Today’s reading: Matthew 19:16-20:34
I wish I could say my first exposure to the story in Matthew 19:16-30 was from church, Bible study, or the over five years of Catholic school I had attended at the time I was first introduced to it. But no, it is from Saturday Night Live (SNL). During my middle and high school years, I was an SNL super fan. I would record the new episode and watch it Sunday morning before church because I was not allowed to stay up until 1 AM. I would also take advantage of reruns on Comedy Central and trips to The Paley Center for Media (at the time called the Museum of Television and Radio) in New York City to see past episodes. On one of the reruns I saw a skit for the fictional Heyward Foundation. The foundation’s president, billionaire John W. Heyward, was determined to find a way to make a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, and hired scientists to see to it that this goal was achieved. He discovered the Bible and wanted to make sure he could keep his billions and ensure his place in Heaven.
How often do we, like Mr. Heyward, wish the Bible said something different than it actually does, so we can simultaneously continue in our present ways and feel like we are living according to God’s will? If the Bible were like the choose your own adventure-type books I read in elementary school, where you turn to one of two pages to continue the story (and can cheat by going to the page you did not initially choose if you did not like the storyline on the first page), the Bible would lose its power. As Jesus says in Matthew 7:21, only those who do the will of God will enter the kingdom of heaven. God’s will, which can be found in the Bible, a book whose accuracy has been proven by historians; archaeologists; and Biblical scholars, cannot be altered by fallible human beings intent on finding something in the Bible to validate their current way of life.
The other passages in today’s reading are further examples of how what is actually contained in the Bible may not be what we would have placed into the Bible if we wrote it. In the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, all workers, regardless of what time they were hired, received the same amount of money for their labor that day. In a different passage, in response to James and John’s mother’s request that her sons should sit on each side of Jesus in his kingdom, Jesus makes it clear that earthly greatness and kingdom greatness are not the same. Earthly greatness emphasizes money and power, whereas kingdom greatness emphasizes humility and servant-hood.
Mr. Heyward, a man so consumed by his earthly greatness he misses the point of the story in Matthew 19:16-30, is one (albeit fictional) example of how it is impossible for us to modify what is stated in the Bible so it conforms to our wishes. We have to place our trust in the One who gave us this book and use it to live according to His will.
How would you respond to someone who says the Bible is a way to live rather than the way to live?
What are some difficulties to living the way Jesus tells us we should live in the Bible?
What are some examples of how earthly greatness is more valued than kingdom greatness in our society?
How have media portrayals of stories in the Bible, accurate or otherwise, affected your interpretation of specific passages?
Ok, put down the Bible and go do it!