I was reading Peter’s religion lesson to him last week and was really struck by what I was reading.
“Which should I want to have? Is it better for me to be rich or to be poor? Is it better to be healthy or ill? You may say I know the answer to that; of course it’s better to be healthy and rich! But wait a minute. Here is a different question: which is the best train to take from London if you want to go to Liverpool? Why, the train that goes there, I suppose! And if there are many, then the train that goes the quickest and straightest way.”
The premise of that exercise was to show that the most important thing in life is to love God, and that looks differently for each individual.
This reminded me of the rich young man in the gospel who walked away in sadness when Jesus told him to sell everything and come follow him. Jesus didn’t ask that of everyone- Joseph of Arimathea was certainly rich and still followed Our Lord. Our life circumstances aren’t what makes us more or less holy, but our obedience. The rich young man wasn’t obedient to Jesus when he asked him to sell his nice things. He had made a false god out of them and didn’t want to give up that idol.
Jesus made several references to becoming child-like in the gospel. A child should be docile and obedient to the commands of their parents… in theory… my kids are the exception here…
They have an open mind, and eagerly await direction and counsel. They don’t question their parents or authority but go where they are led. This is where we adults go wrong. You can’t tell us what to do, even if you are Jesus Christ! We are in charge of our destiny. We are in charge of our current situation. We are in charge of everything, thank you very much!
Our obsession with control gets us into a lot of trouble. We are timid when we should be bold because it is easier to keep the peace than rock the boat. Our need to control the situation and not cause necessary confrontation could have caused a grave injustice. The opposite is also true- speaking out to cause verbal abuse when we should have kept quiet so that we could cause what we unjustly thought the other person deserved.
We want to control every environment we step foot in, every conversation we enter and every person we interact with. Last time I checked, control is NOT a virtue! In fact, it is a clever disguise of the greatest of the deadly sins- pride.
Let’s chat about and ponder the words in Matthew’s gospel about unforgiving servant.
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold[b] was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” -Matthew 18:21-35
The servant so reverently prostrates himself at the feet of his master, who is moved with pity by his dramatic actions. But that servant is an incredible actor and immediately turns around and with the two hands that moments before were pressed to the ground in a humble gesture, are now gripped around the throat of a fellow servant whose crime is much less than his own. The hypocrisy! Do you see how he manipulates and controls each situation?
It is so easy to get angry with him! How dare he! Yet how many times have I held a grudge against someone over something ridiculously petty, but asked God to forgive me for something terrible that I had done?
It’s time to give up our control- to hand over the reins. We are tired from obsessively controlling things- let’s just rest and let the Lord lead. We may not know where we are going when we blindly take His hand. We may not know why we are going a certain way, or even how we are going to get there. But just think of the rich young man from earlier, his unwillingness to give up his worldly possessions cost him an eternity of a treasure of unimaginable price. To become child-like IS worth it.