As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.
When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.
But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Matthew 9:9-13
In Jesus’ day, tax collectors were considered traitors and thieves by the Jews. They wore the label of a criminal and were despised by many. The fact that Jesus, a teacher of the Jews, would affiliate himself with these individuals was inconceivable. It simply didn’t happen and was completely frowned upon. Yet Jesus sat with them and ate with them for they were the very reason He came.
Society has a way of placing labels on all of us. Some of us have lived most of our lives branded in such a way; seeing ourselves any differently may feel impossible. There is a way to cast off these negative labels and it begins with Jesus. It starts with discrediting what society may say about us and believing what God speaks over us.
The Bible is abundant with beautiful labels, characteristics, and affirmations about us, God’s creation. Here are a few of those God-given labels:
a beloved child of God
worthy of the blood of Christ
a chosen people
created in God’s glory
God doesn’t see the labels society has placed on us; He sees the person He created. God is not concerned with what we’ve done, but what He can do in our lives. Jesus saw Matthew—the person, not the tax collector—sitting at the collection booth and invited him to come and live out his life with Him. It’s an open invitation to all, no matter what label we may feel forced to wear.
When Matthew stood from the table to follow Jesus, the label of a criminal was removed and replaced by being known as a follower of Christ. He was given a new identity; one formed in love, hope, and mercy.
Jesus came for sinners. Jesus came for us. By taking a stand to follow Jesus, we are given a fresh start being transformed into the person we were made to be. This will by no means look perfect, but it’s not about living a perfect life; it’s about living life with the perfect One.
Have you ever felt the weight of being labeled in a negative way? How did you handle it?
Practice removing the label and replacing it with one or more of the God-given labels listed above or found in Scripture.
Heavenly Father, let Your word be a constant reminder of how You see us. Help us with the removal of any negative labels and replace them with the loving affirmations You speak over us. Thank you for sending Your Son to live amongst us and love us right where we are. May the love of Christ lead us into all You have for us. In Christ name we pray, Amen.
PC3 writer Mandy Hughes wrote today’s devotional.