|Listening to scriptures as a child, I never quite understood why tax collectors got such a bad rap in Jesus’s time. Now I realize that tax collectors then were Jewish, and the job was auctioned off by the Roman government to the lucky person who would benefit from the coveted position. The indignity that also came with it meant they were basically despised and considered traitors since they knew everybody, extracting the law to the fullest. They were also considered impure because of constant contact with the Gentiles. In essence, they were considered worse than sinners.
Writing this on Christmas Eve, I am reminded every day of the tax collectors in our lives. A friend of mine almost became homeless because his disabilities placed him in a crack where the government wouldn’t help him unless he was without a job for a year. His family doesn’t recognize his disabilities as a good enough reason to take him in. A neighbor who lost his job six months ago, still hasn’t found another, and isn’t sure how long his unemployment will last.
From our eyes, tax collectors represent injustice in the world. How do you suppose they see it with their eyes? I have heard people use the term ‘stamp collectors’ as another word for this. Green stamps used to be collected by folks to trade in for free ‘stuff’. Then there are brown stamps, what we trade in for freebies that aren’t worth anything. Affairs, the right to judge others, disassociation from someone not recognized by our culture, you name it. We’re all tax collectors. Yet we’re still loved!
We can’t escape sin, no matter how righteous we might consider ourselves to be. The message today is simple. Jesus forgives us. By associating with the undesirables of society, he demonstrated the full extent of his forgiveness, even those considered beyond forgiving. Have I done anything in my memory that I thought I could never be forgiven for? Perhaps at one time. Sin, untreated ends in spiritual death, separation from God. So pray for the ability to understand that God forgives and loves every one of us, no matter what. If Jesus can heal the sick, which was a sign of sin in that time, think how he can heal us if we only accept that he is well pleased with us. Take a chance, find a person down on their luck and open your heart to their suffering and watch miracles happen. Forgive yourself. You will be well pleased also.