I love to brainstorm ways that people can solve problems. It’s one of my strengths. If you want options, a conversation with me can be a helpful thing.
I can help you see things in a way that you haven’t seen them before. Whether we’re talking about a Biblical text or a problem situation, I can suggest how we arrived at the current situation. And if you ask me what steps could be taken to live differently, I have the capacity to identify several.
I always want to say, “I’m making suggestions, I’m writing a draft, I’m giving you some options. Pick one, pick several, push back for clarification.” I say this because I don’t want to be held accountable for living up to this whole list of things that I am offering. No one could (or should) do all the things that I brainstorm.
What often happens, however, is that what I list as options can be understood as obligations. What I list as recommendations can become requirements.
When Jesus talked about the teaching and the lives of the religious leaders, he talked about the way they took all the teachings and packed them into a backpack labeled, “the ideal spiritual life.” The backpacks were full of obligations, and by their weight, they constrained people from living naturally and simply and walking with God. They taught people to carry those backpacks, and judged people when they did not.
But, Jesus said, they didn’t do anything to help. They didn’t offer encouragement for what was being done well. Though they talked about WHAT must be done, they didn’t seem to talk about HOW it could be done. And they didn’t offer an example, because they weren’t carrying the backpack themselves.
No wonder Jesus was bothered.