Is it lawful? 

Today’s Gospel recounts yet another confrontation between Jesus and some Pharisees who were trying to test him. The religious leaders wanted to make Jesus appear to contradict Moses so they could discredit him. Then, they hoped, the people would reject him. Their position would be secure, and the “pure” Jewish faith would be preserved. But their approach backfired.

Once again, Jesus’ outlook exceeds the Pharisees’ perspective. By asking what is lawful, they are asking, “How little can I do and still please God?” In response, Jesus uses marriage to illustrate something bigger. He points them toward the beauty of God’s intention from the beginning: faithful, sacrificial love, both in marriage and in our relationship with God.

It’s easy to fall into a limited mindset and become functional in our relationship with God. We might focus on fulfilling requirements rather than loving God. We might focus on avoiding his punishment rather than loving him and honoring him for all he has done for us. We may not consciously say it, but it’s almost like a husband or wife asking, “What’s the bare minimum I have to do to stay married?”

If we are asking that question, we’ve already missed the boat! The question is not “How little can I get away with?” but “How much can I do for my spouse? How can I love him or her, anticipate their needs, and serve them?” This “how much” kind of love reflects the way that God loves us! In contrast, if we are asking how little we need to do, we are missing the purpose of God’s commands and his loving intentions toward us.

Every day, God looks at you and asks, “How much can I bless my son or daughter?” He wants to show you that “as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is his kindness” (Psalm 103:11). What are your thoughts toward God today? If you catch yourself asking, “How little must I do?” stop and remember how generous he is. Call to mind the many times God has blessed you. Turn to him with words of love. Then ask the Spirit to help you to express your love in action. How much can you do to love God and his people today?

“Jesus, help me to love you with all my heart.”

James 5:9-12
Psalm 103:1-4, 8-9, 11-12
Mark 10:1-12


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