Consider Levi, who would also be called Matthew. He made a choice in life that deprived him of friends but paid his pocket quite well. What a burden to secure your future at the sacrifice of your friends! I never knew that part of the story when I was a child. All I knew was there was a guy with one name in one place and another name in another place and he was a tax collector.
And taxes make people mad.
So obviously Matthew, who was called Levi (and probably things that I can’t pronounce, but if I could would make a proper jewish mama want to throw something uncooked and heavy at me) made people mad because he collected taxes.
But he was considered a political facilitator to the Roman occupation.
And I guess he was ok with that for a while, too. Because he didn’t leave until an outside Force prevailed on him.
There’s really no evidence of what Matthew’s calling looked like. There was no long discourse. Jesus didn’t make fish roil out of the ocean at him.
He just called.
And Matthew didn’t just say “yes.” He threw a party with his “yes.”
He invited other tax collectors.
And Oh. My. Gosh.
The pharisees clutched their pearls and clucked their tongues.
And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”Luke 5:30 ESV
Do you think for one minute that the Pharisees patrolled the entirety of Capernaum to see who sat with tax collectors? Do you suppose they dogged them and their every footstep to make sure no one fed them?
Maybe. They are, after all, taught as the villains of the New Testament.
I find it much more likely that the Pharisees went to shut down Jesus and his meal with his company because Jesus had a voice whose audibility was growing.
I find it much more likely that as a teacher with credibility, and no pledged loyalty, he posed a threat to their power structure.
I find it much more likely that they were afraid of his growing popularity and that as it grew, the disparity of what they taught grew, and by product, their efficacy and power would shrink.
I can’t help but notice a parallel today.
“We can’t say ‘Black Lives Matter’ because it will give legitimacy to an anarchist organization.”
“If we say ‘Black Lives Matter’ it disrespects all of the other lives. All lives matter.”
“You are making us complicit in raising up a message that will divide us.”
Have I lost you yet?
Are you mad?
Drawing that equivalence has potential for harm in two places.
As a national organization, BLM has made itself quite clear that it has some aims that are antithetical to Biblical values. That’s the tax collector archetype here in the story. But remember that when Jesus had a chance to address tax collectors, He did not tell them they were evil for being tax collectors. Instead He admonished them to remain in their profession and only collect what was necessary.
Equivalence: if the analogy holds true, a person can be involved in the work of BLM and, if act their work is pursued justly, not fall afoul of cosmic justice.
Non-Equivalence: Saying “black lives matter” is not the tax collector here. In fact, saying “black lives matter” is attention to humanity. More on that later.
Christians hate being called “Pharisees.” It’s how Christians code a label of “hypocrite.”
If you feel you are being called a Pharisee in this analogy, it’s because I’ve hemmed in your philosophy with a Pharisaical outrage that Jesus was normalizing sinners by eating with them. He elevated one of them as a disciple and it’s weird to me that they didn’t object to Levi becoming one of Jesus’s inner circle.
They were upset he sat at table with them.
If you’re upset that I’ve called you a Pharisee, either I’m wrong and will apologize for mislabeling you. Or you’re wrong. And wow. That’s a big wrong.
Greek Lives Matter
Ultimately, life matters to its Creator. He did not create life on a whim, but as the ultimate expression of His love, perfection, creativity, artistry, and design. We are the possessors of that breath and that breathing matters.
Sadly, since the second generation of human-kind, there has been a lack of respect for the value of that breath as given. Brother envies and hates brother. Brother takes that breath away.
But God champions for our breath and for our life. Yes, all lives matter to Him, but because He is God, they all matter one life at a time, one people group at a time, one special creation at a time. God can both generally love everyone equally and love you specifically as His favorite more passionately than you love your favorite person.
After Christ ascended into Heaven, the church began to organize and one of the first crises arose in the lack of food for the Greek widows.
They weren’t being fed.
So the apostles found the man for the job.
The first martyr.
When the moment came up, they didn’t tell the Greek-Jewish widows that they need to just eat with all of the other widows. They didn’t try and point out why, if they would just keep their husbands alive, they wouldn’t have this problem.
They didn’t ask them to abandon their heritage as Greeks.
They got them a doggone sandwhich.
Or whatever you fed a widow back in those days.
There was no cry among the disciples about “well if you’re going to feed the Greek Jews, what about the Roman Jews or the Egyptian Jews? What are we doing for the Samaritans or the Ethiopians?
Love does powerful things one person at a time. If you want to stall it out, ask someone why, when they are beautifully loving someone, why they aren’t expending their energy on another.
Just take it one sandwich at a time.
Black Lives Matter
I’m not a dope. I know that the national movement of BLM is raising money to put a democrat in the White House and maintain DNC chairs in the House and Senate. I imagine they have raised a LOT of money off of it.
But you know what? There are black men and black women who have been unfed by my love and they have said that all I have to say is “black lives matter” and that they will, hearing that, understand that I mean love and not just “love.” If someone needs me to go to their humanity and I do not understand what a phrase has to do with their humanity, but by saying it, I recognize their breath, its beauty, and their individuality, I really don’t care, at this point in time if someone is offended.
At this point in time, I’m more concerned about what offends God.
And if He was willing to risk normalizing the collection of taxes for Caesar just so someone could feel human affection and recognition, we need to all of us stretch way beyond our normal and comfortable and ask what it is that will speak life and breath into someone who desperately needs it.