Jesus was sending his disciples to preach the gospel in some nearby villages when He gave these odd instructions.
13 If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14 Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. (Matthew 10:13-14 NASV)
If the village did not heed their words or receive Christ’s message they were supposed to shake the dust of the village off their feet. In the dry Mediterranean climate, dust was a constant way of life and not surprisingly idioms about dust found its way into the common vernacular.
It was a quirky saying and sometimes we struggle to understand what Jesus was referring to.
In fact, Jesus may have alluded to a quaint saying associated with Rabbis of the day.
In her book, Walking in the dust of the Rabbi, Jesus, author Lois Tverberg explains that Jesus’ teaching approach was very much the style for Rabbis of that time.
They did not have text books or syllabi that they handed out to their disciples. There weren’t weekly assignment and mid-term tests, but rather they were to learn from Christ as they followed Him through every day life.
“Out of this unusual teaching method arose a well-known saying: you should learn from a rabbi by ‘covering yourself in his dust.’ You should follow so closely behind him as he traveled from town to town teaching that billows of sandy granules should cling to your clothes. As you walked with your rabbi, your heart would change.”
As they traveled the dust kicked up by the rabbi’s footsteps would cover his disciples. This was a sign of a disciple.
This brings us back to the statement Jesus made to His disciples because Christ’s dust is not the only one filling the air.
There is also the dust of society — the ones who did not heed or receive Christ’s teaching.
As we walk through life we are continually covered with two conflicting layers of dust — Christ’s and society’s.
If we fail from time to time to shake off society’s dust, it inevitably begins to mix with Christ’s teaching and this leads to compromise.
Our faith is mixed and our belief system muddied.
Unfortunately, this mixing of dust fits a description the Apostle John provides of the church that he saw surfacing in his apocalyptic vision of the end times recorded in the Book of Revelation:
15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, (Revelation 3: 15-17 NASV)
Laodicea describes one type of church that John says would be prevalent just before Christ’s second coming. It was a compromised church that the apostle describes as lukewarm, neither hot or cold.
This was because it had not shaken off society’s dust and society’s values were mixing with its Christian faith and perhaps even its theology. At times you were not sure when one started and the other ended.
Look at how he describes this end-times church as being rich, wealthy and having need of nothing. Laodicea was a wealthy town and those riches were spilling over into the church.
Does this describe today’s North American church?
And do we see any sign of a mixing of society’s dust with Christ’s dust?
There may be. I wonder if out of that mixing of dust comes the Christian prosperity gospel that is so prevalent today. The faith teaching that God wants us all to be rich. That if we aren’t rich it is because we don’t have enough faith.
Is this true Biblical teaching or simply a mixing of dust resulting in a muddied and compromised gospel?