Intro: Are you proud to be associated with Jesus and who he values? In our passage today, Jesus meets Levi, a tax collector. Levi leaves a very lucrative but perhaps unappreciated business to follow Jesus. Interestingly, the first thing Levi does after entering into a relationship with Jesus is invite all of his friends and fellow sinners to meet and dine with the Savior. Levi was so excited about his new Friend, he just wanted everyone to know Him. While Levi was sharing his joy, the Pharisees and religious leaders were complaining about the “scum.” What is that about?
The Pharisees and religious teachers demonstrate a religious spirit—just for the record this is not a good thing. A religious spirit is demonic; it comes from eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve chose to eat from it causing them to become self-focused and accusatory; rather than look to God for salvation and value. A religious spirit is a self-exalting spirit that always diminishes the love of God and the work of grace in His people.
Jesus called this religious spirit the leaven of the Pharisees and addressed it this way, “Hypocrites! Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Mat 23:28). In other words, a religious spirit inflates; it does not add to the life of God it attempts to smother it by feeding a human spirit of pride—which, of course, is what caused the first sin in the Garden of Eden. Believers are to be God-centered. If we are God-centered we will be quick to speak to others about God’s extravagant grace, the mercy and forgiveness found only in Jesus, and the need to grow in spiritual maturity through the Holy Spirit because this is the Truth that will set us all free. Faith works through love, so love must always motivate our thoughts, words, and actions if we are living in genuine faith.
Luke 5:27-32 Jesus Calls Levi (Matthew)
27 Later, 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. 28 So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.
29 Later, 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. 30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?”
31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.”
Prayer: Lord, thank you for this reminder today about guarding ourselves from feeding a religious spirit. We are all tempted to be self-inflating; pride comes all too natural. Please forgive us for exalting our thoughts and demanding others bow down to them as if they perfectly represented your genuine standard or opinion. May we put on love, extend mercy and understanding to others, and represent you well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.