(…continued) Maybe Jesus is saying “Remember your place,” and maybe he is saying that to you and me. That might sound stern and ungracious, but the catechism, which we teach to our children, says as much. For example, in Luther’s explanation to the 5th petition of the Lord’s Prayer he says, “We neither merit nor deserve those things for which we pray, for we sin daily and deserve nothing but punishment.” That is a pretty severe definition of our true place before God. We deserve nothing, and if God chooses to bless another and not us, that is up to him. So ‘remember your place,’ and in your place, you deserve nothing. Therefore, if you want to get God’s attention, you should do that with humility, and not with the arrogance that says indignantly, “Why are you doing this to me, Lord?” Rather, we should approach God with the humility of the woman in the story who finally said to Jesus, “It’s okay if I’m a dog, Lord, but even the dogs get the crumbs off the table. Toss me a crumb, and heal my daughter. I know I’m not much, and I don’t care what you call me. I just want her to be well.”
There is much in the Bible about being humble before God. Learning to be humble may not be very high on the to-do list for most people, but it is most certainly an accurate and logical position to take before God. It was wrong in the Old South for white people to say to black people ‘remember your place,’ because people are children of the same heavenly Father; and it is disturbing to see white supremacists today trying to resurrect that evil. But it is only right and proper that we should remember our humble place before the presence of the Almighty God of all creation, whom we offend daily by our sin. And when we see ourselves on the right side of this story, it can become for us a lesson in humility, and not a reason to be embarrassed for Jesus. Perhaps then for us, like for the woman in the story, we can again see our ‘chosen-ness’ as the undeserved gift and the pleasant surprise that it really is, and not ever take it for granted.
We will then find that identifying with that desperate woman isn’t so bad after all, because then, you see, the words of Jesus for her at the end are also for us. Remember, in the end Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith. Your request is granted.” God does play hard ball with us, and if we don’t learn that from the Bible, we learn it from life itself. Things do get rough out there. But the promise here and throughout the Bible is that if we keep looking to Jesus, we will, in the end, be all right. God has an eternity to work things out for us. Keep the faith.
I will add one more little twist to the story, just for the fun of it. Mark Twain would have not at all objected to being called a dog. He loved dogs, and I do too. Dogs are wonderful, aren’t they? Mark Twain said that if going to heaven was based on our goodness instead of on God’s undeserved grace, it would be our dogs that would get in, and we would all be left out.
I’ve gotten to know a few dogs pretty well, and for the most part, dogs are more loyal, forgiving, loving, and pleasant than a lot of people I’ve known. Dogs can put us to shame when we really look at them, and then at ourselves.
There are people who if you look at them the wrong way, or forget to endlessly thank them for some small favor, get offended and will be upset with you for days. And I know that I can sometimes have a short fuse, even with people I love and care about. But your dog will love you no matter what, and will not bear a grudge.
For example, you get up in the morning and take your dog for a walk. The dog loves to be outside and wants to chase and smell everything. But he can’t, because you are in a hurry and you are constantly yanking on his leash. Then you get home, and you lock that cheerful little dog in a room for the whole day while you go to work. Then you finally get home and the dog is overjoyed to see you. But again you are in a hurry, so you again take the dog out on the leash for a quick walk, and then, it’s back in the house all by himself for the whole evening while you go out. Then you finally come home, and the dog is again thrilled to see you. He’s not mad, and you are forgiven for abandoning him. He is jumping up and down, wagging his tail, and licking your face.
People aren’t like that. Most people would not stand for what a dog puts up with. But dogs love you no matter what. In many ways, we aren’t as good as our dogs.
Now I know that is probably not what Jesus had in mind in these verses, but there is a message here about undeserved grace. Without a doubt, people cause a lot more misery in the world than dogs. And maybe, being the sinners that we are, God needs to play rough sometimes in order to get through to us—like with the woman in the story. Who are we to judge God’s methods?
It is for us to thank God for the grace and mercy shown to us in Christ Jesus.
Waiting for a Crumb
II Samuel 9:8 — Then he bowed himself, and said, “What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?”
Psalm 8:4a — What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
Romans 12:3b — Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment.
Psalm 95:6 — Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
Incline us O God, to think humbly of ourselves, to consider our fellow-creatures with kindness, and to judge of all they say and do with the charity which we would desire from them ourselves. Amen.
–Jane Austen, English novelist (1775-1817)