Good fortune isn’t what you know but who you know? Not according to Jesus. He has a third category for His value system that is far above knowing all the right people and far better than knowing all the right stuff.
As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27–28)
First of all, every time I’ve read these verses, I’ve thought how silly a thing to call out the blessing that this woman called out. However, I discovered today that in the Eastern cultures, if anyone wants to insult a man, they speak vile words about his mother, but if they wish to honor him, they loudly and gloriously praise his mother. She was not trying to divert attention from Jesus to Mary, but was trying to honor Him.
Jesus did not reject the honor she attempted as much as He was trying to show her and the crowd around Him something far more important. While He accepts praise, He is more interested in obedience. This ties with an earlier account when His mother and brothers came to Him, but could not reach Him because of the crowd. When someone told Him His mother and brothers were outside wanting to see Him, he said, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:19–21)
Hearing and obeying Him is the mark of a relationship that is deeper than normal family ties. While praise is commendable, it is not a substitute for obedience, nor is it an excuse for not listening to what He wants.
This is the Holy Spirit pointing His finger at me. I’ve been having troubles with a certain issue, and to get my mind off it, I have been singing praise songs. While praising God is commendable, the praise is hollow in His ears because my heart has not been willing simply to obey what He says. I cannot think the wrong way in my heart and speak blessings with my mouth without being a hypocrite.
Today’s devotional reading has a line that comes from the above verses. It says something like this: Oh that we have fire in our hearts that consumes the bonds that hold our tongues and believe that when the current of thought around us runs in a wrong direction, there is power in an impassioned voice to turn it — that our Lord may win glory in those situations where He is despised.
This is to say that sincere praise for God can change the attitude of others so that instead of mocking or hating Him, they will also be caught up in the glory of who He is. But what about my own divided attitudes?
For me, instead of using praise to divert my attention from thinking wrong thoughts, I’m to praise God instead of doing that, and because I am caught up in the glory of who He is. Some reading this might not know the difference, but as I read these verses, I know the difference. Praise is okay, but praise without obedience is not a blessing to God’s hearing. I know what He wants from me.
None of us can be Mary, the mother of God, but because of Jesus Christ, all of us can hear His Word and do what it says. He puts the highest blessedness within the reach of all and strips it of all ambiguity or mystery. There is nothing about it that is hard or difficult: Hear the word and obey it.