When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” Luke 7:9 ESV
When I was a child, prayer was the easiest thing ever. It just made sense. If something is wrong, if you need something, if you’re feeling lonely, just pray. But the older I grew, the more I understood what was going on around me and the more the world began to affect my perspective. Faith became harder. As an adult, it’s so much “easier” to take matters into my own hands – to have faith in myself more than faith in God – and therefore, to act more like Esau than Eleizer; to act more like an outsider than an insider.
I can’t help but notice a consistent contrast in today’s readings – how, in Genesis 24, Eleizer showed great faith in asking God to provide the right woman for him to bring back to his master. He was specific in his prayer, and showed determination to wait. But in chapter 25, we see Esau’s impulsive nature and unwillingness to wait when he traded his birthright for a simple bowl of food.
Eleizer was a servant; an outsider. But Esau was part of the family, the oldest son, the one who should have had the most faith in God and was in the best position to see and experience God at work in his life. And yet Eleizer is the one who actually got to experience God, while Esau showed that he despised the opportunity God had given him.
Fast forward to Luke 7, and again we see amazing faith from an unlikely source – the Roman officer who believed all Jesus needed to do was say the word and his servant would be healed. Jesus marveled at this – not even the Jews had such faith!
The greatest examples of faith came from the outsiders, not the insiders. The “insiders,” the ones who should have immediately believed because they had the promise, instead doubted and questioned and tried to take matters into their own hands.
Luke 7:36-50 shows the result of living out our faith in Christ versus living by faith in ourselves. When we struggle with control, when we try to figure things out for ourselves, and when we live based on what we can see, it’s easy to become bitter – to become, ultimately, a Pharisee. In my life, the quickest way for me to tell when things have gotten off-track is by my attitude toward others. When I become frustrated, impatient, and skeptical of others, it’s a sign that I’m living with a self-centered mindset instead of a Christ-centered mindset.
But when I am attempting to live my life based on faith in Christ, in his power, ability,and promises, my attitudes and actions change dramatically. Rather than a Pharisee, I begin to act more like the woman whose sins had been forgiven. Out of the overflow of her grateful heart, she sacrificed something very precious. Because Jesus was worth it.
My goal is to be more like the woman who poured out what she had at Jesus’ feet; I want to be one who loves much because she’s been forgiven much. I want to be one who trusts what God can do more than what I can do. I want to believe that it just takes a word, and Jesus can make it happen – and I want that belief to move me to wait expectantly.
Father, thank you for loving me enough to show me when I’ve gotten off-track and become self-consumed and trusting in what I can do instead of what you can do. Open my eyes anew to who you are and what you have done for me, and help me to live out of the overflow of a grateful heart. Help me to love much; help me to pray in faith; and help me to wait in hope and confidence that you are at work even when I can’t initially see it. In Jesus’ name, amen.