What’s with tax collectors? (Matthew 9:9-12)

Why did the poor old tax collectors get such a bad rap in the New Testament?

Open Matthew 9:9-12.

Remember when you faced that tax bill? How did you feel? It wasn’t like, “Wonderful. Now I can contribute to educating children, providing health services, enabling law enforcement, building roads and infrastructure and a bunch of other things to help our community.” Not likely.

Now imagine taxes are being levied by an occupying force. Your taxes are paying the army that killed some of your family and is crushing your people. How would the Dutch have felt under Nazi occupation during World War II? How do Iraqis feel under American occupation today? How would Jewish people have felt under Roman occupation in Jesus’ time? Continue reading “What’s with tax collectors? (Matthew 9:9-12)”

What about sin? (Matthew 9:2)

Why did Jesus talk about sin much less than we do? Is there something we should learn from him?

Open Matthew 9:2.

As you read the Gospels, are you learning from Jesus? To be a disciple is to become like the Master. Watch what he did that’s different from what we do. Close the gap where our understanding and practice doesn’t match his.

That’s especially important when it comes to the gospel. When people today present the gospel, we tend to start with the problem, identified as sin. We present Jesus as the antidote for sin, and then we ask people to sign up so they can have the benefit — the forgiveness of their sins. Sound familiar? Trouble is: that’s not how Jesus did it. Continue reading “What about sin? (Matthew 9:2)”

What was the sin of Sodom? (Genesis 19)

The city of Sodom is an image of sin in the Bible, but not in the way we use the word in English.

In English, the name Sodom is associated with a particular kind of sexual sin. Why are we preoccupied with one aspect of Sodom’s sin? That’s certainly not what Sodom connotes throughout the rest of the Biblical narrative. Of the 48 references to Sodom, you’d struggle to find a handful that focus on sexual sin.

Continue reading “What was the sin of Sodom? (Genesis 19)”

Who’s in charge now? (Genesis 3:1-14)

Genesis 3 is strange to our ears. Why is there a talking snake? Why is the creature called crafty? Why is the snake craftier than the other animals? Ultimately the story is all about who rules, but we need to deal with some of these issues so we can get to the main point.

A common response is to say, Continue reading “Who’s in charge now? (Genesis 3:1-14)”