What Matters Most in Life?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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As he was speaking, a woman in the crowd called out, “God bless your mother—the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!” Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”

Luke 11:27

Every culture has certain core values. Classic American culture, for example, prizes individualism and success, among other things. Japanese culture places highest priority upon family and respect for elders. The culture of Jesus was much more Japanese than American, if you’ll pardon my anachronism. Honoring one’s parents and loyalty to family was nearly as important as faithfulness to God in first-century Jewish life. In fact, one demonstrated faithfulness to God by honoring parents and caring for family.

Thus, when a woman cried out to Jesus, “God bless your mother—the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!” (11:27), she was operating within her family-centric culture. Praising the mother of Jesus was tantamount to praising him, and it affirmed the core connection between mother and son.

No doubt the woman who called out to Jesus and the crowd of which she was a part would have expected Jesus to say “Thank You” or, perhaps, to add a word of praise for his mother. This would fit cultural expectations. Yet Jesus’ response did quite the opposite: “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice” (11:28). The original Greek puts the contrast between mother and word-practitioner even more starkly: “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.” Surely the crowd around Jesus was stunned by this response. How dare he dishonor his mother in this way!

Jesus’ point was not to suggest anything negative about his mother. She was, in addition to being his natural mother, also one who heard and did the word of God to an extraordinary degree. Jesus chose such blunt and unsettling language to confront the cultural values of his day. However much family mattered, hearing and doing God’s word mattered far more. A person could be lavishly blessed by God even if unable to bear children, even if cut off from family, even if widowed or orphaned. And a person with ample family could choose the way of blessing by rejecting the cultural priority of family and replacing it with the new priority of a life lived according to God’s word.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: This passage from Luke challenges us to consider our core values. What are the top values of your culture? What do you value most in life? How important to you is hearing and practicing God’s word?

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, as I read this short story in Luke, I am challenged to consider the values of my culture and the extent to which these values govern my life. I think, for example, of how much accomplishment and success matter to me and those around me. I realize that I often ignore your word because I have to get things done. Being productive can trump spending time with you. Forgive me for my skewed priorities.

Help me, dear Lord, to have my life shaped by the values of your kingdom. May I learn to think as you think and feel as you feel. In particular, I pray that you will increase my desire to know and do your word, to live out the good news of the kingdom of God in every part of my life. May this be true even today as I go about my business. Let your word come to life in me. Amen.