Luke 15:1-2 (CEV)
1 Tax collectors and sinners were all crowding around to listen to Jesus. 2 So the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses started grumbling, “This man is friendly with sinners. He even eats with them.”
For most of the parents out there, today marks the first day of school. (And for those of you who aren’t parents, we can all relate to ‘first day’ scenarios!)
The first day back to all of the busyness and all of the structure that is both good and hard.
The first day back for some to alarm clocks for the kids and school lunch packing arguments. The first day back to letters home from the school asking for money. The first day back to “don’t be late, you’ll miss the bus” or the first day back to leaving early/late so you can drop your child off on the way to work.
For some kids it’ll also be the First Day – little ones starting Kindergarten or nursery school for the first time. Bigger ones headed into high school. Homeschool kids starting back to public school and public school kids starting home school and kids who have moved just starting at a new school.
And although there’s always that one kid who’s ecstatic about going back to school, for a lot of kids this can just feel completely overwhelming. There’s too much change. No one quite knows what to expect. And there are so many unanswered questions:
“Who’s my teacher going to be?”
“Will my friends be in my class?”
“Will that kid who bullied me still be at the school?”
“Will we be in the school or stuck in a portable?”
Which – at least in some households I know and love – can result in a big of a case of the grumbles. There might be some foot dragging. There might be some taunting and teasing between siblings. Some general misbehaviour.
New, unknown situations leave us as humans feeling pretty unsettled, and that tends to result in us reacting poorly out of our fear.
And that’s exactly what seems to be happening with the Pharisees.
For centuries, you see, they’ve known what the rules were – about purity, about sacrifice and especially about the nature of God. They’ve carefully followed these rules, and they’ve become so familiar with them that they always know where they stand and what’s expected of them.
But Jesus has shown up and it’s like there’s a new teacher at the school who has a completely unusual approach.
No one can make sense of what he does or says. No one knows what to expect when they show up for class. No one is certain, when he asks a question, what he thinks the right answer is.
Caught off guard over and over again, the Pharisees have started grumbling. They don’t like this new teacher and his new-fangled ways. They don’t like the new order of doing things. They don’t like his priorities or his connections or his pedagogical approach.
And so they’re grumbling.
It’s easy, I think, for grumbling to catch. When one kid in the class starts grumbling it might not do much, but get two or three going and before you know it the whole class is letting out huge groans every time the teacher asks them to do anything.
But the problem with grumbling is that all the while you’re grumbling it’s really hard to learn. All the while you’re dragging your heels and thinking about how horrible this teacher is, or how upset you are that your friends aren’t in your class, you’re going to miss out on the lessons the teacher has to offer you. Education is a privilege – especially when it comes from the Holy Spirit – and if you have a teacher that’s turned up ready to teach and ready to help you learn and you grumble your way through the day, you’ve squandered a really precious opportunity.
The alternative to grumbling can feel a bit daunting. The alternative to grumbling can feel a bit like jumping out of a boat into Kempenfelt Bay in early June when the water’s still only 6oC.
The alternative to grumbling is leaning in, listening and choosing to do the work it takes to understand the lesson.
It may be hard at first. It might go against what we expect. But if we want to learn, grumbling will never get us there.Journal Questions:
- Do you ever feel like Jesus is asking you to learn things that are just too hard?
- Or that the Holy Spirit has some really unusual ways of teaching you things?
- Do you ever find yourself grumbling about the lessons Jesus is preparing for you?
- Do you ever find yourself wishing for the ‘good old days’ when you knew the rules and it was ‘easy’?
- Has grumbling become a habit for you? Is it getting in the way of your learning?
- Is there someone close to you or someone you follow online whose grumbling is rubbing off on you?
- Do you need to ask to ‘switch desks’ for a while so that you can concentrate better? Or do you have a role to play in helping that person see the good in the lesson in front of you?