I want us to talk about a problem.
Over the next couple days we are going to look at Luke chapter 15 and three of the parables that are found there.
The parable of the lost sheep.
The parable of the lost coin.
And the parable of the prodigal son.
And these three parables are actually Jesus’ response to a particular problem.
You see, Jesus wasn’t like Confucius, going around just randomly saying different things. He responded to what people said.
And here, he’s responding to a particular problem.
And so before, we look at these parables, I want to make sure we understand the problem, Jesus is seeking to address which is found in Luke 15:1 and 2 where Luke writes,
“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So he told them this parable.”
And, maybe you noticed, the words, Pharisees and scribes and tax collectors and sinners. Because, those were all CATEGORIES, that were used, in Jesus’ day to describe people.
They were like labels.
You know how we use LABELS to describe people.
It’s not always fair and it’s not always right, but we do. It’s the world in which live. They did it back then. We still do it today.
There are rich people and there are poor people. There are educated people and there are uneducated people.
Those are categories that we put people in, and a lot of times if you look closely, they are not even accurate, but we do it, anyway, and one of the categories, people put others in.
There are good people and there are bad people.
It’s not the way the Bible speaks, but it is the way a lot of people do.
Out there in the world, that’s how people think.
There are people, who are known as good people, and there are people, who are known as bad people.
Those are the labels, they give people.
In fact, there are people, who have done so many bad things, they’ve become known by the bad things, that they do.
That guy is a drunk. Or, that person is a liar. Or that man is a criminal. Or that person is an addict. Or even, that person is perverted.
We put people in categories. Of good and bad. Respectable. Shameful. Acceptable. Unacceptable. And that’s something, we’ve been doing for a long time.
Even, way back in Jesus’ day, and we see here, in Luke, one way they did that, was by describing people, as tax collectors and sinners.
And, when you read the gospels, you find that phrase coming up.
Like, here in Luke 15, verse 1.
“Now the tax collectors and sinners.”
And that was a way of describing people, they thought, of as the most shameful.
I don’t think we hear that, automatically. We hear tax collector, and we’re like, that’s not good and sinners, we are all sinners, but that’s not the way, they used the term.
Tax collectors were traitors.
Scum of the earth.
They weren’t just a bother, they were despised.
And, for good reason, really.
Where Jesus lived, Israel, that country was occupied by Rome, who was exploiting them, and tax collectors were Israelites, who were, taking advantage of the system, by working with Rome, against Israel, for their own financial gain.
They were thieves.They were bullies. And they were hated.
These weren’t just people, sinners and tax collectors who were doing some wrong things, they were people you would look at and put in their own category.
Off by themselves.
These are bad people.
There is something wrong with them.
And every culture has, whether it is Jesus’ culture or ours, every culture, has people like that. People, who for some reason, sometimes good, sometimes bad, are, pushed to the margins, and placed in this category, of being, just a little bit off, WRONG and as Christians, we have to think, what should our attitude, our approach be, towards people like that?
This is kind of a problem.
Because as Christians, we are trying to be good people. And, I know, it sounds funny to talk about it like that, because we know, we are not good people, but, hopefully, we are trying.
We are not all, here.
By a long shot.
But we are trying.
To be the kind of people who are known for stuff like:
Speaking the truth. Being sexually pure. Working hard. Communicating, graciously, gently, and kindly.
And I know, there’s sometimes hypocrisy in the church, but it’s not hypocritical to say that’s what we want, as a church.
Of course, we want that.
I mean, if there’s a list of things the Bible says are bad or shameful, we don’t want our lives to be known for what’s on that list, and if there is a list of things that the Bible says are good, we want our lives to be known for that.
And as we work on living these good lives, we have to think about, what our attitude should be, towards those who aren’t.
Because, I think that’s kind of a problem.
And part of the reason it is a problem, is because some of the most common examples we have out there of how to respond, are really inadequate. There’s the world’s approach, there’s the religious approach, and I hope we’ll see in the days ahead, that both, are very different from Jesus’.