Column – A win-win proposition

Published 2:27 pm Friday, November 3, 2023

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I’ve always heard that the textbook definition of a good deal, a good outcome in negotiations, is a win-win. An outcome where both sides get what they need from each other is the sweet spot. 

I suppose that is a lofty, noble wish. It makes sense, and does sound so good. Of course, I’m probably no different than most of you. If you make me pick, I want my team, my side to win most trades or deals. I catch myself grading a good deal, truthfully, to be when my side gets more in return than we gave up. 

This season, we came up short in the playoffs again. But part of what built our good team is a mystery. My beloved Braves had a general manager a few years ago that had the reputation of being a bit of a Jedi master at pulling off trades that no one should have made with us. 

This guy could go in and convince a team to give up one of their better prospects. Or a player they really shouldn’t have traded away at all. When the dust would settle, it seemed like we would come away with a good player we needed and would have only given up the equivalent of a bucket of baseballs. 

I don’t know how he did it. But often, we did better than a win-win outcome. 

Matthew 22: 34-46 describes for us a win-win proposition. Love God, and be sure to love your neighbor as you love yourself. “The Pharisees and Sadducees had been taking turns, as if by design, trying to trap Jesus.” That’s the summation that one scholar gives in his notes on this scripture. 

Perhaps you remember the differences in these two groups. But in case you don’t, let me see if I can remind us all since both these groups are mentioned as often giving Jesus a hard time. 

We can be a little tough on both the Pharisees and the Sadducees. That’s an understatement. They had jobs to do. Sadducees were members of a Jewish sect or party of the time of Jesus Christ. They didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead nor the existence of spirits.

They did believe in the obligation of oral tradition, emphasizing acceptance of the written Law alone. In short, they were there to be sure that whatever was taught, said or done stayed in line with the Law. 

The Pharisees’ job was different. They were the interpreters of the Law. Jesus, you may have noticed, also interpreted the Law. Trouble is, his interpretation always tilted toward the marginalized or victimized people of the social system. 

Meanwhile, their interpretation was always going to manage to serve the system, if push came to shove. So he was a threat to their popularity and their authority.

The case Jesus made here is that despite the tremendous show they put on, one can not be in a right relationship with God if one is not in a right relationship with their neighbors. In other words, if justice, mercy and faithfulness in matters of integrity or ethics really don’t matter to us, then that’s an indicator that we are not in fact in a right relationship with God. 

It’s a telltale sign. An indicator. A betrayer of what is vs what we say. The system was allowing them to actually hold out on God and get away with it. Be rewarded for it, in some ways. 

So far, Jesus’ answer to their trap already had enough force and richness to it that we should learn a lot. But he gave us more here. As one writer said, “Now Jesus went on the attack.” He began to force them to see him for what he was. He was more than a Son of David. He was God’s son. Maybe we’ll look at that another time.

This Jesus who stopped all the silliness in today’s scripture once and for all was a tired Jesus. He was about to stretch out his arms and die on a Cross. They’d been after him and after him. He was tired of the cat-and-mouse game. He was tired of all the talk. So he cut straight to the heart of the matter. 

If we can love others, our relationship with God might be real. This tired, honest Jesus challenged them in all the best ways. He also challenges us to see if we’re trustworthy Christians and if we belong to a trustworthy church. 

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.