Summary: It’s easy to identify others as "lost causes". It’s not nearly so easy for us to see ourselves this way. Nevertheless that’s exactly where we need to be, where we’ll want to be; for empty of all our righteousness we cling to Christ and find life.
Pentecost 3 A
Our God: The Patron of Lost Causes
Speaking of Lost Causes, take a listen to these stories. In New Orleans, a man broke into a home and stole, some jewelry and took the home owner’s season tickets to the New Orleans Saints. The police arrested him the following Sunday at the Superdome. He was not only sitting in the homeowner’s seat, but was wearing his jewelry.
Here’s another. R.C. Gaitlin, 21, walked up to two patrol officers who were showing their squad car computer equipment to children in a Detroit neighborhood. When he asked how the system worked, the officers asked to use his I.D. for an example. Gaitlin promptly gave them his driver’s license. They entered it into the computer, and moments later they Gaitlin was arrested. Information on the screen showed that Gaitlin was wanted for a two-year-old armed robbery in St. Louis, Missouri.
Finally, here’s two more who vied for lost cause of the year. Two men in Pennsylvania were recently sentenced to 24 years in prison for robbing a bank. That was dumb. But what really took the cake was the fact that they were easily identified by the bank’s security cameras because the two had somehow come to the ludicrous conclusion that rubbing citric acid on their faces would somehow blur their images on the monitoring screens.
There’s just no respect for the criminal these days, especially when they show as little forethought as these here.
It’s fairly clear there wasn’t any respect for them in Jesus’ day either. In particular there was no respect for Matthew’s brand of thievery. He was a tax collector, probably a lot sharper than these we’ve mentioned here today; but still likely the butt of many jokes and likely the shame of his parents. He had sold out to the Roman stench that had invaded the homeland. Here was this man of the priestly tribe of Levi, serving the interest of the pagan invaders and stealing from his countrymen on top of it. That’s how tax collectors made their lucrative living. They would over bill taxpayers or use their positions to extort money that wasn’t due them. And for that they were especially hated. Note, they’re in a class of losers all to themselves, specifically noted even in distinction from other sinners. Lost causes, all of them, even as some have been labeled today.
Oh, not so much tax collects. While some have been guilty of excesses, the IRS is pretty much an accepted institution. Not a popular one, but an accepted one.
Nevertheless we still have those we’re all the more ready to label as losers. And this is true, not just of our society at large. It also comes from within the very walls of our churches. As a people of God we sometimes want to pick and choose. We look down upon some people, even some of our fellow members, and conclude that they’re a lost cause; that they’re not worth the trouble we’re going to, to include them; that they’re not worth the effort we’re making to restore them when they’ve strayed; that there are still others that are more worthy of our labors than these.