One of my sons came home from school one afternoon and told me that his teacher said that he only had to do the odd math problems on his worksheet. I acknowledged her instructions but said that I wanted him to do all of the problems since he was struggling in math and needed extra practice. Needless to say, he wasn't too happy about the situation but he did what I asked.
Why did he obey me and not the teacher? I have a higher authority. To translate this into biblical language for my son I could have said, "You have heard it said, do only the odd problems. But I say unto you, do them all."
Yesterday and today we have meditated on this same situation with Jesus as He continues His Sermon on the Mount. In fact, all the readings this week have shown us Jesus establishing His authority and presenting Himself as the new Moses, the new Lawgiver.
As He stated in previous verses, He has not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. He isn't' doing away with the commandment against killing or adultery. He is perfecting them. He is saying that there's so much more than just doing the odd problems, the least you can get away with. He is saying that to not be guilty of murder you must also not be angry. He is saying that to keep the commandment against adultery you must go a step further, you must not even lust in your mind or heart.
God wants us to grow in our love of Him and others. He wants to increase our faith. In order to do this, we have to be challenged. My son won't grow and increase his math skills without being challenged. I can't increase muscle strength without resistance, without a challenge to grow. A diamond can't be made without pressure. You get the idea! God is challenging us to go a step further because He loves us and wants what is best for us. He knows that if I can control my temper, I'm not likely to commit murder. He knows that if I can resist the temptation to lust, I am not likely to commit adultery.
In the first reading God challenges Elijah. He challenges him to be patient and not assume he knows God inside and out. He challenges him to be open to how God wants to speak to him. After the prophets of Baal incident, Elijah has every right to expect God to show up in an earthquake, crushing wind, or fire, again. But God, this time, speaks to him in a tiny whispering sound.
God speaks to us in different ways. I've had both the St. Paul experience and the Elijah experience. That is, I've been knocked to the ground and I've had God whisper to me. The difference is not God, it's us. He knows what we need. He knows how to challenge us. The question is, are we open to how He wants to speak to us. Or, are we always expecting, no, rather, are we demanding that God speak to us in a certain way! Be open!
How is God challenging you right now in your life? Are you open to what He is doing or do you want it on your terms? Do you want to only do the odd problems when He is asking for the entire worksheet? Does He have authority in your life or do you?
Lord, help me to hear Your voice, accept Your challenge, and grow in Your grace!