Tax Collectors and Sinners
Tax Collectors and Sinners
“Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” The Pharisees asked His disciples in Mark 2:16. The response is telling about our generation today and how we respond to sinners. The scribes, Pharisees and Jewish people in general had a disdain for tax collectors and particularly those who were Jews. Note the special distinction between tax collectors and sinners. The delineation is clear in companion passages in both Mark and Matthew. Tax collectors were considered even worse than sinners. Tax collectors were though even worse than sinners and considered cheats, liars, shakedown artists and extortionists who were allied with the Romans. They broke every rule in the book, so to speak.
The question is: “How is that any different today?”
- How do we as Christians view sinners?
- Are we like the scribes and Pharisees?
- Do we view sin according to our rules?
- Do we disdain those who are deceived by the evil one?
- Do we apply our cultural prejudices to those who don’t measure up to our standard?
- Do we exact judgment based on the tradition of man?
These are question those of us who consider ourselves “Evangelical” must ask ourselves. Are we like the scribes and Pharisees believing we are better than sinners? Before we explore the questions let’s see how Jesus responded. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Mark 2:17
Now that we have Jesus’ perspective let’s ask some questions:
- How do we feel about homosexuality?
- How do we feel about adultery?
- How do we feel about those who sell and take drugs or consume alcohol?
- How do we feel about those who do not have the same Godly moral compass?
These are real questions to consider. Is our heart hardened to those we consider sinners as was the heart of the Pharisees? Or, do we feel compassion for those who are caught up in sin as does Jesus? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the old saying, “you don’t smoke, drink and chew and you don’t run around with the boys that do.” That statement actually does have biblical roots. In 1 Corinthians 15:33 Paul extorts the listeners, “Do not be deceived, ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” So there it is, you don’t hang around with sinners. Right?
It all depends on motive and focus. Jesus did not call the sinners to come to Him he went and ate with the sinners (which was a huge religious no-no in that age). He ate with them but His desire was not to be included in their sinful behavior but call them out of it. Jesus was bathed in prayer and often retreated to be with the Father. In John 5:19 Jesus said “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son does in like manner.” Jesus’ desire was to call people out of sin. His motive was to see mankind reconciled to God. He knew very well the people He dined with sinners where they were but His goal was to demonstrate God’s grace and forgiveness rather than ostracizing, isolating, excluding and avoiding those who didn’t measure up to the religious standard.
The question for we evangelicals is; “How do we measure up apart from Jesus?” Do we see people as sinners as lowlifes who are worthy to be ostracized, isolated, excluded and avoided because they don’t measure up to our religious standard? Or do our hearts break that they are dying in sin apart from the wonderful love of God through Jesus Christ?
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
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