“She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ tables. Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith!’” [Matthew 15:27-28]
Words matter. And so, this story disturbs me. Jesus uses a derogatory term. Dogs is belittling slang that Jews used to describe Canaanites. The woman is unnamed but not unclassified. She is a dog, not worthy of Jesus’ attention. She simply asked, “Lord, help me.” Yet, Jesus rudely dehumanizes her. Yes, this is disturbing. But what is amazing is that woman turns what Jesus said into a truth that changes the trajectory of the conversation, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs from their masters’ table.” The woman takes what is derogatory and flips its meaning, saying, “I may be dog, but I eat crumbs that fall from your table.” Jesus disturbs me, but this woman impresses me. She doesn’t settle for how others define her. She also doesn’t stoop to the level of the name caller. She calls Jesus Lord every time she talks to him. She took the high road, while Jesus took the low road. Yet, her fierce tenacity to remain respectful brought a change of heart for Jesus said, “Woman, great is your faith. Let it be done for you as you wish.” Jesus redeemed himself. But let’s never dehumanize another human being as it is a slippery slope to violence and even genocide.
Holy God, our world is filled with rhetoric that belittles others. Guard my tongue and do not let me dehumanize another through my words or my actions. Jesus came around thankfully. Help me come around, too. Amen.