“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds." (Matthew 11:18, NRSV)
I like Bible stories like David dancing before the Ark of the Covenant and Jesus going to wedding parties because they give us glances into the lives of these very real people. I enjoy searching for those minute details in Scripture that bring them to life like Peter ducking to look into Jesus’ empty tomb or the reference to the stench of Lazarus’ tomb. What about Mary turning and crying out in joy, “Rabouni!” upon seeing her beloved teacher, or Ester’s moment of hesitation before entering the King’s presence? It’s those little details that draw me into the stories and show me the reality of these extraordinary people.
Today’s passage is another such enlightening snippet. People referred to Him as “a glutton and a drunkard”! Jesus Christ the Son of God is a glutton and a drunkard?!? Of course not. But, it does make me stop and wonder why people would say something like that. After all, we are told about the austere life that His cousin John led and Jesus is being compared to him. If we know that such was the case with John and people held that against him then, by His own implication, Jesus must be admitting to having a bit of fun with His friends and disciples. It’s one of things that make you go, “Hmmm.”
What I think Jesus is telling us here, is not that excessive eating and drinking are okay by any means. He doesn’t call Himself a glutton or a drunkard. He says that other people do. He is saying, rather that it is one’s heart that matters not one’s outward appearance. This is a statement against pious appearances. The world may have judged Him by His lowly appearance but we know that Jesus is in Truth exalted above everything and everyone. If we are to truly follow Jesus then we cannot judge others by their mere appearances. We can’t let their occupations or their personal lives prevent us from loving our neighbors or even enjoying their company. We certainly cannot avoid having a little fun just because we don’t want to appear “unholy” of “un-Christ-like”. God knows our hearts and He is the only judge we ever need to worry about.
So live a little! Have some fun already! If you don’t know how (God forbid!), go watch some kids in a nearby park or something. Go ride your bike, skip some stones. Go on a date. Play catch with your kid. Challenge your teenager to his/her favorite video game. So what if you lose. Who cares if some one laughs at you? It’ll be fun! And that fun, as silly as it appears is what will soften your heart and allow mercy and compassion and love and kindness to plant themselves and take root. Those are the tools of true ministry; the kind that make God smile.
Lord Jesus, teach us a new game today; One that will be fun and will touch the lives of those around us and bring them closer to you, Amen.
Don’t be afraid to look like a fool today. That would be foolish.
Christopher Randolph holds a Master of Divinity degree from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. He currently lives with his family in Colorado.