The Book of Numbers and the Gospel both have people who are preoccupied with what others are doing. Joshua, Moses’ aide, is upset because two people are prophesying in the camp. And the disciples are upset because they see someone they don’t know driving out demons in Jesus’ name.
They are preoccupied with whether or not it’s ok for other people to be acting a certain way or doing certain things. Now what’s disappointing about this preoccupation is that, in both cases, the outsiders weren’t even doing anything harmful.
Jesus and Moses both give a similar response. Do not prevent them. For whoever is not against us is with us.
Then Jesus goes on to drive the point home. If you are so concerned, then be concerned about the right thing. Be concerned about what is causing you to sin.
Stop focusing on what others are up to and worry about what’s going on in your own life, in your own heart, in your own home.
In other words, creating a better world doesn’t start by pointing out the faults of others.
Rather, creating a better world starts by examining our own lives to find our own faults and failings and sins.
Once I’m aware of my own faults and failings and sins, then I can begin to walk the difficult road to change. Change should always start with me. Change starts with the recognition that I need to grow. Change starts with the realization that I can do better.
Jesus says no to being overly focused on the behaviors of others and yes to being focused on ourselves.
As we focus on ourselves, we are able to begin to turn from sin and choose to do good. We are able to begin to do what Jesus asks. We are able to root out and cut away those parts of ourselves and those behaviors of ours that are undesirable.
As this happens, we also begin, quite naturally, to do good. And Jesus says our good deeds have good rewards.
Anyone who gives a cup of water to drink will surely not lose the reward. Giving a cup of cold water to one who is thirsty is such a simple task.
But it comes from a heart that is determined to pluck out sin. It comes from a heart that is set on Jesus and the Kingdom. It come from a heart that desires to do good.
Joshua and the disciples are preoccupied with others. As a result they were unable to see their own need to change. Let us focus, not on others, but on ourselves, so that we might see our need to grow and to change. And seeing this, begin to work to do good and so earn our heavenly reward.