What the Bible Says About Food – 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 – “Everything is Permissible, but not Everything is Helpful”

What does the Bible say about food

Thank you for joining me in this search of what the Bible says about food. If you missed the introduction, click here, the first lesson (“Do Not Worry about What You Will Eat”), click here, the second lesson (“Do Not Labor for Food that Perishes”) click here, or the third lesson (“He Declared All Foods Clean”), click here.

Let’s dig in:

Today’s verse:

Everything is permissible for me,” but not everything is helpful. “Everything is permissible for me,” but I will not be brought under the control of anything. “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food,” but God will do away with both of them. – 1 Corinthians 6:12-13

In context: Paul is using these verses to set up talking about sexual immorality and how our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Verse 18 says, “every other sin a person commits outside the body” except sexual immorality.

My Thoughts: Have you ever wondered if your food choices were sin? I’m not talking about gluttony or being enslaved to food (in that case the actions are a reflection of a sinful heart condition, not the act of eating itself – in my opinion). I’m talking instead about eating the frozen chicken nuggets or the mac & cheese. I have often wondered, where should I draw the line?

For me, this passage tells me that eating certain foods are not sins against the body. What goes into our mouth does not defile us in and of itself (Matthew 15:11).

But verse 12 also says that not everything is helpful. Perhaps in my eating choices I should not look as much toward avoiding certain foods as much as looking to choose food that is beneficial to my body. But I also understand that if I choose the frozen chicken nuggets one day when I’m in a hurry that I’m not sinning. I simply haven’t chosen what was most beneficial.

Another thing we see in these verses is that eating can become a sin issue when we’re enslaved by it.

We could be enslaved by unhealthy habits. We eat more than our bodies need (the Bible condemns gluttony a couple dozen times). We eat for comfort. We’re addicted to certain foods. We habitually choose the easy, processed foods because preparing whole foods takes too much time that we don’t think we have (raising my hand here).

But perhaps could some of us be enslaved by healthy habits, too? In our hearts, our healthy eating can become an idol itself when we chase after it above all else. We can become enslaved to worry with what we cannot afford to grow ourselves or buy organic.

We can also become so tied up in growing our own food that it leaves us little time to invest in the lives of those around us. I do often wonder, is God pleased that I’ve got this enormous garden that takes up a lot of time? Wouldn’t he prefer my time be more free to serve and invest in the lives of others? Just thinking out loud here.

So, what is the answer? I think it’s an individual one. God knows my tendency to be both enslaved by unhealthy habits and to be enslaved by chasing after healthy ones. And he knows yours. We both should allow God’s word to examine our hearts in this matter – and be ready to surrender to the direction he is leading us.

Chime in: Do you have a tendency to be enslaved to unhealthy or healthy eating habits?

Reflect: How can you put into practice making more “beneficial” choices in what you eat, without becoming enslaved in one area or the other?


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What the Bible Says About Food – Mark 7:19 – “He Declared All Foods Clean”

What does the Bible say about food

Thank you for joining me in this search of what the Bible says about food. If you missed the introduction, click here, the first lesson (“Do Not Worry about What You Will Eat”), click here, or the second lesson (“Do Not Labor for Food that Perishes”) click here.

Let’s dig in:

Today’s verse:

And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”(Thus he declared all foods clean.) Mark 7:18-19 ESV

In context: The Pharisees taught that what a person does or eats or allows to enter his body (in this passage through not washing hands before eating) affects a person’s spiritual state, making him unclean. Jesus countered and said that nothing outside a person going into him defiles him. Only what is in the heart defiles a person.

My Thoughts: I don’t think this passage gives permission to eat anything indiscriminately. The point is that what I eat will not affect whether I am right with God spiritually.

I’ve seen too many “real food” blogs in the name of Jesus imply that our eating organic, whole foods is a sign of some sort of righteousness. They don’t say that, of course, but the undertones are definitely there. And I don’t think it’s purposeful. Attempts to please God through what we do is not new. The Pharisees did it and took it to a self-righteous extreme. But even those with the purest of hearts in the New Testament asked Jesus “What must we do?” (Luke 3:10, John 6:28)

It’s much easier to check “take care of my body” off my righteous checkbox than to live resting knowing Jesus IS our righteousness and he is enough.

We know God created these bodies and called them good. We know God created whole foods and called them good. We know God knows what makes our bodies work most efficiently.

I have a desire to take care of my body so I can be healthy into my sunset years simply to be able to serve God all the more. There is nothing wrong with that.

But we can very easily slip into this prideful existence where we are “above” those who choose to eat Cheetos and Coke for lunch.  We can begin to look down on those with medical conditions typically caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. All of this pride slips slowly and undetectably because it starts with good intentions.

Isn’t that how the crafty serpent has always worked?

There’s this unfortunate chasm that is separating the “haves” and the “have-nots” once again. The “haves” can afford to eat healthy, and the “have-nots” are thankful when there’s food on the table. With which would Jesus be most pleased? A plate full of roasted organic veggies on the table of a person prideful in her ability to grow or buy it, or a bowl of Ramen Noodles on the table of the person who was thankful to God for the quarter He provided to buy that meal?

I think his reaction would be the same as it was to the Pharisees in Mark 7.

Chime in: How can we balance trying to make healthy choices while not looking down on those who do not? Do you struggle with not being able to afford to eat as healthy as you’d like? How does this verse give us the freedom to know that we aren’t less right with God based on what we eat?

Reflect: What is your first thought when you’re in line to check groceries out and next to you is a person with a basket full of cheap, unhealthy food? Is it judgment? Or is it compassion?


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What the Bible Says About Food – John 6:27- “Do Not Labor for Food That Perishes”

What does the Bible say about food

Thank you for joining me in this search of what the Bible says about food. If you missed the introduction, click here, or the first lesson (“Do Not Worry about What You Will Eat”), click here.

Let’s dig in:

Today’s verse:

“Don’t work for the food that perishes but for the food that lasts for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal of approval on Him.” John 6:27 HCSB

In context: Jesus had just fed the 5,000 and the people were seeking him to get more food. He spent a great amount of time telling them that he is the bread of life and their true needs would be met by trusting in him. Verses 49 and 58 reiterate that their ancestors ate manna in the desert provided by God and still died. Jesus, in this passage, continually squelched their concern for tangible food and pointed them to their true need of him.

Apply: This passage teaches that we are not to spend the focus of our energy laboring for physical food in comparison to seeking Jesus and laboring for Kingdom purposes. Jesus didn’t even acknowledge their physical need in this particular passage.

Question:

  1. Does this mean I am not to “labor” for organic food?
  2. If I had extra money in my budget, does this tell me I should put it toward something of spiritual value and not spend extra on organic?

My Thoughts: Last week I canned quarts of spaghetti sauce using tomatoes, garlic, basil, and oregano from my garden. With the exception of a few ingredients, you might consider it “organic.”

But technically, growing my own food is labor, as is working at any job that provides money to purchase food. We all need food.  So what should we make of this passage?

The key to understanding this passage is realizing that Jesus is making a comparison. Labor in itself isn’t considered something to be avoided. In several parables, Jesus implies that work is good (Matt. 21:28, Matt. 25:16), Paul himself worked in order to spare others from having to provide for him (Acts 18:3, 1 Cor. 4:12, 2 Thess. 3:8), and believers are commanded to work to provide for their own needs and the needs of others (Eph. 4:28, 2 Thess. 3:10).

As you can see, other Scripture shows us that laboring for food isn’t to be avoided, which underscores that the intent of the current passage is to draw a comparison.

The question Christians must ask ourselves is this: Am I more concerned with the quality of my food or of advancing the kingdom of God? It is so easy to let fear drive our choices. It’s easy to make our quest for healthy eating (in the name of “temple maintenance” – a verse we’ll study later that I believe has been taken out of context in many of the real food discussions) yet not quest to be spiritually cleansed by the washing of the Spirit in our lives.

It’s easy to concern ourselves so much with healthy eating yet not seek to be spiritually cleansed by the washing of the Spirit in our lives.

Here’s a quick “heart-check” that might help us bring this passage to light in our lives:

  • Do we make time to cook from scratch but don’t make time for Bible reading and prayer each day?
  • Do we stretch our grocery budget to accommodate more expensive organic food but don’t give the first portion of our income to our local church or stretch our pocketbook to give to the needy?
  • Do we spend more energy worrying about what food goes into your body than we do what media influences we consume that taint our minds?
  • Does our fear over what we eat outweigh our trust in God’s sovereignty over our lives?

And for those who have not surrendered their lives to Jesus, the point of this passage is even more clear. Food, like our bodies, will perish. But Jesus is the spiritual food that when we “feast” on Him (accept his sacrifice for our sins that lead to spiritual death), we will have life that never ends.

Chime in: So, regarding the questions I posed above, should I pay a premium price at the grocery store for an organic apple? Or should I choose to buy grass-fed beef compared to the cheaper beef that was not raised the way God intended (see Food, Inc. for more details on this)? What do you think? Do you think this verse applies to the food we put in our grocery cart?

Reflect: Am I “laboring” more for food that perishes or for the kingdom of God?


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What the Bible Says About Food – Matthew 6:25 – “Don’t Worry…About What You Will Eat”

What does the Bible say about food

Let’s get one thing out of the way. I don’t know all there is to know about this subject. I’m still searching myself in many areas, but I know that wisdom begins with God (Proverbs 2:6, James 1:5). I may never know all I need to know, but prayerfully searching Scripture is the only way to start. (If you haven’t read the first post in this series on why I’m even studying this topic, click here.)

Format: In each of these posts, I’ll share a Scripture, the context of that Scripture, an application, and any questions that came up in my personal study.

My request of you: Please chime in! If you have a thought on one of my questions, I really want to hear it! If you have questions of your own, please share! This is a journey we’re all on together.

Let’s dig in:

Today’s verse:

“This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Matthew 6:25 HCSB

In context: Jesus is teaching about not seeking money and how you can’t serve God and money. Then he gives the example of how the birds are fed by God. In verse 31-32 it says again, “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Then verse 33 says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” and verse 34 says, “Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (HCSB)

Background: Most people of this time had very little and were dependent on seasonal rains for their food. Compared to most of us, they had much more reason to worry. Long-term health wasn’t even an issue on their minds when having any food at all was in question from year to year. Most of us cannot fathom this, yet Jesus told them not to worry.

Apply:

  1. The kingdom of God is top priority.
  2. God knows better than anyone what our bodies need.
  3. He will supply those needs.
  4. He doesn’t want us to worry about what tomorrow may bring (illness, etc.)

Question: In seeking first the kingdom of God, is it not logical to want a healthy body to be able to do that work for as long as possible?

Chime in: What are your thoughts on this Scripture? Why do you think Jesus called those who worry about their physical needs idolaters?


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Fear: My Constant Companion (An Introduction to What the Bible Says About Food)

What does the Bible say about food

I’ve never been a fearful person. But lately, it seems that fear has been creeping into my thoughts, ever so slyly.

Maybe it’s because I’m in my mid-30s now and I’m having a hard time coming to grips with slight changes in my body and stamina.

Maybe it’s because despite my effort for our family to eat healthier, I’ve only taken baby steps. Mac & cheese and processed chicken nuggets are staples in our house. We don’t buy organic most of the time and I don’t think our removal of margarine or nitrate-laden hot dogs make up for the processed products that line our pantry shelves. I know many of the facts about the food we eat, facts that are downright frightening.

Maybe it’s because I watched my father-in-law battle and lose a fight with cancer far too young and I’m currently watching my mom battle cancer as well.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen lives turned upside down due to an unseen diagnosis, no matter how healthy they were.

My heart vacillates between a trust that God has it all under control and a desire to make changes to ensure a healthier temple to serve Him.

And there’s the reality that if I decided for my family to eat as healthy as possible, our grocery bill would double. Surely with so many people in the world and our country and our city going hungry, God wouldn’t want us to pony up the extra money it would take to eat healthy when that money could go to helping others whose bellies are literally empty?

Yet the health crisis in our country clearly points to our diets in many cases (not all, of course). Regarding this wide scale trend, do we not reap what we sow? When we as Americans begin changing the way God made our food to grow (think: GMOs), will not the natural course of these actions produce illness? The tsunami of health issues hasn’t even come on our radar. It will be my generation and even more so my children’s generation that will bear the brunt.

It frightens me.

The New Testament has a lot, actually, to say about food. In fact, I was so riddled with this topic two years ago that I did an in-depth study on food in the New Testament myself. In skimming my notes, I realized I need to go back to the Word.

My fear is a red flag that something isn’t right. My God has not given me a spirit of fear but one of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) That’s where I have to start, by training my mind with the timeless word of God.

Join with me over the next few weeks as I share with you my personal journey through the New Testament (and some in the Old) on what the Scripture says about food. I don’t have all the answers; in fact, my personal study included a verse or passage, application, and questions that I haven’t answered yet. I hope you’ll chime in as we explore God’s word in this difficult area together.

What about you? Do you struggle in these areas as well?


 

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Serve Session 5: What Trumps Serving

ALL TO ACTIONIn this second session on diakoneo, we look at what is viewed in Scripture as more important than serving others.

As you view the video, consider the following questions:

1. Do you tend to get more irritable when serving others having not spent time with Jesus? Can you tell a difference in your spirit when you serve others after having spent time with him?

2. What do you feel more gifted in: preaching of the Word or serving practical needs? In considering the example in Acts 7, how can you use this model to keep the priority of the Word of utmost importance while still valuing the critical work of serving?

3. Do you know your spiritual gift(s)? How are you using it(them) to serve others as referenced in 1 Peter 4:10-11?


View previous Serve lessons here.


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Coming June 9th! Summer in the Vine Bible reading series!  Click here to sign up for summer devotionals straight to your inbox!

Summer(1)

A Fruitful Summer for the Busy Mom

Summer(3)

Do you want to have a fruitful summer? Last year, as a recent stay-at-home mom, having a fruitful summer was the last thing on my mind.  I was simply aiming to survive the summer with a 6 and 2 year old.  This year, with a little more experience under my belt, I’m a little more relaxed.  I’m still making the chore charts and the daily schedule to provide some structure and routine, but I’m more focused on making this summer fruitful.

The fruitful summer I’m hoping for is one that isn’t too noticeable immediately.  I’m not looking to take the most exquisite vacations or entertain my kids in the best way possible or even take the “high road” by not allowing electronic devices.  Instead, I’m hoping to make this summer fruitful in my heart and in the hearts of my children.

This is not going to happen by reading the most inspiring blog post or the best parenting book or by checking off a list of “good mommy” to-do’s.

It’s going to happen by staying connected to the Vine.  Only through a desperately dependent, hopeless-without-it relationship with Jesus will I ever have the strength and wisdom to parent my children well this summer.  Even then, I’m well aware how quickly I can succumb to failure, but I’m ready to accept grace and model it, teaching forgiveness by asking for it.

Summer is when it’s the easiest to get lazy in my relationship with God.  If we don’t have to be anywhere early, it’s tempting to sleep in instead of arise for my time with him.  But I know through too many bad days that neglecting my relationship with God simply isn’t an option if I’m going to minister to and love my children this summer.

Can you relate?

I have a feeling many of us moms are in the same boat, even if we’re not home with children. Schedules change for working moms as well.  When I was a working mom I spent more time with my kids over the summer because of vacations, long weekends, and decreased scheduled commitment.

If you want to stay connected with God and his Word this summer, may I invite you to join the Summer in the Vine Bible reading and devotional plan?  All it takes is your email address and you’ll receive a Bible reading plan and devotionals straight to your inbox.  You can structure your time with God based on your individual schedule, but that regular email will provide an opportunity for daily time with God.

The Bible reading plans and devotionals will be catered to a busy summer schedule (which means they will be short).  You’ll hear from Karen Jordan, Mandy Kilbourn, Cynthia McCutcheon, Sandra Hardage, and myself on topics that are unique to our interests.

The first email goes out Monday, June 9th. Click here to sign up and stay connected to the Vine!


 

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4 Ways to Stay Connected with Jesus this Summer

4 Ways to Stay Connected with Jesus This(1)Ahh, summer.  For some of us life slows down, for others it speeds up.  Whether we’re juggling children home on summer vacation or have a jam-packed schedule of family activities (or both!), summer is a time when it’s natural for our relationship with God to slip to the back burner of our lives.

I’ve been there.  We long to be more connected with Christ than ever, but the lack of a structured routine inevitably puts a kink into those desires.  Before we know it we can go days – or weeks – without cracking our Bible open or saying a prayer longer than a few words.

If we really desire not to let our relationship with Jesus become a casualty to the busyness of summer, we must have a plan in place before the summer chaos overwhelms us.

1. Commit to daily time with God, no matter when or where.  If your summer is busy, it’s probably not the time to do to an in-depth Bible study.  We want to be realistic and set goals that are attainable.

If you and your kids are home and arising before they do isn’t realistic for you (though I highly recommend it!), be creative.  Enforce a “rest time” in the afternoon and read a Scripture and pray for 15 or 30 minutes.  Set aside a weekday morning TV time for the kids while you get in your time with God.  Do a family devotional together at lunch.

2. Have a plan and an accountability partner.  Even the greatest of intentions fall by the wayside if we don’t have a specific plan in place.  Choose a daily Bible reading plan in your YouVersion app on your phone.  Choose a book of the Bible to read.  Purchase a new devotional. Or sign up to receive the Summer in the Vine daily Bible reading plan with devotionals tailored just for the busyness of summer. (Several other writers and I are coming together to create this project, and I invite you to join!)

Next, ask a friend to either do the same plan with you and keep each other accountable, or simply ask a friend to check in with you to make sure you’re staying with it.  Having that accountability can make the difference between staying on track or veering off.

3. Schedule summer activities around church whenever possible.   We’re told in Hebrews 10:25 not to neglect meeting together with other believers.  The reason for that isn’t some legalistic regulation.  We are always the most encouraged in our walks with God when we are meeting with believers in our local fellowship.

I’ll never forget that our family very rarely planned our vacation on a Sunday when I was growing up.  We worked our vacation around church whenever possible.  Our local church was a priority. Don’t be legalistic about it; just seek to make plans around church when possible.

One more thing…if attending worship and Bible study isn’t a priority in the summer, your kids will notice.  Do you want them to prioritize their relationship with God when they are adults? Then show them that you prioritize church now.  Doing this also shows respect for the teachers and pastors who continue to serve in the summer when attendance usually declines.

4. Attend a small group Bible study, even online.  Many local churches take breaks from their normal small group Bible studies over the summer.  If that’s the case with your church, seek out another Bible-believing group to plug into.  You will meet new friends and stay connected in the Word.

If you choose to do the Summer in the Vine online Bible reading plan, we plan to offer a Facebook group for anyone interested in discussion with each other.

~

Our relationship with Jesus should always be priority no matter what time of year it is.  But summer presents its own challenges.  Be proactive and seek God’s guidance in prayer.  With a plan in place, may this be the best summer of spiritual growth ever.


Summer(1)Coming June 9th! Summer in the Vine Bible reading series!  Sign up to receive a summer Bible reading plan plus devotionals straight to your inbox!

View the topics and get more information on the Summer in the Vine series here

 


 

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Situation 5: Jesus on Trial


Situation 5:  Jesus on Trial
(Matthew 26:57-68, Mark 14:53-62, Matthew 27:11-14, Mark 15:1-5, Luke 23:1-3, John 18:28-38)

Who questioned him: the chief priest (Caiaphas) and the governor (Pilate)
What they asked: (1) for him to respond to his accusers and (2) if he is the Son of God or the King of the Jews
Why this was significant:  By appearances, his answers may have determined his fate.
Jesus’ response: He ignored one set of questions but responded candidly to another

Jesus did not answer the false accusers, but he did answer the question about whether he was the Christ, the Son of God.  His reply, “you have said so,” is simply an affirmation according to the sources I read.  In other words, Jesus did not feel compelled to reply to the petty arguments, but he was not going to remain silent on the most important question of all.

What does that tell me?  I should not rush to get up in arms over more frivolous issues, particularly if the debate is full of untruths.  However, I should never, ever, back down from affirming the identity of Jesus Christ, as the ONLY salvation of our souls.

That’s what the world wants us to do.  They’re okay with our beliefs, as long as we accept others’ beliefs as meriting just as much consideration as our own.  But that is not the example Jesus set.  He made it clear that he is the only way to salvation.  Many believe this assertion – by him or by his followers – is unloving, but in fact, to be silent is actually the most unloving action possible.

Think about it.  If the one you loved was dying of an incurable disease and you knew of the ONLY cure, would it be loving to tell them that any medicine would help?  No! You would tell them about the cure even at the expense of your own life.  That’s what Jesus did.  And that’s what we’re called to do.

We are all dying of an incurable disease of sin, and the Bible is clear that the only cure is through Jesus Christ. Without that cure, we are destined to an eternity separated from God. (Interestingly, Jesus talks about the wrath of hell more times than he does about heaven. Consider this: if there weren’t a hell to be saved from, then why would he go through the agony of crucifixion for us?)

The Bottom Line: While sometimes we Christians get sidetracked debating the “other issues,” Jesus set the ultimate example that we are to keep first things first.   I have to admit, I fail miserably in this area.  No, I don’t deny Christ.  But by living my life without sharing Jesus’ cure for sin on a daily basis, am I not, in effect, being silent?

Situation 4: What is the Greatest Commandment?

Situation 4:  What is the Greatest Commandment?
(Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34)

Who questioned him: A Pharisee, described as a lawyer or scribe
What he asked: which commandment is the most important of all
Why this was significant: The passage in Mark points to a softening in this particular Pharisee’s heart.  Under the guise of trying to trap Jesus, he posed a “testing” question.
Jesus’ response: He sincerely answered the question in full.
Bottom Line: “Testing” the validity of a religious claim, absent of an ulterior motive, was not condemned by Jesus. In fact, by giving a full, complete answer, he was approving it.

Jesus’ answer to the question was this, ““The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

Rather than being silenced like the previous encounters produced, the scribe responds, “32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:32-33)

At first glance, the scribe appears to be quoting Jesus, but there are some differences. I find it interesting that while approving Jesus’ answer, he adds to Jesus’ words, “and there is no other [God] besides him.”  Understandably, these men were concerned that Jesus was (1) preaching about a God different from the God they worshipped and (2) putting himself – in their eyes only a man – as an equal with God.  That’s a very valid concern!  Even those with hearts seeking God should “test everything” (1 Thess. 5:21).

I think another difference between the scribe’s quote of Jesus’ words is worth mentioning.  Notice how Jesus said to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  In contrast, the scribe’s words were, “heart, understanding, and strength.” The differences here are worth noting.

From what I can ascertain in comparing the two Greek words for “mind” and “understanding,” the latter brings in more of a prior knowledge or intellect into it.  The former is likened to deep thought and mental exercise.

Why is that significant? In my opinion, the scribe is admitting that he loves God with all of his current knowledge and intellect, whereas Jesus is challenging him to go deeper in his thinking, to not stop at his prior knowledge but instead to “exercise” that knowledge in the light of this new revelation. In other words, Jesus wants him to stop merely accepting everything he already knew and go deeper.

The scribe also omits the word “soul” in his statement.  This word for soul implies “spirit,” as in, the deepest recesses of one’s being.  This same word was used by Simeon when he told the young mother Mary that a sword would pierce her own soul. (Luke 2:35)

The word “heart” – the word that both Jesus and the scribe use – means thoughts or feelings.  The scribe is admitting that he loves God with all of his thoughts and feelings, but by omitting the word “spirit,” he’s admitting that he hasn’t given his very deepest being to the love of God.  The “heart” is a start, but it doesn’t need to end there to please God.  God wants our entire being, the very depths of our souls.

In just these differences in words, you can see the inner struggle going on within the scribe’s heart.  He’s wrestling with how to apply his vast intellect to these new teachings Jesus is offering.  He’s admitting he hasn’t quite figured out how to love God with all of his very being.

Finally, there is one other statement that the scribe adds to Jesus’ words.  He adds, “to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:33)

Not being a Jew, it’s hard for me to dig deep into the meaning of this statement, but here’s my first thought.  This scribe recognizes that sacrifices mean nothing in comparison to loving one another.  This is notable, considering that the Pharisees were the very ones who were painfully oppressing the people with their distortions of and additions to the Law. This scribe was beginning to see that what he has known all his life didn’t quite add up, but he wasn’t sure what to do about it.

Jesus recognized a seeking heart within this wise and educated man.  His response was, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” What a statement!  Jesus saw clearly a man who wasn’t looking to trap Jesus but instead a man who was seeking the truth.  A man who was satisfied – even thrilled – with Jesus’ answer to his question but who wasn’t quite sure what to do next.

How can we apply this to our interactions?  First, we need not be threatened when a person poses a difficult question.  Why does God let bad things happen to good people?  If God is good, why is there so much (insert injustice here) in the world?  And the list can go on.  In today’s information age, people are more natural questioners than we’re used to, but we need not bow up and go on the defensive, thinking these questions are always attacks. Sometimes they’re coming from the heart of someone who is truly seeking truth, but who is having a hard time reconciling things he/she doesn’t understand.

We need to respond in love, just as Jesus did.

Unlike Jesus, we don’t have all the answers. But we can look at Jesus’ example. He quoted Scripture.  Where our reasoning and intellect is limited, Scripture is not.  And if we can’t find the answer to a difficult question in Scripture, we can always say, “You know, I’m not quite sure but I would like to find out.” Then, we should go to a trusted person in our life who might give us Scripture references or a perspective we haven’t heard before.

Jesus didn’t shy away from the hard questions.  By his response to this scribe, you can tell he welcomed them.  We should welcome them, too, and trust that only through the drawing of the Holy Spirit will one come to know the truth anyway. It is not our job to convince someone of truth.

A questioning person doesn’t come to faith by the skill of our answers, by how much “evidence” we can present.  He will come to faith by the leading of the Holy Spirit. But we can be used by pointing to Scriptures and responding in love.