If tradition holds true and Jesus was a carpenter, it is interesting that he never pulls a plumb line out of his toolbox for a parable or two. Nonetheless, much of his teaching shows the places where we have drifted off level. That is the case in this passage, certainly.
A legal expert comes to test Jesus. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Even 2,000 years ago, people spent a lot of energy on the question of saving our own tailbones. Jesus turns the test back on the quizmaster and asks how he sees it. The expert responds with what we call the Great Commandment: to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Jesus’ standard of love hangs as a plumb line here, showing the slant of the expert’s stance. The question begins by asking about his own inheritance: “What must I do?” Remember that for Jesus, the heart of the kingdom of God are the disenfranchised, the vulnerable, the exiled, and the excluded ones. The concern for the “I” is off track in Jesus’ understanding. Jesus lets the ancient wisdom of the Torah speak the corrective, though. The first step is to love God, then love another. It does not say love yourself first and foremost. Putting the focus of love on someone else is the key to the best inheritance. Selfless love holds steady the plumb line of the kingdom.
Focusing on our own situation skews our faith life. The plumb line of Jesus’ love levels us and directs us to the needs and pains of others. Giving up life for others leads to eternal life. Loving generously is Jesus’ true standard.
O Carpenter Christ, free me from a life lived askew, spent too much on myself. Put me on the level surface of your love and grace so that I may see new ways of loving completely. Amen.
Amos is a farmer called by God to deliver a message to Jeroboam, the king of Israel (the Northern Kingdom in the divided monarchy). Because the king has not listened to the warnings from God, judgment will come. The psalmist also warns of judgment, in this case for those who oppress the weak and needy and fail to protect them from the wicked. Such heartless people will surely be brought low by God. The opening to the letter to the Colossians is a prayer of thanksgiving for their faith in Christ and the spiritual fruit they are producing in the world. The parable in the Gospel reading challenges our human tendency to ignore need. Jesus teaches that mercy should overcome any reason we might find to harden our hearts.
Read Amos 7:7-17. Look for God’s plumb line in the world. In what ways is the ground you stand on askew?
Read Psalm 82. If you sit on the council of the Most High, how does this change your perspective on the world?
Read Colossians 1:1-14. Prayers of mere words are just the beginning of prayer. To what prayerful actions do your prayerful words call you?
Read Luke 10:25-37. The author writes, “Even those trying to be faithful walk askew.” Consider how you live out Jesus’ call to love your neighbor.
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