Jesus Calls Levi (Matthew)
27Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. 28So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.
29Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. 30But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?e”
Please remember that the rest of this are just my thoughts. I’m not a theologian and I don’t sit next to God and listen to him. I don’t really want to post this, but I feel like I’m called to.
This is one of the simplest, and yet most profoundly important lessons in the New Testament.
Jesus sees a tax collector and calls him to be his disciple. Tax collectors at that time were notorious cheats. They were Jews working for the Romans and usually cheating their fellow Jews while they were at it. Based on their actions, they were “scum”.
But Jesus obviously saw something else. Jesus saw Levi’s heart. He saw his motivations, his hopes, his dreams, his sorrows and his joys. Jesus saw what we absolutely cannot see. We think we know why people do things all the time, when we do not…we cannot. When God tells us to “judge not”, he is not saying we cannot judge that certain actions are right or wrong. He commands us all over the Bible to judge actions. But we are not to judge the hearts of people. We cannot judge someone’s motivation…we do not know why.
When we allow ourselves to think we know why people do things we are on VERY thin ice. This is how it works:
Jack pushed Jill down the hill. —> Bob thinks Jack wanted Jill to be injured in the fall. (Why) —> Jack is a very evil person. —> Therefore Bob can treat him bad, say all kinds of terrible things about him to others, be disrespectful, use foul language etc. etc. etc.—> If Jack’s friends don’t know what a terrible person he is they are ignorant, if they do know they are also evil —> Jack’s friends don’t deserve Bob’s respect and kindness either.
The other side: Jack pushed Jill down the hill. —> Jack was pushing her out of the way of a rattlesnake. (Why) —> Jack was a good person who hurt Jill. —> But Bob assumed he was doing things for the wrong reason. —> Bob can say all kinds of terrible things about Jack to others, be disrespectful, use foul language etc. etc. etc. —> People who know Jack see what Bob did. —> They assume Bob did it because Bob is evil and wants to hurt Jack’s reputation for no reason. (Why) —> Bob is a very evil person. —> Therefore they can treat Bob bad, say all kinds of terrible things about him to others, be disrespectful, use foul language etc. etc. etc.—> If Bob’s friends don’t know what a terrible person he is they are ignorant, if they do know they are also evil —> Bob’s friends don’t deserve Jack’s friends respect and kindness either.
And the snowball is rampaging down the hill fueled by good people who simply thought they knew “why”.
BEWARE – SOCIAL AND POLITICAL OPINION TO FOLLOW!
This happens all the time and has always happened. But now we have Facebook and Twitter and every other form of instant communication. The snowballs get bigger, roll faster and go further than ever before. More people are hurt and more of us commit this sin simply because we can and we can do it so fast there is nothing to slow us down and make us think. Oh how much better off we would be in this regard if we had to visit our neighbor to gossip. Perhaps we would calm down or think a new thought or meet an angel along the way.
And our politics are built upon this. Take any issue or candidate and watch it happen. (I would say the parties make it happen to get votes, but then I’m judging “why”. Perhaps they really just want what is best for the good ole USA). And the amazing thing is, people actually think one party or candidate is doing this for worse (or better) reasons than the other. If you think that, you are again judging “why” and then entire parties are evil and each half the nation thinks the other half is either ignorant or evil. I know I’ve been extremely guilty of this, but I’ll bet you have to.
JESUS’ LESSON FOR US ALL: Jesus didn’t come to call those who think they know “why”. He came to call those who know they have sinned and they need forgiveness. We can know our own “why”, but absolutely no one else’s.
We can debate the issues, but if you and those around you are shouting about how evil Clinton is, or how evil Trump is, or how evil Republicans are, or how evil Democrats are, or how evil Christians are, or how evil Atheist are or how evil businesses are or how evil unions are or how evil the rich are or how evil welfare recipients are etc. etc. etc., please consider whether you are part of a runaway snowball and if Jesus (or Sensibility) called you, could you hear him. I miss him sometimes, perhaps even now.
Lord, help me to judge only my own motivations. Let me see them clearly and honestly. And in regards to every other person or group, help me to assume the best and most honorable motivations and if I can’t think of one, help me to assume I am ignorant of their heart and life, and simply pray for us both.