Day 20

Matthew 18:10-14

10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. [11]

12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Cory Asbury’s famous worship song “Reckless Love” was so popular it was nominated for a Grammy in 2019. The chorus chants about the “overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love” of God, a love that “leaves the ninety-nine.” The chorus refers to Jesus’s parable of the lost sheep and the shepherd who risks his herd to go after the lost one.

Whenever I think of the parable of the lost sheep, my mind jumps to this song and the story it tells of God’s tremendous love. I picture God going after the outcasts with frightening intensity. I see a God who welcomes prostitutes, sinners, tax collectors, drunkards, drug addicts and every other category of people written off by polite society. But that picture of reckless love is the parable of the lost sheep from Luke’s Gospel (Luke 15:3–7), not Matthew’s.

In Matthew, the sheep is not “lost.” No, according to Matthew’s version of the story, the sheep had “wandered” (Matt 18:12, 13). The word “wander” is used seven times by Matthew, and it always describes someone who should know better but has been “deceived” (Matt 22:29; 24:4, 5, 11, 24). Deception can be just as dangerous as shame.

The most heartbreaking example is when the Sadducees, a group of leaders steeped in the Bible, posed a theological riddle to Jesus in attempt to mock the idea of resurrection (Matt 22:23–28). Jesus answered their mockery with characteristic honesty, “You are deceived, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt 22:29). The problem with the Sadducees was not that they felt like they were “lost.” Their problem was that they had been deceived.

Yes, as Luke reminds us, Jesus loves the outcasts. But in Matthew, Jesus’s story of the wandering sheep is not about God’s love for the outcast. It’s about God’s love for the deceived. It’s a reminder that God’s love is for those who were once a part of the fold and at some point, for some reason, wandered away. No matter what lies you have come to believe about yourself or about God, or how far you’ve wandered away, God’s reckless love is for you too.