Welcome back to the last five verses of Matthew 12, in which Jesus may or may not dunk on his own family. The Triad study workbook suggested that on day one we read the passage with its context, which we did, and for day two it suggested we read the passage from the perspective of its first-century Jewish listeners, which we did not, because we are a rebel who doesn’t play by the rules. For day three, it recommends we read it from the perspective of Jesus’ family themselves. And we’ve got a post to write, so why not?
I’ve never seen more than ten minutes of Home Alone. In 1990, my parents took my brother and me to see it at the theater, but the first ten minutes were so full of family dysfunction and bad child behavior that Mom and Dad decided to walk us out of it. In particular, my mom took issue on many levels with Macaulay Culkin’s declaration “Families suck.” At the time, Home Alone was the latest hot ticket, and I was profoundly disappointed that my parents had dropped the hammer on it. But to this day, I still haven’t seen the full movie, and I honestly think I’m none the worse for it.
Okay, so last week ended kind of catastrophically. Let’s see if we can get back on our feet. This week we return to the Triad study with Matthew 12:46-50, which the study authors chose to illustrate the theme of “family.” What do you think? Can I go the whole week in this passage without actually addressing the theme of “family?” I kid, but all good jokes have a grain of truth to them.
So, what verse does God’s Little Instruction Book have for us today? It’s none other than Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” And this is one verse where taking a bird’s-eye view of its context will not lend us any particular insight into its meaning. There do exist passages in Proverbs which are not simply successions of maxims and wise sayings, but chapter 16 is not one of them.
Today’s verse from God’s Little Instruction Book is a single simple imperative sentence from Hebrews. As he’s wrapping up his letter, the author writes, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5). If we zoom out and survey the rest of Hebrews 13 for context, we won’t find any additional insights into the struggle between greed and contentment. The verse in question is situated among commands to stay faithful to your spouse and to be kind to strangers and prisoners, and the meat of chapter 13 is encouragement for the Jewish Christians who’ve earned the disdain of their fellow Jews for following a crucified Messiah. Verse five is the only verse about not making your bank account your best bud! So, what we’re going to do instead is zoom out even further and consider the contrast between greed and contentment in the New Testament epistles.
Welcome to the second installment of our new interstitial study, God’s Little Deconstruction Book. The verse from God’s Little Instruction Book for today is 1 Samuel 16:7b, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” It’s part of a larger story that you’re likely familiar with, in which God, having rejected Saul as Israel’s king, leads Samuel to look for a new king to anoint from among Jesse the Bethlehemite’s sons. So as not to draw Saul’s ire, Samuel has a cover story: he comes together with Jesse and his sons to sacrifice a cow to God. And by the end of the tale, of course, Samuel has anointed the youngest son, David.
So every fifth week or so, the Triad study eschews the “passage of the week” format. Instead, it allows time for the Triad to reflect on the unit they’ve just completed, review the passages from the unit, and do a practical application activity together for their weekly meeting. Here on Chocolate Book during these interludes, I suppose I could revisit previous material, but in the interests of keeping things fresh, I want to introduce a new study: God’s Little Deconstruction Book.