Monday, August 6, 2012

The People That Chick-fil-A Would Have Shunned Today

Part one in this story series ...

They're mentioned 22 times in the Gospels.


Or, for our purposes, tax collectors.

But these weren't your run-of-the-mill IRS bureaucrats.


These people were considered the worst of the worst by their fellow Jewish brothers. They collected taxes for Rome, you see. Their methods could be described, at best, as unscrupulous.

And they were despised, so much that they couldn't even give an offering in the sacred Temple. Heck, if you'd lived in Roman-era Palestine, you would have hated them, too.

Here's how tax collecting in the Roman Empire worked:

First, you had "publicani," wealthy Roman knights who bought for a fixed sum the taxes and customs of particular provinces. Under them were "chiefs of publicans." They supervised districts within the Roman provinces. Reporting to them ... were the publicans. The publicans gathered customs on exports and imports and taxes. Usually, the publicans' collect locations were city gates, public roads or bridges.

But tax collectors were the Benedict Arnolds of their day -- traitors of the highest order.

They extorted their countrymen, pocketing above and beyond what Rome had called them to collect. Most Jews thought it unlawful to pay tribute to the pagan Roman Gentiles, but it was much worse that they were being plundered by those who should have been standing with them, side by side, in opposition to their conquerors.

A publican was to be treated with the highest degree of contempt. They were vile. They degraded themselves. They disgraced their families. They were lumped in with the same category of "sinner" as prostitutes, thieves and murderers.

And they were sanctioned heavily in this culture. They weren't allowed to give alms in the place of worship. People couldn't even use money given to them as gifts by publicans. And publicans weren't allowed to be witnesses in legal proceedings.

They were absolutely abhorrent.

In short, if they'd tried to have lunch at Chick-fil-A today, they would have been told that they didn't meet the definition of "family values." They would have been shown the door immediately.

And these were the people who invited Jesus to a party one night.

Tune in tomorrow to see if He showed up.

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