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Collecting Crumbs

Devotions

John Milton’s masterpiece Paradise Lost envisions Satan’s rebellion against God, the essence of which Milton sums up in Satan’s famous proclamation: “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n.” Milton’s Satan accepts no secondary rank. He would prefer hell to any arrangement in which he does not reign supreme.

Such an attitude contrasts sharply with that of the Canaanite woman who confronted Jesus. Beseeching Him to heal her daughter, she was met first with silence. She persisted. Then she received a reply at which she could easily have taken offense. Jesus responded that He was sent only to Israel, explaining, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs” (v. 26). Demotion to the role of dog would disconcert most. But she didn’t miss a beat. Rather, she acknowledged Israel’s special role in God’s kingdom; but she also expressed faith that God’s kingdom, as the prophets foresaw, would bless others. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table” (v. 27). She did not insist on her own superiority but trusted in God’s grace and was content simply to be in God’s kingdom, even if it meant she lived by collecting crumbs.

God’s kingdom, as this woman witnessed, has an astonishing character. While that kingdom began with the Jews, as the apostle Paul observed, ultimately Gentiles would be “grafted” on, like a branch onto a tree (see Rom. 11:17–24). And in God’s mercy, they would hold equal rank, as Christ destroyed the divisions, so that there “is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female” (Gal. 3:28). We are able to claim our place in this kingdom only if we refuse to insist on our superiority and instead trust in the God of grace.

Apply the Word

Augustine described how his pride initially made it difficult for him to accept the Christian faith. The Bible is, he wrote, is like a low door one must stoop to enter but that ultimately opens unto lofty heights. Are there forms of pride that keep you from entering the low door so that you might perceive the lofty message of Christ’s kingdom?

BY Brad Burton

Brad Burton has taught theology and ethics at several theological schools across the country. His writing and teaching focus on the role of the church in helping Christians to proclaim and live the faith. He serves the church in lay ministry and supply preaching, and he enjoys hiking and cycling with his wife and two children.

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