Beside Still Waters: The Pharisees and the Tax Collector

Therese Apel

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. – Luke 5:27-29

And of course, the Pharisees lost their whole entire minds.

Don’t we do that a little today, church? Don’t we look at the people we think aren’t worthy and judge them? Maybe it’s when folks from the suburbs look at South Jackson and condemn its residents out of spite and fear. Maybe it’s the church looking at “sinners” like gang members or prostitutes or poor people or homeless and seeing only their circumstances and not what led them there.

Maybe it’s when you look at someone who believes differently than you do politically or spiritually, and like the Pharisees you smooth your fancy robes and wash your hands and then proceed to say such foul, sanctimonious things about that person simply because they don’t think the same way you do.

But look at Levi (Matthew). Jesus said, “Come follow me.” What did he do? He immediately left his high-paying job to follow Jesus. Not only that, he had a banquet for Jesus where he invited all his other friends who were hated by the church of that time and they celebrated Jesus. He asked no questions. He just followed the Messiah because his heart told him it was right.

The church people were too busy imposing rules on people to see that those rules are earthly. What was happening at Matthew’s house was eternal.

I can’t count how many times people have told me that to react to the unsaved or the less fortunate with mercy and compassion enables them and lets them think they don’t have to live to a certain standard, or that they’ll just get into Heaven without having to repent.

No, Pharisees. It is your lack of mercy and compassion that is the problem here. Quit looking at the speck in their eyes and take out the plank in your own. We are here to love those who seem unlovable. To give to the poor. To feed the hungry. To clothe the naked and house the homeless and wash the feet of those shunned by society.

Not to stand and condemn while those very sinners (and we, too, are sinners, lest we forget) see Jesus with their hearts and celebrate Him and invite their friends to meet Him.

Sometimes the church is the Prodigal Son’s older brother. “I’ve been here this whole time so I’m the one who is right. He doesn’t deserve all this.”

Well done for staying, brother, but fix your heart. THAT is what determines your worthiness. Would you rather be the anonymous Pharisee whose name the world never remembered, or Matthew, who will always be the rich man who left it all to accept a gift the world would never understand? We talk about Matthew every day.

Are you Matthew, dropping everything the world holds dear to follow your Savior into the riches of eternity, or are you the Pharisee, tied to rules and judgement, who has lost sight of Who God really is?

There is no place in the life of Christ in which He didn’t show compassion and mercy to those who needed it if they simply accepted Him. There is nothing in the Gospels that says we have the right to withhold His light because someone has committed a sin that He has already died to forgive.

That repentance is between that sinner and his Savior. It’s not yours to dictate. It’s yours to serve.

Think on it. ❤️

(Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash)

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