Matthew 11:19

ESV The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”
NIV The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.'
NASB The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a heavy drinker, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ And yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.'
CSB The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! ' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."
NLT The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.'
KJV The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.

What does Matthew 11:19 mean?

Jesus is showing how the current generation of Israelites is like children who are disappointed because their friends won't participate in their games. The Israelites, as a whole, complained that neither John nor Jesus met their expectations for how a prophet or the Messiah should act. The two complaints presented are mirror images of each other. The point, overall, is that the people are simply looking for excuses not to believe.

In the previous verse, Jesus pointed out that many accused John of being demon-possessed (Matthew 11:18). In part, this was because of his strange and restrictive lifestyle. He didn't drink alcohol or go to dinner parties. Instead, he lived in a strange place, wearing strange clothes, eating strange food, and calling people to repent of sin. It was easier to declare a man like that demonized than to reckon with his warnings about God's judgment.

On the other hand, Jesus did attend dinner parties and drink wine. That's what He means when He says that He came eating and drinking. The people who did not want to hear Jesus' message made false accusations—exactly the opposite of those they might have applied to John the Baptist—that because Jesus did not fast as other religious people did and because He did not abstain from wine, He must be a glutton and drunkard. Neither of those things was true.

Another problem for Jesus' critics, especially religious leaders, was the people with whom He associated. Jesus ate dinner with tax collectors and other known "sinners:" those who didn't strictly follow the law. This is Matthew's gospel, and Matthew once again points out what it cost Jesus' reputation to call him, a former tax collector (Matthew 9:9), as one of the twelve disciples.

Jewish religious leaders staunchly refused to have any association with tax collectors or others of low reputation. They wrongly believed this increased their religious worth above those like Jesus, who spent time with such people. In one instance, Jesus condemned them for failing to show mercy to the spiritually "sick," the ones who most needed a doctor (Matthew 9:12–13).

Jesus' point was that the Israelites of this generation, as a whole, rejected John the Baptist and Jesus. But they did so for contradictory reasons. The truth was they refused to accept the teachings of either. Neither John nor Jesus met the people's own, skewed ideas for what a prophet or religious teacher should be like.

Christ concludes by stating a simple proverb: Wisdom is justified by her deeds. Some ancient manuscripts, including Luke's version of this statement, put it slightly differently: "Wisdom is justified by all her children" (Luke 7:35). Both make the same case. The wisdom of Jesus and John the Baptist is demonstrated by the results which come from those actions. It's not their eating and drinking and dinner companions that matter, it's the content of their message and what comes from their actions that will prove them to be genuine or not. Both would be fully vindicated by the fulfillment of Jesus' mission.
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