Mark 2:13 Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. 14 As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. 15 And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
Here he goes again – reaching out to tax collectors. First Matthew, now Levi. I’m sure the other disciples weren’t happy about this. As you know, tax collectors were a particularly despised people group among the Jewish community. Why? Because they were Jews who collected taxes from other Jews, and got rich in the process. There were considered traitors to their people. No respectable Jew would spent time with a tax collector if they could avoid it.
Yet here is Jesus actually pursuing them, inviting them into his family of disciples.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a woman who came to me in need, someone I’d never met who is not a part of our church. The minute she starting talking I knew she was going to ask me for money. She had this long story of woe, how some cash would help keep her young children fed for a few days. As she was speaking I could feel my heart harden.
This sort of thing happens all the time. People go from church to church trying to collect as much cash as possible, often to fund consumption of drugs, alcohol, or other addictive substances. Yet I’m also aware this is not true of everyone who seeks this kind of help. Sometimes the need is legitimate. The problem is, it’s hard to tell which is which. And so I will tend to view all people with skepticism. I’m not proud of this, but it’s true.
This morning I can hear the Lord saying it’s not up to me to figure out who legitimately needs help and who doesn’t. My job is to be present and to reflect the love of Christ for all people – even the scammers and hustlers. Especially the scammers and hustlers.
Lord thaw my heart this morning. Give me grace to replace skepticism with love. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.