Two Tests of Faith

question_mark_3dAnd from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone. (Mark 7:24-30 ESV) 

Jesus’s response seems harsh. Is he calling this woman a dog? The short answer is yes. He was a Jewish messiah sent to the Jews, and she was of mixed Greek heritage and in short a Gentile. The Jews had two classifications of people, Jews and everyone else. But Jesus knew the thoughts and intents of her heart; her faith was in Jesus to heal her daughter. She was trusting him to do for her what no one else could.  Jesus tested her in such a way as to make her faith public. Recall his words to the woman with the issue of blood: “Your faith has made you whole.”  When put to the test, she passed with flying colors.  Belief can be stated, faith must be demonstrated.

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:17-22 ESV)

Did this man really have to give away everything in order to follow Jesus? We will never know. Jesus’s reply forced the man to reveal publically where his faith truly lay, and it was in his many possessions. That is what he loved more than Jesus, and Jesus of course knew this.  Look at the man’s question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  That’s the ultimate religious question: What must I do? Religion is about what we do, the Gospel is about what Jesus has already done. He either lies about keeping all the commandments from his youth, or perhaps really believes it to be true.  Notice though, before Jesus continues, verse 21.  …Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said…  Jesus knew what was in his heart, yet loved him. Jesus wept over the city Jerusalem, asking how many times he would have gladly embraced them in his arms like a mother hen does her young.  Jesus loved the rich young man, even though he knew the man had a greater love and misplaced faith.

We can test jewelry to see if it is really gold or not. Students are tested to see what they’ve learned, the air and water are tested to see if they are saf, manufactured goods are tested to the point of failure to see if they can live up to their guarantee. The purpose of a test is to make certain a particular claim. Sometimes we are tested in order to make our private faith – or lack thereof – public. We are sometimes asked just to give us the opportunity to respond correctly. It may be for our benefit or those around us. God sees through to the heart, and his tests allow our true colors to show.

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