As Jesus passed by,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners came
and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
He heard this and said,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus calls Matthew to come and “Follow me.” While Matthew isn’t a kid, he certainly takes a great big leap of faith in leaving a very lucrative career as a tax collector. It may not have been the most popular or glamorous job in the ancient world but it paid well. As well as you wanted it it. Tax collectors were charged with collecting the revenue for the Roman government. They didn’t care how you did it so long as you did it. What made the Jewish tax collectors the most hated people in Judea was that they would often collect more than the Roman government required and sometimes more often. They would pay what was owed and pocket the rest. It was legalized extortion and the Jewish people looked at these men as traitors to the Jewish religion and nation. Matthew was one of these guys.
When Jesus comes along, and tells Matthew to follow him, everyone around him cannot believe what they are seeing and hearing. Especially the Pharisees. So who are you? The pharisee or the tax collector? I hear all too often how people complain about hypocrites in church on Sunday. They may say things like, “You know they were out drinking last night and here they are this morning.” They may say something like, “That guy gossips about everyone”. Or “she holds grudges and doesn’t forgive people”. Yup I have heard it all and am guilty of all of these from time to time. SO WHAT! If you think that people who sin don’t belong in Church on Sunday then you have completely missed the point of who Jesus is and why He came and why He established a Church. As Abigail Van Buren once said, “A church is a hospital for sinners, not a hall of fame of saints.” So I am asking you again, are you the pharisee or the tax collector?
There are so many people out there, even entire denominations that preach about how we shouldn’t associate with sinners. I suppose they think that hanging around the sinner is going to lead you to sin. I guess they think they don’t sin themselves. How can we as Christians ever share the good news of Jesus, how can we bring people to Jesus, if we don’t go and meet people on their level where they are at in life? How can we do any of this if we aren’t reaching out to sinners just like us? I am a sinner, I am not proud of that. Jesus is my doctor, the Church is my hospital. Don’t ever think that you are too good to admit you are a sinner. Don’t ever feel you are not good enough for Jesus. Don’t ever think you are too good for church. Don’t ever feel ashamed of going to church and some lady spends more time looking around and staring at you thanking God she’s better than you. Because she’s or he is the pharisee who is blind to themselves and full of themselves.
Normally I end this with a thought for the day, and I will. However today I will use a quote by Fulton Sheen. “Far better it is for you to say: “I am a sinner,” than to say: “I have no need of religion.” The empty can be filled, but the self-intoxicated have no room for God.”
Are you a tax collector or a pharisee?