Dear brothers and sisters,
The good news today is in Luke 7:31-35.
“Then to what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
As the New American Bible notes, “The meaning of the parable and its explanation is much disputed.” It seems to me that Jesus is speaking to contrarians. No matter the issue, they seem to take delight in being opposed. There is just no pleasing or satisfying some people. Jesus had just had another encounter with the Pharisees and scribes who had rejected God’s plan of righteousness for themselves. They were like petulant children. John was an ascetic living in the wilderness and Jesus enjoyed eating and drinking with sinners. They criticized both for their habits. They were stuck in one way of seeing, one way of understanding God, one way of being. That one way didn’t include Jesus and his teachings or acceptance of his behavior. That part seems fairly clear.
“But wisdom is vindicated by her children.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, wisdom is the “capacity of judging rightly in matters relating to life and conduct.” It also understood as one of the manifestations of Jesus’ divine nature. Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are called the Wisdom books of the Hebrew Bible. According to Robert Alter in The Wisdom Books, these three have in common the raising of “questions of value and moral behavior, of the meaning of human life, and especially of the right conduct of life.” So, it seems that Jesus is saying that wisdom is the capacity to rightly judge moral behavior of one towards another. He has personified this capacity, meaning that it is a capacity available to any of us.
Some translations use “justified” for “vindicated.” Vindicate has a variety of meanings: “to exercise in revenge, to avenge a wrong, to punish, to set free or rescue, to clear from criticism or doubt, to assert by means of action.” Justify means to “administer justice, to punish, to show a person or action to be just or in the right, to declare free from the penalty of sin on the ground of Christ’s righteousness, to confirm by attestation, to maintain as true.”
I think that Jesus is saying to me that my moral judgment of other’s behavior is to be justified by or measured against God’s plan of righteousness as revealed in Jesus, not by my own behavior or my expectations of how others should behave. What is right and just in God’s eyes, not my own. All too often I’m like the Pharisees and look askance or condemn someone’s behavior because it doesn’t conform to the norm; it doesn’t conform to my standards. I shouldn’t let superficialities color my judgments like whether a person is covered in colored tattoos, pierced in all sorts of odd places, or clothed like a Goth. I am not thinking as God thinks. I’m not judging wether the individual’s actions are right and just in His kingdom. I am judging according to my own narrow view of the world. I should consider instead how they treat others. Is it with compassion, with fairness, with an open heart? Those are the behaviors that count. Wisdom lies in the discernment of behaviors that matter — in the answers to the questions of moral values and the defense of the sacredness of human life and the right conduct of life according to Jesus’ teachings. I pray for wisdom, for the correct judgment of others.
“Still, you insist on sincerity of heart; in my inmost being teach me wisdom.” Psalm 51:8