Words of Faith 4-12-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
<>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <><
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.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
 Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Luke wants us to notice something really important-- the response of the religious people. There was growing opposition to Jesus. These folks were especially offended by this whole scene where Jesus was mixing with sinners. The same group of religious leaders who had previously questioned Jesus' authority now questioned the propriety of this party. Not only was Jesus associating with the sinners, He was eating with them! This denoted a deep fellowship or camaraderie with them.
Those objecting had what we could call a "religious spirit." One good warning sign of a religious spirit is if you are easily offended. Religious people walk around with sets of rules and barriers, sometimes invisible, that they wait to be offended. If you are offended easily you may be a religious person.
What sort of things had been offensive to these religious people? There probably was a growing list. Jesus had no respect for the elders in his hometown. He dealt with issues of the spirit, casting out demons rather than concerning Himself with the rules. He healed all sorts of people without any discrimination. He called unschooled disciples from the ranks of the working class. He touched a man who had leprosy. He healed a paralytic on the Sabbath and in doing so ruined a perfectly good example of "bad living" for religious people to talk about. The list was getting longer every day.
Now they were upset that Jesus was eating and drinking with sinners. Jesus answered this objection in a simple way. He said that it was not His purpose to call the "righteous", but sinners to repentance. Now Jesus was not concerned at this point about discussing who were "the righteous" or arguing the fact that those who think they are "righteous" often are not. His point was simply that His mission was to those in need of repentance-- a change of heart and a change of life. The Pharisees sensed no need for such a change. Jesus had shown authority in the two healings which preceded this account and now He was able to fulfill His mission to sinners.
It is interesting that Jesus, who was God, was only offended once. People were always more important to Jesus than the religious rules. But Jesus was offended that the Sadducees turned the Temple into a personal business instead of a place of prayer. That was offensive.
Here is a little test for us. The next time you are feeling the temptation to be offended, ask God: "Lord, does this offend You? Can I trust You to deal with this, Lord?" The answer is probably "Yes, my child, I am overlooking these things, just as I overlook the offensive things in your life. I will handle this."
The truth is we often get our nose into matters that are only for God to deal with. This is why Jesus cautioned us to get the log out of our own eye before we start looking for splinters in the eyes of others. This is why passing judgment on others is so condemned in New Testament teaching. When we get "offended" and pass judgment on others we are trying to be a god and rule over another person or a situation. We are taking over a prerogative that belongs only to God Almighty. Where does this come from? It is our flesh-- our sinful nature-- that creeps in and demands to be god.
So how are you doing with this? Have you been offended lately? It may be the sort of kids that are coming to the teen ministry, or maybe the person who was just added to a leadership position. It may be the way people dress in church these days or that they clap their hands. Perhaps it is some decision to reach out to a particular group of people. Maybe it is just the color of paint on the wall. A religious spirit can creep with quiet stealth. Our warning sign is often that we feel "offended."
Father God, purify my heart. Focus me on You. Show me the things You want me to change in my life. Help me to trust You as God. Forgive me for the times that I have tried to be a god and have passed judgment on others. Forgive me for carrying a religious spirit. Help me to focus completely on You and trust that You have everything under control. In Jesus' name.