Getting My Hands Dirty
Matthew 9:10,11 …Many tax collectors and sinners came…. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
Once, while in college, I went to a local homeless shelter to provide a church service and serve food. I think I saw it as a chance to serve God by getting my hands dirty. My attitude about ministering to those I saw as beneath me betrayed the pride with which I was afflicted. The truth was, I already had plenty of dirt on my hands.
Jesus, who actually was without sin, did lower himself to associate with those beneath him. He spent time with tax collectors, prostitutes and all manner of sinners. The Pharisees saw this and took offense. Why would Jesus rub elbows with such people? Their pride, like my pride, revealed the reality they were missing. We are all sinners, we are all below Jesus and we all need him desperately.
The Pharisees needed Jesus as much as the prostitutes and tax collectors but their pride prevented them from seeing it. Likewise, I need Jesus as much as those sitting in jail so I do not descend to their level when I visit them. I am a sinner as they are sinners. If I see myself as above them, I am crippled with blinding pride.
It is true, that when I go to jail, I cannot identify with the inmate’s experience with being incarcerated. I can however, identify with being a slave to my own flesh nature. I can tell them of my own addiction and destruction. This honesty and humility always opens the door to being able to engage as brothers on the same level. I am not above them, and I do not dirty myself to be near them. I am, like them, a sinner in need of Jesus.
So, I am honest about the dirt on my hands and I am honest about what Jesus has done for me. Just because someone has sinned differently than me does not mean that I am above him or her. We both need God the same. Jesus in me seems to be quite comfortable in jail, so I take him there and I meet with those who know they need him desperately.
Going to jail is not some noble task of reaching the lowly. It is just meeting with those who are aware of their need. Everyone needs God. Not everyone sees it. I just find it easier to spend time with those who know how much they need him.