MARK 2:15-17 (NIV)
"While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: 'Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners? On hearing this, Jesus said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'”
It all started when Keith told us he was hosting a beer brewing club in his home as an outreach. Then he went so far as to say that he was praying about whether to buy some cigarettes so he would have some on hand the next time a neighbor asked for one. I heard him say this might buy him an opportunity for deeper conversation with this person.
What? Are you kidding me? I turned to my husband in dismay, “What in the world is this ministry we are giving God’s money to?”
You see, we are Keith’s supporters. And thus began my personal journey in unpacking my “Pharisee suitcase”, neatly packed — actually crammed — with “religion”. I have watched as this brew club opened the door to pray for a man whose marriage was falling apart, to minister to a couple caught up in the turmoil of letting go of a relative with ALS, and countless other unbelievable stories of doors and hearts opening to the message of Jesus. As people walk into Keith’s home looking for the brew club, they are really being welcomed into a community that is willing to surround them with Jesus’ love.
A brew club seems like an unlikely venue for ministry, but was that what Jesus was creating as he reclined at a table with tax collectors and sinners? Was he forming a safe place from judgment for all who entered? After all, isn’t he the One who tells us, “Judge not, lest you be judged!” (Matthew 7:1)? As I continue this journey of unpacking my suitcase, I find that judgment takes up most of the space (I usually prefer to call it “discernment”).
I have discovered that judging others keeps me from following Jesus where he is wanting me to go. It also blocks the ability for God’s love to flow to me and through me. Why do we so often read God’s Word as just a list of rules? Instead, I am beginning to hear and receive his words with new ears. Hearing the grace he has for me as well as for those around me, realizing that I, too, am a “tax collector”, assessing a tax of “do it right” from everyone I meet.
My suitcase is still heavy, but God is working. Watching my friends Keith and Megan open their doors and engage the “least of these” in their neighborhood in East Dallas has been a revolutionary training ground for me!
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION
- Who are the “tax collectors” or sinners in your life that you tend to judge or ignore?
- How would you feel about Jesus eating with them? What might he want to say to you about who they are? How does he see them?
- What are you carrying in your suitcase? Take one step toward unpacking those things with Jesus today.
This reading is a part of our "Small Feet Big Shoes" devotional series. You can also sign up to receive these meditations by email.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Clift lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband, Charles. They have four adult children and five (almost six) grandchildren. They are friends and supporters of CRM, specifically with Keith and Megan Peeler who serve to create movements of committed followers of Jesus in Dallas.