By Allen White
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
There are two types of people in this world: people who need God and people who don’t need God. But, doesn’t everybody need God? Well, it depends on how you want to live and where you want to go.
The religious leaders didn’t need God. They didn’t need His grace and mercy. They had it all worked out. As long as they lived by the rules – it was a reduced set of self-determined rules, mind you – they were okay. They were in control. Demanding control quickly demotes God in your life.
Then, there were the godless, self-indulgent prodigals. They also had no need for God, as far as they knew. From the outside, it seemed they just lived their lives and enjoyed themselves. On the inside, they did whatever it took to numb the pain, eventually increasing the dose. They lived in hopelessness.
Religion wanted to treat their symptoms, but it wouldn’t cure their disease. Whose disease? Actually, both groups. The religious diligently following rules and performing sacrifices were adding bandaids to their wounds. Their prescription for the irreligious was simply for them to stop self-medicating and follow the rules. They were simply exchanging one drug for another. Legalism is just as addictive as controlled substances.
The religious leaders had made up their minds about Jesus. He was a renegade. He was a lunatic. He was a blasphemer. They speculated that Jesus did Satan’s bidding. They didn’t need Jesus. So, Jesus went elsewhere.
Tax collectors, who were despised by the Jews, and “sinners” in general welcomed Jesus more readily than the religious. Jesus summed it up by saying, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” While the religious weren’t healthy, they thought they were. The sinners knew they were sick.
It makes us wonder about folks who have things all buttoned up and figured out. It also makes us wonder about our own openness to Jesus. Which group would we find ourselves in? How much do we actually need Jesus?
Do we go through our days on our own strength? Do we turn to God even when it’s not an emergency? I’m not saying these things to make you feel guilty and form a new rule in your life. But, how much of your life depends on you and how much of your life depends on God?
Who do you hang out with? Do you find your comfort zone among religious people or among sinners? Is your heart set to Christianize the world or to bring Christ to broken people? Treating the symptoms won’t cure the disease.
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