Would Jesus Love the IRS?
By Lenny Cacchio
To answer the question posed in the title of this post, of course Jesus would not love the IRS. But he would have a special regard for IRS agents. We can know this to be true because Jesus seemed to attract many of them to his cause.
The tax collector in the Roman Empire came under the protection of the Legions. His job was to collect a stipulated amount of revenue for the Emperor, and anything above that he could keep for himself. This mechanism that invited corruption did nothing to endear the profession to the population, and even less so given that those hired for such duties were often from the native population. These willing and often greedy collaborators with the occupying forces were not in the business of making friends but of becoming rich off their brethren.
Yet when tax collectors came to John the Baptist and asked them what they should do, he did not tell them to get out of the business. Instead he told them to “exact no more than that which was appointed to you.” (Luke 3:12 – 13) John even baptized many of them (Luke 7:29).
Jesus even made a tax collector the hero in one of his parables (Luke 18:9), and his three famous “Lost and Found” parables (Lost Sheep, Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son) were spoken in response to grumbling over his receiving kindly the presence of tax collectors and sinners (Luke 15).
Is it any wonder that one of his apostles was previously a tax collector (Matthew 9:9)? And is it even less of a wonder that a chief tax collector named Zacchaeus would inconvenience himself greatly for a chance to glimpse this Rabbi reputed to be the Messiah as he passed through town (Luke 19)?
Tax collecting was a lucrative but lonely life. This new religious movement that was first signaled through John the Baptist and later fulfilled in Jesus offered hope even to tax collectors and sinners, so much so that Jesus himself seemed to intentionally seek out the notorious Zacchaeus and offer him the words of life. This tax collector accepted the invitation and pledged to change his life and business practices. We are not told what happened to Zacchaeus after this life-changing encounter, but what he committed his life to could have cost him his business.
If there is a lesson or two we can glean from this, it might be both a warning and an encouragement. The warning is to never write anybody off, no matter how despicable we might find them. God is in the life-changing business, after all, especially the life-changing business of saving sinners. The encouraging lesson is we are all sinners whose lives can be changed. Jesus sees people for what they can become, not for the tax collectors that they are.
Jesus offers hope to IRS agents. And to you.
Lenny Cacchio has a blog on the Bible Sabbath Association website. You can follow him at the following weblink: http://biblesabbath.org/index.php?pr=Lenny_Cacchio_Blog
This blog was originally posted on Friday, January 22, 2016