Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)
TITLE: What The Tax Collector Owed
By Donna Powers
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ADD TO MY FAVORITES
I'm sure I'm the last man you want to see at your door, but perhaps this bag of silver will convince you to listen.
Ah, I was sure that would pique your interest. Please look; it is four times' the amount I overcharged you last year.
No, I have not gone mad. I assure you my mind is clearer tonight than it has been for many years. Perhaps you will listen to my story.
It may be hard for you to sympathize, but a publican’s job is not an easy one. No one wants to pay taxes and we've had to find devious ways to do our jobs. Accordingly, most publicans are known as greedy and dishonest. But I am guilty of taking that reputation and tarnishing it even further. The name of Zaccheus has been synonymous with corruption and theft. I won't bore you with my reasons; they no longer exist.
It’s true my reputation is not a good one. But my colleague, Levi, was not much better. He was intent on finding ways to tax his community for every dime he could get. But, I had heard that Levi has changed. My sources said he had left his tax office and was following some Galilean fisherman.
The story went that this fisherman - whose Name is Jesus - has been rumored to be the promised Messiah: the One Who was prophesied to be God's Son. I could not understand; why would the Messiah want to associate with one of us? Why would a man sent from God seek one whose life was devoted to dishonesty? But Levi did follow Him, and is now devoted to His service. Many told me of the feast Levi made for Jesus and His followers. He invited many fellow publicans to dine with them.
If Jesus wanted to impress people, He had certainly chosen to dine with the wrong people. You might think – as I did – that in order to prove He is sent from God, Jesus might seek out the Pharisees. But from what I've heard, Jesus was perfectly at ease with those gathered at Levi's home. They said it was as if He could see the innate worth of any man.
It was inevitable that word of this dinner party would reach the Pharisees. Not much occurs in our town that escapes their knowledge. They, too, have heard of Jesus and the rumors that He is the Messiah. So, when they saw those gathered at Levi's home, they asked why Jesus would associate with such disreputable men? I'm told that Jesus responded: ”those who are right with God don't need salvation; I am here to save sinners.” That didn't sit well with the Pharisees; they think they have all the answers about God.
Any man who’d dare stand up to the Pharisees was a man I wanted to meet. I went to the place where it was said He was to pass. As you can see I am a man of short stature, and I could not see him. So, I climbed a tree - and it was there Jesus saw me. He looked up, and smiled as though He was my closest friend, and invited me to have dinner with him. I felt compelled to follow Him and to prepare a feast for him and His followers.
I’ll never forget that night, or the way I felt, when I was with Him. It was as though I could not help but offer Him the best of who I am. Unbidden, I offered to make amends to those from whom I have stolen.
That is my story, and now I must go return the funds I've stolen from your neighbors. As for you, if there is something in your life that needs to be made right, I urge you to seek out Jesus, as I did. If He can befriend a sinner like me, I know He will not despise your company. He does not seem to be concerned with what others will think of the people He fellowships with. I cannot imagine why this is so; I can only thank God that it is.
Farewell, and may the Friend of Sinners soon include you in His group of friends.
Based on Matthew 9:9-13 and Luke 19:1-10
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