While He was reclining at the table in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also guests with Jesus and His disciples, because there were many who were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
People today are really no different than the ancients who presumed they would have favored status with GOD because of their inflated opinions of their own moral, religious and social superiority over those they considered less worthy. But Jesus never let public opinion color His ministry to those He came to save. He never catered to political correctness nor the social mores of the day. He came to help those who knew they needed help and were not too proud to ask for it or seek out answers to their brokenness.
It is a truism that you really cannot help those who will not admit that they have a problem and need help. Those who deny they are sick will not go to the doctor to get the cure — and therefore will remain sick. Jesus recognized this in the self-sufficiency and religious/social arrogance of the Pharisees, Sadducees and the scribes. They didn’t really want help so He spent His time with those who did, even if it meant associating with those considered the “dregs” of society — those that are considered a drain, a nuisance, the “problem children,” the lowest of the low that no one wants to acknowledge or be seen with for fear of social, religious or physical contamination or “guilt by association.” He chose to be seen with and minister to the downtrodden, the weak, the guilty, the sick, the marginalized, invisible, hated, feared, condescended to, the pitied, objects of disgust and contempt. Those society would shuffle off to dark corners and try to ignore and hide while propping up their own feelings of superiority on the sins and misfortunes of others.
The labels may have changed in the last few thousand years but the attitudes of entitlement to GOD’s favor remain the same. We still have a tendency to stand on the self-sufficiency of our own “goodness” and act like if Jesus were here today, He would rush to our sides to offer His approval and accolades, prop up our own reputation, both spiritual and social. I daresay, He wouldn’t be any more likely to do that for us than He was for the religious leaders of His incarnate days on Earth. In fact, you might be surprised at the parallels in the categories of people He is recorded to have as His companions and chosen disciples.
Who WOULD Jesus hang out with if He lived on Earth today? Probably not who you might think:
Tax Collectors = IRS agents and employees of municipal and state tax offices
Revolutionaries = biker bars, gang members, terrorists and traitors
Gypsies = the homeless (Let me make it abundantly clear that I am fully aware — as those who know me and my experiences can testify — that being homeless is not a sin in and of itself, nor even necessarily the result of sin in someone’s life. (John 9:3, Luke 13:2-5) It may be the result of sinful behaviors but that is most definitely not always so. Those who want to paint the homeless in all one color and stripe are just flat wrong. The conditions that lead a person or family to such desperate circumstances are much more varied than the media bias leads too many to believe. It is of utmost importance to set aside such assumptions and bias about the character of these families and get to know each one on a case by case basis before jumping to any conclusions about the content of their character or the type of help they need to truly get back on their feet.)
Beggars = vagrants and vagabonds
Lepers = AIDS patients and leper colonies in third world countries
Criminals = murderers, rapists, kidnappers, extortionists, con artists, embezzlers, drug dealers, thieves, mob bosses, assassins, hit men, pimps
Sinners = prostitutes, halfway houses for convicted felons and drug addicts, liars, cheaters, the arrogant, the uncompassionate, the unmerciful, the greedy, gays and lesbians, transgender/transsexuals, addicts of all stripes and colors — from the workaholic or family secret-aholic to the alcoholic to the pornaholic, the chronically angry and belligerent, the lazy, the ungrateful, the chronically discontented, the disrespectful and more.
Sinful dysfunctions come in such a multitude of forms that anyone can find a category in here for their sin or weakness of choice. No one is exempt from finding themselves somewhere the chaos of sinful choices. If you need further clarification or help finding the sins that are keeping you from GOD consider these verses:
The LORD hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to Him: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil, a lying witness who gives false testimony and one who stirs up trouble among brothers. Proverbs 6:16-19
Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit GOD’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people or swindlers will inherit GOD’s kingdom. And some of you used to be like this. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
In other words, NONE of us deserve to inherit GOD’s kingdom because we can ALL find ourselves in there to one degree or another. As a wise person once said: “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.” None of us have a leg to stand on in pointing out the sin of others to prop up our own presumptive superiority or spurious entitlement to GOD’s favor.
Who would Jesus not be able to reach because of their presumptions of religious, moral and social self-sufficiency and superiority?
- The arrogant
- The power, prestige and money hungry
- People more concerned with form and appearance than genuine depth, intimacy and integrity.
- Those who only want their egos stroked
Who would Jesus not cater to nor show a preference for nor enable in their entitlement mentality of deserving or being more worthy of GOD’s favor than those people or their assumption that their own self-proclaimed “superiority” gives them the right to judge and boss around the unfortunate, sinful peons or that their advice and assessment of what those people have done wrong and how to fix it is at least on par with God’s own perspective and should be treated as a divine utterance, “Word From On High?”
- Any particular denomination or church
- “Denomination-bound” people, both lay and clergy
- The power, prestige and money hungry
- CEOs and company execs
- Priests, pastors, bishops and rabbis
- Deacons, elders, Sunday School teachers and other lay leaders
- Doctors and lawyers
- Kings, presidents and generals
- Those with a high profile social media presence or influential, successful YouTuber
- Do-gooders (volunteers) — especially those who are in it to be seen and gain a reputation of good works minus the actual heart of service and compassion. But even those doing it for the right reason are not in a position to claim greater divine approval if they do not acknowledge that they also have sin in the mix and bring the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth before GOD in all humility. The good works in and of themselves, no matter how sincere, will not save anyone!
- MBAs and PhDs
- Published authors and scholars
- Sports and Hollywood stars
- The otherwise rich, powerful and famous
Not that these are necessarily excluded from GOD’s kingdom. But it is not your education, titles, position, wealth, power, accomplishments, good deeds or strict adherence to a particular denominational doctrine or set of rules that will save them — or you. It is only in identifying your particular brands of sin and admitting your need for His help, that He can come hang with you and help you through the recovery process.
But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the LORD Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our GOD. 1 Corinthians 6:11
Far from categories and labels to be avoided, the best thing you can do is to fully own the less desirable parts of you, the parts that fall far short of what GOD wants for you and are keeping you from Him. You actually want to find yourself a niche in the class of “tax collectors and sinners,” because that is who Jesus spends His time with and spending time with Him is the only way to cure the sin infection in our hearts and minds and become a Jesus peep! Not that we should seek out new ways to sin intentionally in order to spend more time with Him. As Paul points out in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?”
We all do plenty of sinning without trying very hard to do so and in some cases in spite of our best efforts to do right because we are all sinners. (Romans 7:15-20)The sooner we figure that out and leave aside all the posturing and self-promotion and condescension, pride and arrogance, the better for our eternal souls and present contentment and joy in His saving grace. As another wise person pointed out, “The ground is level at the foot of the Cross.”
Happy New Year everyone! May you find your need for GOD and the joy of being a Jesus peep eternally walking in His presence every day of 2016 and beyond!
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous for the LORD your GOD will go with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
I am not ashamed, for I know in Whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard that which I have entrusted to Him until that day. 2 Timothy 1:12