Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rules and Taxes

As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wine skins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wine skins, and so both are preserved.” Matthew 9:9-17

We as humans love to judge others, finding fault and disregard others way of life. We who call ourselves faithful can also fall into judgement of others, knowing better than they do what they need and what is good for them. We want so desperately as people to be right, and better than our neighbor that we would pass laws and levy fines for their life style. Watching the recent series on Prohibition, it was enlightening to learn that federal income tax began as a precursor to prohibition, so that the money raised in legitimate sale of liquor would be replaced by a federal income tax. We as a people thought controlling the behavior of others was more prudent than trusting them to regulate themselves.

Jesus called Matthew as a disciple and then went to his home for a meal. Folks of all sorts crowded around to criticize the host and his honored guest. They wanted to be right, and were not afraid to others in the room by their questions. Jesus answered them straight-fowardly, honestly and with the same intensity that they were grilling him. He wanted them to understand that God does not limit love or compassion. God does not call and reach out for the rule mongers, the rigid, the ones who think themselves right. God seeks out those who know their need, and who want to be closer to the heart of God.

Today, I pray that I can be honest and straight forward in my need of God, not worrying about what others do or think of me, but caring only that I am on the road. May we not pass judgement of others this day, but know that each is sought by God, and that God is reaching out to those who will voice their need this day.

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