So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” - Matthew 15:23 (NIV)
Nearly every single day, someone comes to our church asking for help. Most of the time, they’re wanting assistance with their electric bill or rent. Sometimes it’s food or gas money that they seek. Often time, these requests come when we’re trying to get the newsletter out or when we’re on our way out the door to a make a hospital visit or go to a meeting. It’s often tempting to do one of two things: just give them what they want so that everyone can go about their day or to simply say that we’re unable to help so that everyone can go on with their day. The more difficult thing to do is to stop and listen to the situation and the need.
In the assigned scripture readings for today, Jesus and the disciples travel to Gentile territory where they encounter a Canaanite woman who asks Jesus to exorcise a demon from her daughter. The disciples don’t appear too concerned about this woman’s situation or her need; they just want Jesus to get rid of her. Help her or refuse to help her, but just get this crying woman away from us, they seem to say.
What happens next is one of the more perplexing exchanges that scripture records of Jesus and another human being. Jesus tells the woman that he came for the Jews (the lost sheep of Israel) and not the Gentiles (dogs) like her. I’m hoping that Jesus said this with a smile on his face and that he was just being sarcastic, exposing the absurdity of such a belief, but it’s not stated in the text. What is clear that Jesus didn’t just help her so that she’d go away and he didn’t just ignore her need. Instead, Jesus engages the woman in conversation and is impressed by her comments and her faith.
Today, someone may approach you with a need. Perhaps they simply want to talk. Perhaps what they seek is more tangible. It’s Friday and you no doubt have a lot to do today before the weekend begins. You may be tempted to just help or even ignore the person so that they’ll go away. May God grant you the grace to engage the situation and the need, value the person, and do what you can as the Lord leads.