Just a Crumb, Please

We've had several pet dogs throughout the course of our family life, but Sophie was my favorite. Small for a one-year-old yellow lab when we adopted her, she soon let us know that she hadn't been getting enough food. And she decided she would never let that happen again. She spent the next twelve years with us searching out and devouring anything she could find to eat (including nine extra-large chocolate bars still in their wrappers, which were intended as stocking stuffers one Christmas—but that's another story!).

One of Sophie's favorite spots in our house was under our dining table, especially when the grandchildren came to visit. If she got too obnoxious, we'd send her to her rug. She soon learned to sit quietly at a little one's feet to receive any crumbs that fell (or broccoli intentionally snuck down to her open mouth when a parent wasn't looking). I remember fondly the days when an after dinner sweep-up was rarely necessary. If Sophie was around, she had already licked the floor clean. And she was happy to do it. She was delighted with any crumbs she could find.

An Insult from Jesus?

I think of our sweet Sophie when I read the account of the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21–28 and Mark 7:24–30. On a cursory reading, one might think that Jesus is insulting this woman who came to Him for help. At first He ignores her pleas, and then He says that it would not be "right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." One might wonder, who is this Jesus and where did my Lord go?

She knew what she needed and believed that Jesus could provide it.

The ESV Study Bible helps us understand: "Jews frequently insulted Gentiles by calling them dogs, which in ancient Palestine were wild, homeless scavengers. But the form Jesus uses here (Greek—kynarion, "little dog") suggests a more affectionate term for domestic pets. Jesus is not insulting the woman but testing her faith" (ESV Study Bible, p. 1853).

Here was a woman who had a huge problem. Her little girl was severely oppressed by a demon, and she came to Jesus for help. She came boldly and annoyed the disciples so much that they "begged him, saying, 'Send her away for she is crying out after us'" (Matt. 15:23).

She would have none of it. She pressed in even closer to Jesus, coming and kneeling before Him. "Lord, help me." Mark says that she fell down at His feet, begging for her little girl.

A Humble, Persistent Faith

The point is that she persisted, engaging with Him. She was expectant, hopeful. The disciples were just annoyed at the inconvenience of a crying woman, but Jesus compassionately affirmed her humility. She knew what she needed and believed that Jesus could provide it. And she was willing to take anything He would give her—even a crumb.

She received what He said, thought about it, and responded to His words. He saw her eager to get even a scrap from under His table, and He called that great faith, a faith that He validated.

Do you ever come to your Bible reading with a bad attitude? Do you ever wonder if it is worth it? Are you longing for big spiritual gushes of emotion to flood over you as you read? Sometimes that happens. But let's not dictate to God the kind of food we want day to day.

Let's be willing to accept even a crumb from under His table. Let's do the work of coming, crying, bowing. Jesus responds to humble, persistent, simple faith. Are you willing to say, "Just a crumb, please"?

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About the Author

Jani Ortlund

Jani Ortlund

Jani Ortlund, Executive Vice President of Renewal Ministries, loves spending her energies connecting women with the Word of God. Serving Jesus Christ through writing, speaking and discipling are her chief passions in life. Jani and Ray, Pastor of Immanuel Church, have four married children and twelve grandchildren, and minister in Nashville, Tennessee.

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