Bold & Wise
“Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.” Matthew 22:16b
These words were spoken by the disciples of the Pharisees. The description of Jesus was spoken in flattery to draw him in, and yet it was also accurate in its own way. The Pharisees did not believe that Jesus spoke the truth, but they were wrangled by Him because Jesus certainly did not care about anyone’s opinion. Jesus did not speak to please people and become popular. In one sense, you could say that Jesus did not care what people thought. In this sense, he did not seek to please the unbelieving majority. Jesus came to speak the truth, and He did so with boldness and wisdom. However, in another sense, Jesus cared very much. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. He loved those called by His name, and preached the truth of God so they might believe.
However, this section in Matthew is interesting. Jesus speaks boldly and truthfully, but does not allow His opponents to control the narrative, or draw Him in. After giving a very wise response to a question about paying taxes, Jesus’ opponents come back at Him again. This time they frame up a ridiculous situation that has no possible right answer. Jesus’ response is terrific! He tells them they are wrong all the way around and don’t know what they are talking about, because they don’t know the Scriptures! He then goes on to school them in what to expect in the future. He does not hold back because of their high social standing or their distaste of His message.
We should follow Jesus’ example in this passage in at least three ways. First, we should expect opposition as disciples of Jesus. As we live openly for Jesus, expect that certain people will plan how to oppose you. In the same way that you consider and plan how to speak with someone about the gospel, others are planning how they can trip you up and embarrass you as a Christian. Expect it. However, don’t be afraid! Remember Jesus’ wonderful promise from Luke 12:11-12, and know that as you diligently study the Scriptures the right words will be given to you by the Holy Spirit in the moment. We must resolve to be bold like Jesus before we enter these situations.
Second, when a person asks the wrong question, whether from false motive or true, we should follow Jesus’s example to re-cast the question. The unbelieving world is lost in their soul and mind. They don’t know what to think about God and are deceived in their unbelief. When someone comes to you with a completely wrong question or assumption, don’t feel an obligation to address the wrong-headed idea. Instead, with appropriate boldness, re-cast the conversation to move it in a true and biblical direction. Often when speaking with non-Christians, they will want to talk about all kinds of distractions and intentionally move away from the main points of the gospel. There is a tug-of-war happening over who will control the direction of the conversation. Jesus was masterfully perfect at always having the conversation turn back toward Scripture truth.
Third, Jesus tells these men they are wrong because they don’t understand the Scriptures. They had developed volumes of their own laws and traditions, but did not understand God’s word. What we need in every situation, is a clear word from the Lord. If you would be wise and know the true nature of things, be a constant student of the Bible. If you want to be able to give the right answer in the right moment, prompted by the Holy Spirit – be a constant student of the Bible. God’s word is truth and has a final authority that this world cannot answer. The wisdom of this world cannot confound the wisdom of God.
May you be bold and wise in Christ Jesus,