The Syrophoenician Woman’s Faith
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
This is one of those passages that I wish we could get some emotional context to what is being said. To me, what Jesus says feels really harsh. I read it as a statement saying that the non-Israelites get the food first and then anyone else just gets the scraps left under the table. Yet, knowing what we know of Jesus, I cannot imagine him saying that. There’s a part of me that wonders whether Jesus said what he did with a bit of a wink in his eye – nudge nudge. Much of the story was told initially by oral tradition and did that tradition have a bit of the emotional overtone of how Jesus said what he did. Regardless, what kept going through my mind today was the response of the woman to Jesus statement. “Even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
It got me thinking about the people who feel like they just get the crumbs of life. I think of those who work in sweatshops for barely a subsistence wage (if even that). I think of those who are oppressed minorities in our country and throughout the world who are treated like 2nd class citizens (or less). I think of the persecuted in the world who risk their lives for their faith or those who are persecuted simply because of who they are. I think of the growing divide throughout the world between the haves and the have-nots. There’s a lot of people – in fact the vast majority – who feel that they just get the crumbs from the table.
The model we have from Jesus is one of equity. Its of a man who broke the accepted behaviors and welcomed and touched and was in relationship with the untouchable. The one who treated people like people and not objects. The one who, even though he seemed to want to try to get a time away, always had time for the hurting who desired more than just the crumbs from the table.