A Dissatisfied Generation

A Dissatisfied Generation April 24, 2024

Photo by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash

In Matthew 11, Jesus describes a dissatisfied generation – they complained about John the Baptist, and they complained about Jesus. How can we avoid being part of the “dissatisfied generation”?


1 Samuel, chapters 28-29; Psalm 109; Matthew, chapter 11

Matthew 11:16-19 (CEB):

“To what will I compare this generation? It is like a child sitting in the marketplaces calling out to others, ‘We played the flute for you and you didn’t dance. We sang a funeral song and you didn’t mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ Yet the Human One [Son of Man] came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved to be right by her works.”


Son of Man

When I started using the Common English Bible (CEB) translation for my daily readings this year, I immediately noticed a couple of things that were a bit unsettling to me. I commented on this in my first post of the year (“In the Beginning”); the CEB translation of Genesis 1 says, “When God began to create.” Today’s passage reflects another example of the differences in the CEB: instead of the familiar phrase “Son of Man,” the CEB uses “Human One.” While “Human One” literally translates “Son of Man,” it seems to me to over-emphasize Jesus’ humanity and minimize his divinity. For that reason, when I include quotations from the CEB that include the phrase “Human One,” I will include “Son of Man” in brackets. (The CEB uses a footnote for the same purpose.)

A Dissatisfied Generation

“To what will I compare this generation?” Jesus asks. I would suggest that he could compare it to our present generation – and probably every generation between. It is symptomatic of the sinful nature that we all want our own way. And because we will never get our own way, we’re dissatisfied. Like Goldilocks, it’s either too hot or too cold, too soft or too hard.

This phenomenon crosses economic and cultural lines; the details may change, but the underlying issue remains. And we all convince ourselves that in our case, it’s different: “this is really important!” Of course it is – to us. But in the scope of human history, and in the context of eight billion people in the world today, it’s not different. As the introduction to the TV show Dragnet used to say, “The story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.”

“Wisdom Is Proved Right by Her Works”

But Jesus gives a particular example in discussing himself and John the Baptist that highlights the underlying issue. John the Baptist was the classical perception of a prophet. He lived in the wilderness, wore animal skins for clothes, and ate locusts and wild honey. He preached what we might call today a “fire and brimstone” message, calling God’s people to repent and be baptized to prepare for the coming of God’s kingdom.

At first glance, Jesus was John’s polar opposite. He called people to repent, but not in John’s fiery language. He didn’t stay out in the wilderness; he went to where the people were. Jesus himself pointed out this contrast: “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ Yet the Human One came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” While Jesus and John may have looked different, the message was the same: get ready, because God’s kingdom is breaking into this world.

The people’s response was the same: John was thrown into prison and beheaded, and Jesus was crucified. Because the message didn’t fit what people wanted to hear, they rejected both message and messenger. And the response is the same today: people reject the truth, the call to turn from this life’s values and join God’s kingdom. They aren’t satisfied with this life, but they won’t embrace the alternative – kingdom life. But wisdom is proved to be right by her works.

Application – A Dissatisfied Generation

In Scripture, wisdom starts with an acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty. “Fear of the Lord is where wisdom begins” (Psalm 111:10). The dissatisfaction that marks our world demonstrates that only God can truly satisfy us. We were created to be in relationship with God, and our lives will be unfulfilled until we embrace that relationship with him. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Therefore, don’t worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ Gentiles long for all these things. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them. Instead, desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).

The people at the church I serve know that I paraphrase that directive from Jesus this way: “When we put God’s will first, everything else in our lives lines up behind God in its proper place. When we try to put anything or anyone else first, it all collapses.” Wisdom is proved right by her works, and the work of wisdom is to seek God’s will.

In Philippians 4, Paul puts it this way: “I know the experience of being in need and of having more than enough; I have learned the secret to being content in any and every circumstance, whether full or hungry or whether having plenty or being poor. I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13). So, are we part of God’s kingdom – or are we part of the dissatisfied generation?


Father, thank you for all that you have done for me. Guard my heart against the enemy’s attempts to make me dissatisfied. You have proven time and time again that you know what I need, and you always supply it. Thank you for your goodness in providing what I need, and in saying “no” to what I don’t need. Help my life to reflect the works of true wisdom, in seeking your kingdom above all else. Amen.


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