College students can be irresponsible; a student was a few semesters back. He missed a test and then decided a month later that he needed to take it to maintain his financial aid. I talked with an administrator and asked what she wanted me to do.
“It’s your class,” she said. “What do you think you should do?”
This was not my experience at other places where the matter would require numerous meetings and memos! I was surprised that the administrator trusted me to make the right decision.
Jesus the master teacher once turned a question back to an inquisitor, causing the man to think deeply about life choices. The story is told in Luke 10.
The man, a teacher of the law, asked Jesus how he might receive eternal life.
“What is written in the law?” Jesus responded. “What do you read there?”
The man responded with the two great commands to love God with all our heart, and to love our neighbor as we love our self. Jesus told him he was correct. The questioner should’ve stopped there, but he wished to test Jesus by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” In response, we have one of Jesus’ greatest stories.
A lone traveler was beaten and robbed and left for dead. Two religious leaders traveled by and decided to leave him alone. Perhaps they were late to temple worship and couldn’t be bothered with a humanitarian cause. Or they may have believed the man was dead. If so, any contact with a corpse would make them ceremonially unclean for seven days. Thus, two men skilled in the law — the law that exhorted “love your neighbor as you love yourself” — decided that worship was more important than human need.
The story has two caveats. One is the hero of the story: “Good Samaritan,” an oxymoron in that day since the Jews didn’t believe there were any. And the second caveat was when Jesus asked his original questioner to think about the story and determine who was neighbor to the injured man. So once again Jesus asked the teacher of the law to think through an issue for himself.
It is liberating when employers, teachers and pastors ask us to think for ourselves and trust us to make wise decisions. The desired result is that we grow in cognitive skills and in confidence that we can make good decisions in the future.
I suppose most of the good people who listen to us pastors preach week by week know the right thing to do. They just need to hear us say more often than we do, “What do you think God wants you to do?” and, “Have you done it?”
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church's website is siluriabaptist.com.