While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
- Mark 2:15-17
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
- Mark 1:17
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
- Luke 16:19-31
“How often do we minister only to those who are like us or have their acts together? I would suggest we do it a lot of the time—it’s only natural since it’s a more comfortable setting. We have an idea how to approach someone who is at least somewhat like us. But those are not the only lives where God call us to make a difference.
“As a longtime ﬁsherman, I appreciate the numerous ﬁshing metaphors that Jesus used to make many of His points. I heard it said that Jesus asks us to bring the ﬁsh into the boat, not to worry about having to have them cleaned up first and then hauled aboard.”
- Tony Dungy and Nathan Whitaker, The One Year Uncommon Life (Devotion for 24 January)
My wife and I seem to be going to doctors a lot recently. That is … my wife a lot and me a little bit. We need to go to them.
In the case of the Pharisees berating Jesus for consorting with sinners, one of which would become an apostle, maybe more, Jesus mentioned that He came to call sinners. What the self-righteous Pharisees did not know is that they were sinners themselves.
I can see Tony Dungy’s alternate fishing idea. You go out in the boat. You drop a line, and then you reel in a box of frozen fish sticks or a filet of flounder. Please, nothing with bones in it!
Nope, fishing does not work that way and fishing for people, using Jesus’ words, rarely works that way. As a good friend said about my testimony, he said what intrigued him was that I characterized myself as the proverbial “good kid.” I was like those Pharisees, following my mother’s rules and a few that I added because they were easy to follow and because they made life easier for me. It took seeing everyone around me enjoying life while I was simply treading water. My friend had always heard the conversion stories about some person who had been a bad person and Jesus changed his life, rarely the good kid who realized he was not that good.
But to fish for people, it depends on which pond you are fishing in as to what you will land in the boat and whether you will have even moderate success. If you stay in your gated community, you may have no success at all. Of course, if you have a Lazarus who comes to your door, you can invite him in rather than close the door in his face, regarding the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
That parable has many levels. The rich man did not notice Lazarus, but if he had, would he even dare touch him? I have written in some of my short stories about people that you might think were irredeemable, but with meeting them at their level and showing them love, God can work wonders. The rich man had his chances.
Tony Dungy went on in his devotion by talking about players that he coached. They had everything, except for good character. Dungy talked to his other coaches to see if the person could be redeemed by the coaching staff or should they be released from their contract. In his case, he would want to introduce them to Jesus, but simply having a football player who behaved himself off the field would be an improvement. The player would no longer be a distraction for the team.
In Dungy’s case, an idiom about fishing would apply, “Are you going to fish or cut bait?” Jesus commanded His disciples, and in extension all of us, to fish. We can work along side people. We can show God’s love. We can talk to them about choices and such. But at times, we may need to realize we are fishing in the wrong pond. Thus, we cut bait while we look for another pond.
Another expression comes to mind, “When you have your nose in the air, it is impossible to see those beneath your gaze.” Or something like that. For those who love the Lord, there are ample opportunities to share God’s Love and talk about what God means to us, but do we act upon them?
Taking the posture of the servant allows us to see those in need, and acting as a servant to them, we have the opportunity.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
I just started helping with food distribution for the needy at my church. The woman I worked with was so good with the people. Many of them let her pray for them. And she always invited them to church. Several said they didn’t have the right clothes. Of course we assured them that it didn’t matter what they wore, but it probably mattered to them. Food Banks are being overwhelmed right now across the country. It’s an excellent opportunity to be a missionary in our own backyard. Blessings, Mark!
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Thank you for your comments. Our food bank coordinator for the community is a member of the Sunday school class that I lead. He has had so much outpouring of donations lately that we are well stocked, but the list of people in the program is growing also. It is a great way to witness to people and to talk to them.
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