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Jesus Never Lost at Rock, Paper, Scissor

Photo of Daniel McCoyDaniel McCoy | Bio

Daniel McCoy

Daniel is happily married to Susanna, and they have 3 daughters and 2 sons. He is the editorial director for Renew.org as well as an online adjunct instructor for Ozark Christian College. He has a bachelor’s in theology (Ozark Christian College), master of arts in apologetics (Veritas International University), and PhD in theology (North-West University, South Africa). He is the general editor of the Popular Handbook of World Religions, author of Mirage: 5 Things People Want From God That Don't Exist, and co-author with Norman Geisler of The Atheist's Fatal Flaw.

As a kid, I was in line for the amusement park. Grandpa was taking us there. And he told me to lie about my age to get me in a lower cost bracket. That was a collision between respecting your elders and telling the truth. So do you flip a coin?

Let’s say the bills are mounting. Times are tough. You are offered new hours and better pay. But you’d have to work on Sunday. You wouldn’t be able to go to church with your family. So it’s a collision between physically providing for your family and spiritually leading your family. Which should win? Do you flip a coin?

In Nazi Germany, you’re hiding Jews, which in and of itself is disobeying the government—a collision between submitting to authority and saving lives. The authorities come to your house and ask where the Jews are. Another collision, this time between telling the truth and saving lives.

Your friend asks what you think of his new car. Piece of junk, really. Yet your friend struggles financially and is elated about his new purchase. Plus, he already gets enough discouragement from most directions. A collision between honesty and kindness.

Life is full of and days are packed with ethical dilemmas—choices between A and B. And it wouldn’t be a problem if A was taking your grandma flowers, and B was pushing your grandma out into traffic. That’s an easy decision, right? But we’re talking choices between A and B where both A and B are good things.

So flip a coin? Not exactly.

The Old Testament gives us a lot of commandments, but throughout the Old Testament, the Divine Author starts to put those commandments in order. For example, God blesses the Hebrew midwives for lying to Pharaoh because they’re saving lives. God blesses Rahab for the same reason—lying to save lives. Even though followers of God are to be good citizens of earth, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are vindicated for not obeying the government because they’re obeying God.

We see statements like, “To obey is better than sacrifice” (I Samuel 15:22). Or, “How much better get wisdom than gold!” (Proverbs 16:16). We see God tell them that He cares so much more that they help the poor than that they impress people with their religious rituals.

Then we get to the New Testament, to Jesus. Jesus says things like, “How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep?” (Matthew 12:12). Or that it’s better to love your enemies than just to love the people who love you. Jesus often heals on the Sabbath, which goes against the rules of the rabbis. Why does Jesus heal on the Sabbath? It’s because He’s showing us that it’s way more important to help hurting people than it is to obey rules about what you can and can’t do on a Saturday.

It’s basically a game of rock, paper, scissors in which Jesus is making clear, “Now, remember, paper beats rock. And rock beats scissors.”

In Matthew 23:23, Jesus makes it very clear that certain things are rock and certain things are scissors. He says this:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.”

Jesus makes very clear that righteousness of the heart beats the technical obedience of the Pharisees.

And then of course, what’s at the very top of Jesus value system? According to Jesus, what are the rules that beat everything else?

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered,

“The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31).

According to Jesus, what are the rules that beat every other obligation? Love God and love people.

What was the difference between the Pharisees and Jesus? Was it that the Pharisees cared about rules, but Jesus didn’t? No.

Was it that the Pharisees cared about hard rules, but Jesus gave us easy rules? Hardly. Read the Sermon on the Mount.

Here’s the difference between Jesus and the Pharisees: It had everything to do with more important versus less important. Jesus wanted them and wants us to stop caring about stuff that doesn’t matter and to start caring about what matters.

Jesus wanted them and wants us to stop caring about stuff that doesn’t matter and to start caring about what matters.

Jesus wants us to trade in our often ugly value system where we care more about human applause than God’s approval. Where we care more about personal comfort than God’s will. Where we care more about impressing important people than serving the least of these. Jesus wants us to trade in an ugly value system and begin intentionally developing a value system that mirrors Jesus’.