You’ve heard the one about the suggested simplified tax form: How much money did you make last year? Mail it in.
Herbert Hoover: "Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt."
Mark Twain: "I shall never use profanity except in discussing house rent and taxes . . ."
Jay Leno: "Worried about an IRS audit? Avoid what's called a red flag. That's something the IRS always looks for. For example, say you have some money left in your bank account after paying taxes. That's a red flag."
“TAXES” whoever said there are no swear words in the Bible
It’s father’s day – I’ll let you connect the dots as to why taxes is a good subject on Father’s Day…(As a side note, the last few days I’ve been lobbying my family to do away with Father’s Day, and replace it with “Father’s Week-End.” They wouldn’t do it.)
Those who have grown up in the church know the end of the story, we know Matthew the Tax collector becomes a disciple – we need a fresh hearing to understand the incredible action of Jesus to go and eat in the home of a tax collector. Jesus saw a tax collector and said, “follow me.” Did I hear that right?
A tax collector would not have been on anyone’s radar as to who would be invited to become a student of Jesus. Jesus was gaining a reputation at this time of being a great teacher. Great teachers always had students. Religious leaders like the Pharisees might be on the list. Young people from good Jewish families. But a tax collector?
In the Jewish culture of the day, tax collectors were among the most reviled of all classes of people. #1, tax collectors were Jewish, #2, tax collectors worked for the Romans – the enemies, #3, tax collectors made money by tacking on extra money to the amount required by the Romans – i.e. extortionists.
Jesus saw a tax collector, invited him to become a student, he accepted, and Matthew invited Jesus into his home. Look who else was there: other tax collectors and assorted sinners, outcasts, rejects (Matt. 9:10). “Lord, Come to My Messy House.” If you feel like you don’t fit in, like you don’t fit the mold, then you have good company –//// The Lord Jesus Christ will come to your house. And bring your friends.
Tax collectors hang out together. They share a common bond. A common rejection. Next door to me in Nooksack lives a police officer. It’s very common for 3-4 police cars to be there, because next door is the gathering place – Matt has the big screen tv and the games! The truth is that being a police officer is lonely. Even on the off time, police officers are considered untouchable, different, when people find out what they do for a living the jokes about speeding, watching themselves….police officers, tax collectors. Can never get away. When you are rejected, the horrible feeling…
When Sally and I served in San Francisco, a man that had grown up in the church started getting involved for the first time as an adult. For years he left the church and turned his back on God as he lived a homosexual lifestyle, when he was diagnosed with AIDS, he returned to God. I learned an incredible amount from this man. He kept his circle of friends in the gay community. In my life, this man is the primary example of Matthew in this scripture. Jesus saw him and said, “Follow me” and Mark did, he re-committed his life to Jesus Christ and followed him – he used to tell me that when his friends asked him how it was that he was happier with AIDS than he was before, that was an opportunity to share his faith and tell his friends about Christ. Jesus went to the home of this man, along with his friends and other “sinners.”
Tax collectors hang out with other tax collectors because they have a mutual bond. Young people no longer welcome by their families find each other and form a new family. Do you know how common it is to feel unworthy of love? Even the love of God? I believe most people who reject Christianity don’t do so on the basis of an intellectual argument about the reality of the supernatural or something like that. They reject Christianity because they feel rejected. “Lord, Come to My Messy House.” Come to my world, come see my friends that I hang out with, no surprise they are just like me. Accept me, accept my friends.
Let’s jump to Jesus explanation for why he loves to hang out in the homes of sinners and others who feel rejected. Matt. 9:12-13. “I desire mercy (compassion), not sacrifice.” What does that mean? Jesus is talking to the Pharisees, the religious leaders, the ones in charge of the synagogues, perhaps most equivalent to the elders or pastor, or anyone that has authority. “I desire compassion, not sacrifice…” “Sacrifice” in this scripture is simply a catch-all world for religious rituals, piety, patterns – the priority of Jesus is to care more about those who are hurting and struggling than about personal patterns that focus on ourselves.
The idea is found through-out the Bible, such as Micah 6:6-8.
For right or wrong, for the first half of adulthood in trying to be a good pastor, I focused more on theory, more on statistics, too many books on how to grow a church, trying to find the key to unleashing the right conditions for a revival. Now that I am solidly in the middle years, theory overwhelms me, I’ve discovered I know very little and can control even less, so I would rather just go out and be involved in the work of Jesus Christ. I expect I will make mistakes, miss the mark, maybe I should spend more time in prayer, in study, in caring about the United States and the direction we are going as a nation, all of that is very important, but I will never be perfect at it. “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” I hear the Lord saying, just go out and make a difference, go into the homes of the tax collectors that are struggling and feeling rejected, be available to those that need a helping hand, an encouraging word.
The problem with reading stories about Jesus is that I believe with all my heart he is modeling the sort of life/attitudes he wants us to have, but he has perfect knowledge, and I don’t. My judgment is open to scrutiny, of course, Jesus judgment was criticized, too, but we know he can never be wrong unlike you and me; Yet I hear the Lord saying in this scripture to err on the side of mercy. Even in our wrong choices of being merciful, there is a rightness to it, a blessing from God. I would rather be in the trenches with all its pitfalls, uncertainty, and questions, than stay in the world of theory and spend my time waiting for the perfect opportunity that will unlock the keys to the kingdom.
That’s why I like being the pastor of SACC, that’s why I think I have the best job in the world, because I have learned from so many of you… That’s what you are doing.
Lord, Come to my messy house. Jesus went to the HOME of Matthew, a man considered unclean because of his occupation. Here’s something else about a home: a home is NOT a place of teaching, it’s not a place of formality. I’d like to think that if Jesus were walking on earth today, and he came into my home, he would sit down and watch television with me./// Togetherness. Building a relationship. How many of us Christian leader types have no time for small talk … I try… here is an offer for you… if you literally want to get in the homes of some folks around Sumas let me know…
Jesus demonstrates mercy with Matthew. He did not walk by Matthew and dismiss him as an unredeemable tax collector. No doubt people had piled heaps of condemnation on the tax man. He had heard pious people say “How could you? Your parents were such good people ... Don’t you have any conscience? Does money mean so much to you that you would betray and cheat your own people?”
Instead Jesus spoke to Matthew, not about taxes, not in condemnation, but about new life. He said, “Follow me.” By inviting Matthew to follow him Jesus initiates a relationship. He invites Matthew to come along—be one of his group. Matthew jumps at the opportunity! He was ready to leave his old life behind. You can too…Matthew did not need Jesus’ condemnation. Matthew needed mercy. He needed redemption – a way out of the pit he dug for himself. He needed a helping hand to put him on a new path. He needed the hope of a different future – a God filled future made possible through God’s kindness and forgiveness.
Two application from this scripture:
1) Do you feel unworthy for Christ to come to your home. You are the reason he came. I am the reason he came. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Like the taxman, looked down upon by the Romans and Jews alike. You may have your own sense of rejection. “Lord, come to my messy house.”
2) Be the hands and feet of Jesus, be like Christ, making a ministry of compassion a priority. Go to those who have hit the bottom. Those who are searching. Go into their homes when invited. Some of my theological ideas may be wrong, my worship may be imperfect, I may miss days of reading my Bible, but the Lord says caring about others is the most important thing of all. “I desire mercy, not sacrifices.”
Lord come to my messy house. I’ve been rejected and I need your acceptance. When Jesus said to Matthew, follow me, and when he went to the home of Matthew, Jesus gave a three-fold gift: Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness. The same gift is yours. Invite him.