Luke 7:31-35 (NIV) “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.”‘ But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”
Jesus’ criticism of “the people of this generation” is aimed, not at the common people, but at the religious leaders who were the opinion shapers of the day, who told people what they should think about things. And He was absolutely right. Because they saw both Jesus and John as threats to their status and autonomy, they harshly criticized them for completely opposite reasons.
John the Baptist was an ascetic. His years in the wilderness and his status as a Nazarite (Luke 1:15) led him to a lifestyle of self-denial and minimalism that struck the leaders as ludicrous. Their opinion was that he had gone over the edge; that such self-denial really wasn’t a requirement for those who wanted to live a godly lifestyle. They played the flute, but John refused to join the dance.
Jesus, on the other hand, was seen by those leaders as the polar opposite of John. Whereas John was into self-denial, they saw Jesus as someone who was unreasonably joyful all the time. He enjoyed eating and drinking to the point that He didn’t even participate in the twice-weekly fasts encourage by those leaders’ particular brand of holiness. And He not only ate and drank, but He did it with tax collectors and sinners, associating freely with people considered unclean by the Pharisees. They played a dirge, but Jesus wouldn’t join in the weeping and mourning.
Jesus’ point was that the criticism of the religious leaders of two such diverse men betrayed an underlying agenda. It wasn’t really the lifestyles of John and Jesus that was the problem, even though that was the avenue of the attacks. The real problem was that both men required and demonstrated a genuinely holy life, far beyond the pro-forma holiness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. And it was that real holiness that threatened them, because it showed their own lack of holiness in its true light.
Father, it is easy to scoff at those men for being so hypocritical and closed-minded. But even today I hear similar criticism by Christians against their fellow believers for being too liberal or too conservative; too free-wheeling or too legalistic; too much of a free spirit or too much of a stick in the mud. The whole time, they refuse to really look at the fruits of those lives so that they can make a valid judgment. Give me eyes that truly see the hearts of my brothers and sisters in Christ, lips that are slow to criticize, and a heart that is open to learning from even the least of those brothers and sisters. Amen.