Damned if you Do and Damned if you Don’t

(Matthew 11:16-19)

In this section Jesus showed that as a Christian sometimes you would never be able to please people. He had just been speaking about John the Baptist, commenting that among those born of women there was no one greater then John.

Now John was a rough and rustic sort of an individual. He wore clothes made of camel hair, ate only locusts and wild honey and drank only water. This was covered in my post yesterday, which may be worth a look if you have not already seen it. The people of the time falsely said of John, “He has a demon,” (vs. 18) for he came neither eating normal foods nor drinking wine. But when Jesus came we see he describes himself as one who came both eating and drinking. Still the people were not satisfied and found fault, for they falsely said of him, “Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” (Vs. 19)

It was clearly a case of being damned if you do and damned if you don’t. He compared that generation to children playing in a marketplace. When he said, “We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn,” (Vs. 17) he is showing that they were behaving like children. Sometimes you see children gathered together and some just will not play with others regardless of what they do. They try to do one thing and get no response, then try the opposite or something else with no response. This is what that generation of Jesus time were doing. Whether John or Jesus came and spoke to the religious people of the time, they would not go along to learn from them. Neither John who was somewhat eccentric by appearance, nor Jesus who was a man of the people, it made no difference for the religious leaders of the time rejected both of them.

Then at the end of the section Jesus makes an interesting statement about both himself and John. He says, “Wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Vs. 19) What a person does is an indicator of their wisdom. In the case of eating and drinking as Jesus was applying in this section to himself and John, wisdom would suggest that there are things different people should do and others not do. An alcoholic for instance should not drink. That is wisdom for them. A person with food allergies should not eat certain foods. That is wisdom for them. A person prone to anger or violence should not go into places and situations that will trigger these emotions. That is wisdom for them. And there are many other similar examples that could be given.

Wisdom is not some strange, unimaginable, ethereal, untouchable thing as often promoted in television and certain movies. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. It is about learning good things and then applying that knowledge in your life circumstance. Even the simplest person who applies the knowledge that they have to live a better, more peaceful life with less stress and tension is using wisdom. James showed that wisdom is about how you live your life when he wrote, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” (James 3:13) Solomon spoke of wisdom in the book of Proverbs many times saying to seek it like silver and to guard it as it would guard and protect you.

True wisdom comes down from God and it is greater than any wisdom of man, for again James wrote, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity.” (James 3:17) If we seek him and follow in the ways of Jesus then we too may find the true wisdom of God. But we must also recognise that even if we do, others will judge us falsely as they did John the Baptist and Jesus, even though both were teaching the truth. There will always be opposition to the Lord and his people. Knowing this is wisdom too; as it gives you leave to move on where you are not welcomed rather than banging your head against a wall.

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