And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.…
On what principle shall we regulate our intercourse with men? How shall we follow Christ in the matter of associating with our fellow-men? Our answer, suggested by this incident, is -
I. THAT ASSOCIATION WITH BAD MEN ON THE GROUND OF FRIENDSHIP IS AN UNCHRISTIAN THING. The Pharisees would have been right, enough if Jesus Christ had mingled with the mercenary and the vicious only to enjoy their company. His time might certainly have been much better spent than in partaking of so doubtful a source of satisfaction, and he would have left an example that would have been better shunned than followed. For to mingle with the irreverent and the covetous, and, still more, to associate with the positively vicious, simply for the sake of passing gratification, is:
1. To spend time and strength where they are very ill applied.
2. To lend a sanction to those who need rather to be discouraged than sustained in their course of life.
3. To incur the serious danger of being lowered to their level. Some intercourse with the frivolous and the guilty we must have, and there is every reason why our conduct toward them should be as courteous and gracious as possible. But no wise man will establish an intimate friendship with another whose spirit is the spirit of worldliness, whose conduct is that from which purity and sobriety must shrink. Let the young especially remember that lifelong association with the unholy and the unworthy, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, means gradual moral degeneracy, continual spiritual decline.
II. THAT ASSOCIATION WITH THE GOOD IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP IS A WISE AND WORTHY THING. "The assembling of ourselves together," as those who are agreed on the same fundamental articles of faith, and who are animated by the same spirit and are promoting the same objects, is admirable for three reasons.
1. We gain spiritual strength ourselves.
2. We impart it to those with whom we unite.
3. We commend the common principles we hold to those who are without by the manifestation of our unity.
Those who try to live a life of spiritual isolation not only make a great mistake by robbing themselves of a source of hallowed influence, but they neglect a plain duty, for they leave unemployed a weapon of usefulness by which truth and worth are materially advanced. But the main lesson of the passage is -
III. THAT ASSOCIATION WITH THE BAD FOR THEIR ELEVATION IS A DISTINCTLY CHRISTIAN THING. Those critics of Jesus Christ failed to see that the presence of a noble, unselfish motive made all the difference in the character of the act. It completely transformed it. It changed it from the unwise and the condemnable into the wise and meritorious. Our Lord mingled with publicans and sinners, not as a Companion to share their revelries, but as a Guide to lead them into other and better ways, as a Helper whose strong hand should raise them from the mire and place them upon the rock. And as he was here to seek and to save, where should he be found but among those who were lost? Where would you have the teacher? In the company of the mature and the literate, or in the schoolroom among the young and the ignorant? Where would you have the physician? In the homes of the healthy, or in the hospital and in the homes of the sick? And where should they be found who have truth to teach and restoration to impart such as no teacher of any human science can make known, no healer of bodily diseases can confer? We are never quite so Christian, we never reach a height so near the level on which our Lord was daily walking, as when we voluntarily and cheerfully forego the pleasanter security to which our character entities us, and mingle freely and frequently with those whose spirit and whose tone is offensive to our taste and our judgment, in order that we may lift them up to a nobler life. And this is the one and only way in which to work out this great and beneficent reform. What legislation will not do, what literature will not effect, what art and science will leave unaccomplished if not untouched, that a holy and loving association on the ground of Christian kindness will secure. The actual and near presence of the pure and kind, the touch and the pressure of the hand of human love, the voice of invitation and of entreaty proceeding from those whose eyes are dim with the tears of a sorrowful sympathy, - this is the power which, coming, as it does, from Jesus Christ, and emanating from his Holy Spirit, will lead sinful souls, covetous men and erring women, into paths of penitence, and raise them to heights of holiness. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Levi made him a great feast in his own house: and there was a great company of publicans and of others that sat down with them.