

Of course not. Scripture tells us that he was looking to justify himself. The lawyer wasn’t asking Jesus that question in order to get what I suppose you could call an “expansive” answer. Rather, the lawyer was trying to use whatever criteria that Jesus mentioned in order to limit those whom he would treat as a neighbor. He didn’t want lots of neighbors, he wanted as few of them as possible. Hence the question.

His goal was to restrict the amount of love he had to show his fellow man. In other words, the lawyer wanted to be miserly with love. And he was counting on Jesus to help him out with this (boy was he in for a surprise).

In short, the lawyer’s heart wasn’t in the right place from the very beginning. And so his question was wrong from the very beginning. A better question, rather than “And who is my neighbor?”, would have been “How can I live out the law to the fullest?” Such a question comes from a heart that is aligned to God.

Whenever we ask a question which concerns living out our faith, we always need to ask it when our heart is in the right place. If God is not first and foremost there- if serving and loving him totally is not our aim and purpose- then our endeavor is corrupt from the start. Whatever comes of it will invariably be twisted in some way.

I mention all of this because Deep Strength has a couple of recent posts concerning submission in marriage: The problems with intelligent submission being the first, and Wifely submission is easy being the second. Both of these posts draw as their origin a simple enough question: “When should I obey my husband?”

It is my belief that this particular question, just like the question of the lawyer, comes from the wrong place in the heart (perhaps intentionally, perhaps unintentionally) . Its purpose is not “How can I live out the law to the fullest?” Rather, the purpose is to limit obedience, to limit that which must be rendered to another. Much in the same way that the lawyer wanted to limit how much love he had to render to his fellow man.

A better question, one arising from a heart aligned with God, would be more along these lines: “Which action now available to me would be most pleasing to God?” Otherwise stated, “What action would be most loving?”

 

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9 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Churchianity, God, Marriage, Moral Agency, Sin, Temptation, Women

9 responses to “Starting With The Right Question

  1. Pingback: It’s All About Your Heart – BlendingAme

  2. Stretching this a little:

    For husbands: What actions would be most loving to our wives?
    For wives: What actions would be most respectful, submissive and of help to our husbands?

  3. @ Choking

    The Bible describes the ways:

    Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church [q]in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she [r]respects her husband.

    Col 3:19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.

    1 Pet 3:7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with [c]someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

    Husbands — don’t be embittered, be understanding, treat her with honor, love her as yourself (x3)

    Eph 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. […] 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she [r]respects her husband.

    Tit 2:4 so that they may [b]encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

    1 Pet 3:1 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and [a]respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right [b]without being frightened by any fear.

    Wives — submit, respect, love husband and children, pure, kind, chaste and respectful behavior, gentle and quiet spirit

    Obviously, for both the fruits of the Spirit.

    It’s really simple to do, but it is so hard because humans like to test the limits in a bad way.

  4. Yes, “When should I obey my husband?” is a question steeped in rebellion and a heart turned toward self. Marriage and motherhood are not the place for a woman primarily interested in preserving her dignity.

    “Which action now available to me would be most pleasing to God?” Otherwise stated, “What action would be most loving?” You nailed that with just a few words, Donal. That’s usually how truth works.

  5. MK

    “When should I obey my husband?”…my belief this comes from the wrong place…the purpose is to limit obedience

    It’s really about the belief in one flesh. The lawyer wanted to limit unity; spouses want to limit theirs (in both obedience & permanence).

    It applies to Church as well. Jesus didn’t call himself the “bridegroom” by accident. “When should I obey the Church?” is from the exact place.

  6. Jonadab-the-Rechabite

    Bravo – the heart is the heart of the rebellion.

    MK – that is well said.

    If a wife is asking when should I submit to my husband or the inverse when do I not have to submit is akin to the church asking when do we not have to submit to Christ or when can we disobey.

    It is also the same rebellion as a husband asking when does he not have to love his wife, when can he not protect her, when can he not provide for his own. Or even more expansive, but of the same species of rebellion, when can I murder, steal, lie, blaspheme, worship another God of my own imagination or when can I sleep with another man’s wife and when is obedience optional.

    The right question is what can I do to love more, submit to Christ more and obey from the heart more. If I am looking for the exception I am by definition looking for less not more.

  7. @ Jonadab

    The right question is what can I do to love more, submit to Christ more and obey from the heart more. If I am looking for the exception I am by definition looking for less not more.

    Well said.

  8. Lost Patrol

    @Jonadab

    Your examples also highlight a potential issue with the marriage ‘complimentarians’ I am learning more about (at Dalrock). The platform is “husband’s loving, humble headship” and “wife’s intelligent, willing submission.” The qualifying word “intelligent” sounds like what you are describing. How can I think this over, evaluate the situation at hand, do the least amount possible to check the box without over committing? That is how I read it between the lines. I could be wrong.

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